Aberdeen Proving Ground officials broke ground Wednesday for a cogeneration power that is expected to provide 80 percent of energy needs for the installation's Edgewood Area.
The Combined Heat and Power Plant, or CHP, will produce both steam and electricity. The plant's steam output is expected to replace steam currently produced by a waste-to-energy facility owned by Harford County government that is due to be decommissioned next March.
"The overall cost is approximately $40 million, which may sound like a lot," APG spokesman Kelly Luster said about the new plant. "However, when you consider the savings and efficiency of this system will pay for itself in ten years or less, it's actually a bargain."
He said the Army will get about $4.4 million in savings annually, which helps APG meet a March presidential executive order for more efficient energy use and the Army's Net Zero Energy Initiative.
"This project reinforces the federal commitment to installing CHP systems wherever practical," Luster said via email."While not a renewable fuel source, CHP is considered an alternative fuel source which is superior to older conventional technologies."
The plant will be operated by Johnson Controls, he said, and will be located near Building E-5126, the Army's main boiler plant. Johnson Controls is a diversified technology and industrial company that offers building energy systems management among its services.
The CHP will use natural gas burned in a turbine to generate electricity. The waste heat from the turbine will create steam in a special boiler called a Heat Recovery Steam Generator, a process more efficient than a traditional boiler, according to the Army.
Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Benjamin Grumbles spoke at Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony.
Last year, APG officials signed a three-year agreement with Constellation Retail to explore alternative energy sources for the post. The Army began working with Johnson Controls on energy management issues several years ago, as it began looking at potential alternatives to the waste-to-energy arrangement with Harford County, Harford County officials reported at the time.
Since the mid-1980s, the Army has had an agreement with Harford County through which it purchases enough steam energy to cover about 50 percent of the Edgewood Area's needs from the waste-to-energy facility, which is located on federal property and incinerates a significant amount of the non-recyclable refuse collected in the county.
Three years ago, the Army declined to renew the steam purchase agreement, which would have been necessary for the county to build a needed replacement facility. At the time, APG officials said they were under mandates to find more efficient alternatives.
In 2013, the county entered into a long-term agreement with Baltimore County, which will receive the trash that been going to the incinerator at a transfer station in White Marsh. Baltimore County will then be responsible for disposing of the trash.
Harford officials have estimated 130,000 tons of trash will be sent annually to Baltimore County under the agreement, when it takes full effect nest year. In addition to razing the waste-to-energy plant, Harford plans to close its only landfill in Street which is nearing capacity.