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Maryland releases RFP for purchase of power from animal waste

By Lisa Gibson | October 25, 2011

In an effort to promote renewable energy, create jobs and reduce Maryland’s contribution to agricultural runoff polluting the Chesapeake Bay, the state released a request for proposals (RFP) for the purchase of 10 megawatts of power produced from animal waste.

To qualify for the project, dubbed Clean Bay Power, applicants must be producing commercial electricity by Dec. 31, 2015. In addition, qualified systems are only those connected directly to the grid and exclude behind the meter operations, according to Michael Heintz, Maryland Energy Administration’s representative on the proposal. “I’ve been told there are larger digester systems that already exist but are not connected to the grid,” he said. “They are free to apply so long as they meet the requirements in the RFP.  That said, new developments are also open to bid, and I think most bidders will be for new facilities.”

Clean Bay Power is an effort conducted by the Maryland Department of General Services, in coordination with the Maryland departments of agriculture, natural resources, environment, the Maryland Energy Administration, and the University of Maryland. The application deadline is Nov. 30 and the selected projects should be announced in the first quarter of 2012, Heintz said.

“Animal manure was chosen for this project because we were looking for a renewable source of electricity that will also have positive environmental benefits on the Chesapeake Bay,” Heintz said. The use of manure as fertilizer in the agricultural industry is causing a high level of nitrogen and phosphorus loading into the bay watershed, leading to decreased oxygen and increased algae, among other negative impacts. The primary contributors are poultry operations on the eastern shore and dairy operations to the north and west, Heintz said.

If fully implemented, Clean Bay Power will almost double the amount of renewable electricity purchased by the state, bringing it close to 30 percent. 

"By reducing the nutrient loading, through the decreased use of manure as a fertilizer, we hope to have positive impacts on bay water quality,” Heintz said. “By seeking power projects sourced from animal manure, we believe we will redirect a significant amount of manure from being used as fertilizer to an electricity fuel source.”