James Rada, Jr.
(3/6) The Thurmont town commissioners
voted unanimously on Feb. 25 to fund $37,500
for a feasibility study for a biomass power
plant in order to receive an additional
$37,500 from a state grant.
The grant is coming from the Maryland
Department of Business and Economic
Development. However, town officials are
relatively certain they will be able to get
another grant to reimburse the town
contribution from the Maryland Energy
Bill Rodenberg with Energy Management
Strategies will conduct the study, which will
determine whether a power plant fueled by
biomass would be successful in Thurmont, how
large it should be and how much it would cost.
Rodenberg told the commissioners that he
has failed to get some grants because the town
hasn’t shown any financial commitment to the
project. “I felt like I could go and grants
from the state without the town putting
anything into it. I was wrong,” he said.
Commissioner Glenn Muth said, “At some
point, we’ve got to show a commitment.”
The commissioners are feeling the pressure
of time to see if the plant could be brought
online by the time the town needs to negotiate
its power contract again. Thurmont already has
one of the lowest electric rates in the state,
but it is expected to rise when a new contract
is negotiated in 2012.
Resident Sterling Bollinger was against
funding the study. He told the commissioners
if they wanted to play “venture capitalists”
they should put up their own money. He also
told them it was strong possibility they
wouldn’t even have the permits for the plant
The commissioners told Bollinger that if
the plant could be a stock corporation, it
might be easier to get the funding. Some even
said if they could reap some of the profits
from such a plant, they would be willing to
put up some of their own money.
“I think we’re doing a disservice to the
residents if we don’t look at it,”
Commissioner Wayne Hooper said. “We already
have the distribution system.”
The town will take $37,500 from the
electric fund to pay for town share of the
study, which is expected to be completed in 60
If it comes back supporting the idea and
the commissioners decide to pursue it, the
commissioners will also consider putting
together a citizens advisory committee to make
recommendations about issues such as where to
site the plant.