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Lift­ing the Veil: A peek into the St. Charles En­ergy Cen­ter

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment works to sup­port and pro­mote the eco­nomic vi­tal­ity of our county. The re­cently com­pleted St. Charles En­ergy Cen­ter, one of the largest eco­nomic de­vel- op­ment projects in the county’s his­tory, cul­mi­nates a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort with our depart­ment, the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers, and sev­eral other county de­part­ments.

The St. Charles En­ergy Cen­ter is a nat­u­ral gas-fired, com­bined-cy­cle power plant. It was de­vel­oped by Com­pet­i­tive Power Ven­tures (CPV), a firm that pro­vides power gen­er­a­tion de­vel­op­ment ser­vices across the United States and Canada.

The St. Charles En­ergy Cen­ter cre­ates high-pay­ing jobs and in­volves sig­nif­i­cant pri­vate in­vest­ment, yield­ing com­mer­cial tax rev­enue to the county. Sit­u­ated on 76 acres on Billings­ley Road in Wal­dorf, the cen­ter em­ploys about 25 peo­ple with above-av­er­age an­nual salaries. More than 700 con­struc­tion jobs were cre­ated at the peak of con­struc­tion.

The project rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment. A group led by Gen­eral Elec­tric En­ergy Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices fi­nanced roughly $775 mil­lion, with about $500 mil­lion funding con­struc­tion. With this in­vest­ment, the cen­ter will be one of Charles County’s largest tax­pay­ers.

The St. Charles En­ergy Cen­ter is one of the clean­est gas-fired plants in the na­tion. The plant uses waste heat to turn an ad­di­tional tur­bine and gen­er­ate more power, mak­ing it more ef­fi­cient than a tra­di­tional gas-fired plant. The plant’s 725 megawatt ca­pac­ity can gen­er­ate enough elec­tric­ity to power about 700,000 homes.

One key el­e­ment ne­go­ti­ated be­tween CPV and Charles County Gov­ern­ment was the pur­chase of treated waste­water ef­flu­ent, which the plant uses for cool­ing. CPV con­structed a 14-plus mile re­claimed wa­ter­line be­tween the Wal­dorf site and the county’s Mat­ta­woman Waste­water Treat­ment Plant. This pro­vides cool­ing with­out draw­ing from aquifers or other potable wa­ter sources, and re­duces ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rus dis­charges into lo­cal wa­ter­ways — and ul­ti­mately, the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

Large-scale eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects typ­i­cally have long de­vel­op­ment time hori­zons, and St. Charles En­ergy Cen­ter is no ex­cep­tion. Ini­tial work be­gan in the late 1990s. In the fol­low­ing 15 years, hun­dreds of per­mits were re­viewed and ap­proved, mil­lions in fi­nanc­ing com­mit­ted, elec­tri­cal mar­kets an­a­lyzed, and nu­mer­ous agree­ments ne­go­ti­ated. By 2014, key el­e­ments were in place so the project could close on fi­nanc­ing and be­gin con­struc­tion.

Con­struc­tion on the plant is now com­plete, com­mis­sion­ing is un­der­way and op­er­a­tions are ex­pected to be­gin in Jan­uary. Ul­ti­mately, this project stands out not only for its eco­nomic ben­e­fits, but be­cause it rep­re­sents a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween the pri­vate sec­tor and gov­ern­ment. Nearly ev­ery County Gov­ern­ment depart­ment played a role in fa­cil­i­tat­ing this project. Ev­ery com­mis­sioner board since the project’s in­cep­tion has lent its sup­port, in­clud­ing the cur­rent board of com­mis­sion­ers. The project de­vel­oper also as­sumed the risk and com­mit­ments. These col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts made it pos­si­ble to bring this high-qual­ity as­set to Charles County.

To learn more about new eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects and up­dates, visit www. MeetCharlesCounty.com.

Dar­rell Brown is the di­rec­tor of the Charles County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment.

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