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Front Royal turns down solar power offer

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Front Royal Town Council is saying thanks but no thanks to a proposal to buy solar power from an energy supplier.

Mayor Timothy Darr said Tuesday that Joseph Waltz, the town's director of energy resources, recommended the town not participate in Phase 1 of American Municipal Power's proposed solar project at this time.

Town Manager Steven Burke further explained that, according to Waltz and the data provided, the projected costs far exceed current market and power purchases for Front Royal.

At Council's work session on Monday, Waltz showed estimated costs to buy solar power from Phase I of AMP's project. He cited the high price for solar power compared to the town's current levy on residential users. The director also pointed out some risks and cost assumptions involved with such a project.

Burke, in an email, noted that "the town will continue to investigate other power purchase opportunities to identify cost-effective arrangements."

Front Royal charges 8.49 cents per kilowatt hour. Waltz noted the projected target price for solar power is $85 per megawatt or 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour. The wholesale cost of blended power for fiscal 2012-2013 is $66 per megawatt, or 6.6 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Waltz' information.

Last month, AMP had returned to Council with a proposal that called for Front Royal to serve as a host site for solar energy through the municipal power supplier.

Also at the work session, Council heard a presentation from resident Jerry Scholder, who has proposed Front Royal pursue a pilot study to evaluate converting sludge from Class B to Class A. The process, called vermistabilization, uses earthworms to digest and convert the sludge into a usable byproduct of municipal wastewater.

Council sought more information on the proposal and asked Scholder to come back with more details about the initiative, Darr said.

Information provided at the meeting indicates that it costs the town $225,000 to dispose of the 340 dry tons of de-watered sludge produced by Front Royal each year. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality regulates sludge disposal for each classification. The proposed improvements to the wastewater treatment plant seek to develop Class A sludge through a heating process.

Town staff began working with Scholder to look into implementation of the pilot at the plant. However, as Burke explained, vermistabilization doesn't have a successful track record. The process has proven effective on a small scale, according to Burke. But no wastewater treatment plants in the country participate in vermistabilization. A consultant for Front Royal provided information to officials that shows two plants in Pennsylvania implemented vermistabilization, but shut down the process after two years as a result of operational issues and high costs.

"There's a lot of variables," Darr said.

Council asked Scholder to come back with a clearer picture of what the proposal would entail, including how much space he would need for the initiative.

1 Comment

Congratulations Front Royal for having Mr. Waltz looking out for the citizens and making sure that while the solar initiative sounds good, it's not the time to be raising the cost of using electricity while the population struggles to keep up with fuel and grocery prices.
Sounds like Mr. Sholder has good intentions, but why spend the money for a study when data already shows that the vermistabilization process is not successful and is more costly?

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