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Thurmont warming to the idea of green power

(9/20) The Town of Thurmont once generated its own power for its residents using water now with the rising cost of electricity the town commissioners are considering using farm wastes and other renewable sources to generate power for Thurmont residents once again.

“The advantage will be that this will be cutting edge technology, our electric rates will be more stable and we won’t be depending on other companies for our power,” said Thurmont Commissioner Bill Blakeslee.

Thurmont has hired Energy Management Strategies, a Thurmont consulting firm, to develop ways that the town can provide electricity to its current customers. The company owner, William Rodenberg, is certified by the Association of Energy Managers as an energy manager.

Because both the town and Rodenberg want the plant to be environmentally friendly, the most-likely power source would be biomass fuel like manure and farm waste.

“Every ton of manure we take and turn into electricity is a ton of manure that doesn’t wind up in the Chesapeake Bay,” Rodenberg said.

Thurmont owns the distribution network for many of the town residents, but has to buy power to be distributed through it co-op with other municipalities. While many residents of the county have seen electric rate hikes in the range of 70 percent, Thurmont’s recent hikes added up to about 46 percent.

By generating and distributing its own electricity, the town will have better control over the rates charged to its customers.

Energy Management Strategies will do this work for the town for $1.

“The agreement is that we would pay him $1, but if he could get development grants for the project, he would get that,” Blakeslee said.

Rodenberg estimates that the best-case scenario would allow the town to begin power generation in four years when the town’s current power contract expires.

“We need to come up with a way to sell the heat we generate also,” Blakeslee said.

This is because a power plants waste about two-thirds of the thermal energy that goes into them, according to Rodenberg.

He said a “very rough” estimate is that a plant for Thurmont would generate 30 megawatts of electricity with any excess being sold. Such a plant would cost around $50 million.

“I don’t see the financing for this thing being a problem,” Rodenberg said.

Because the technology uses renewable resources, the plant would also create energy credits that power companies that don’t use enough renewable energy resources would be anxious to buy. There are also many low-interest loans available to plants that would use renewable sources of energy.

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