Council of Governments Executive Director Chuck Bean
and staff took a tour of regional energy assets in Charles County Maryland in July which highlighted the integration of power sources that keep the lights on in Metropolitan Washington. From a recently installed solar farm to the wind turbine in Newburg the tour showed that energy production in Charles County is also increasingly sustainable. County Commissioner Ken Robinson was pleased to share that in Charles County “citizens can be extremely proud of the renewable energy portfolio we were able to spotlight.”
In a region that will grow by 1.3 million by 2040 finding more sustainable
ways to power homes and businesses is crucial to reducing growth in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. Smaller scale distributed generation can supplement more traditional means of energy production while also providing backup power during an extreme weather event like last summer’s derecho. Infrastructure readiness for more powerful storms and higher sea-levels as highlighted in June’s Climate Resiliency Report is key to avoiding larger region wide outages.
Expanding Renewable Energy Options
SMECO an energy provider in Charles County presented one of their renewable energy initiatives to COG. Their 23000-panel solar array located in Hughesville adds 5.5 MW of green generating capacity to the local grid. Charles County itself is working to provide sustainable local energy.
The County maintains a network of three electric vehicle charging stations and draws energy from a bird-friendly wind turbine. At the Charles County Renewable Energy Education Center in Newburg we were able to see these initiatives firsthand as our Executive Director charged up his electric car using energy produced on the same grid as the 12 kW turbine on site. The wind turbine has already saved 233 kilos (513 lbs.) of carbon dioxide and is expected to produce 7200 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
At the nearby Morgantown power plant which is capable of producing up to 1477 MW of power through coal combustion plant representatives noted the plant’s innovative systems for mitigating emissions while producing affordable abundant energy to the regional energy grid. The plant uses an advanced “scrubber” that captures SO2 (sulfur dioxide) before leaving the vent shaft. The byproduct of this process synthetic gypsum is used in the manufacture of building materials thereby greatly reducing the landfill waste from the plant. This process along with advanced NOx (Nitrogen oxide) controls has significantly reduced emissions and improved air quality in Charles County and the region as a whole.
Local Actions Advancing Regional Goals
The tour was a great opportunity to see how COG’s newest member is incorporating sustainability into local governance and its own operations. In line with COG’s” 2013-2016 Climate Action Plan which outlines how cities and counties in the region can achieve sustainability goals Charles County has been implementing green policies on its own property and throughout the community. They are performing energy efficiency retrofits throughout county buildings reviewing their codes and standards to enhance sustainability building hike/bike trails and are developing energy considerations for their comprehensive plan.