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Cogeneration plant at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood Area ready to power up

A relatively small power plant is ready to provide Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood area with 80 percent of its energy needs, producing steam and electricity by collecting waste heat from burning natural gas.

A relatively small power plant is getting ready to provide the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground with about 80 percent of its steam needs and 50 percent of its electricity needs.

The Army unveiled the $40 million Combined Heat and Power Plant, or CHP, near the Edgewood gate's entrance off of Hoadley Road, during a ceremony Tuesday morning, as which ceremonial chains were cut to open the plant.

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"We're going to convert a ton of water to steam every minute, is what it boils down to. That takes a lot of energy," James Wyant, commissioning agent with Tennessee-based Compass Commissioning & Design, explained during a post-ceremony tour of the plant. His company was a subcontractor for Johnson Controls, which developed and will operate the plant.

Wyant pointed out the "significantly high-pressure boiler," which uses 350 pounds of pressure to produce steam from the waste heat – thermal energy – that comes from a natural gas driven turbine used to generate electricity.

The steam is then used to heat and cool buildings at the military installation, which has a number of state-of-the-art laboratories with specific temperature and humidity controls for Army research and development organizations, such as the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, Army Public Health Center and the Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.

The plant is expected to save the Army about $4.4 million annually, as well as more than $25 million ultimately, Maj. Gen. Bruce Crawford, commander of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command and the senior officer at APG, said during the ceremony.

The plant is undergoing testing and won't fully go on line until Sept. 1, APG spokesperson Heather Roelker said.

With combined heat and power, or "cogeneration," plants being increasingly considered more energy-efficient than older waste-to-energy incinerators, APG spent the last three years working on more efficient energy alternatives, having declined to renew a waste-to-energy agreement it had with Harford County.

Under that prior agreement, steam was produced by burning trash in an incinerator next to the Edgewood Area's Route 152 gate, and the post had bought steam energy to cover about 50 percent of the Edgewood Area's needs from the county since the 1980s.

The incinerator, which reached the end of its useful life this year, was decommissioned in March and is being demolished. The trash that was burned there is being trucked to Baltimore County for eventual disposal under a multi-year agreement between the two counties.

BGE presented the Army with a $2.5 million check under the utility's Smart Energy Savers incentives program. That's the largest amount the program awards.

BGE Energy Efficiency Program Director Wayne Harbaugh said cogeneration plants are innovative for multiple reasons, including turning waste heat into power, reducing emissions and protecting "sound environmental policy."

"This is a demonstration of how we are thinking differently about energy today," Harbaugh said. "What excites me most about today is the opportunity this presents."

"I think this is yet another great day in the storied history, the amazing history, of this great series of installations that we've got here in the great state of Maryland," Crawford told the crowd gathered for the ceremony. "Great minds came together to get us here today."

Crawford added: "Our competitive advantage in this great nation is always about us coming together to look over the horizon."

Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, said the plant also shows commitment to President Barack Obama's major national goal of 40 gigawatts of combined heat and power by 2020, about a 50 percent increase from 2013 levels.

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"We all know achieving goals like that starts with projects like this," Hogan said about APG's plant. She said the project is "impressive," saves millions of dollars and "really is a model project" that should interest others across the country.

"We think this has the ability to be a game changer for the Army and others interested in taking advantage of combined heat and power," Hogan said.

Cecil Rodrigues, a regional deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, said it is one of many environmentally-friendly initiatives at the proving ground and is a "great example of sustainable resource management at installations."

He commended the "stellar environmental efforts the Army has completed at this site," noting the system requires less fuel to produce the same amount of energy.

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