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CPV to build Green, Clean, Power-generating Machine in Maryland

by Andre German
The proposed CPV St. Charles venture is newsworthy on many fronts, including environmental and fiscal.
Competitive Power Ventures, Inc. has recently outlined its plans for a 600-megawatt natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant in Maryland. Known as CPV St. Charles, the new facility is projected to generate enough electricity to power 600,000 homes. Assuming the proposed venture passes environmental reviews by local, state and federal regulators this fall, construction will start in 2009 and the plant will be producing power in 2011.

The planned facility is to be built on a 77-acre lot in an industrial zone adjacent to Aggregate Industries’ asphalt plant, the Charles County landfill, and an existing power line and natural gas pipeline--the latter two eliminating the need to construct new transmission towers, power lines or pipelines. The site has long been set aside for a power plant, having formerly been slated for the failed Kelson Ridge power plant, which died in the aftermath of the Enron scandal. CPV entered into a purchase agreement for the site with American Community Properties Trust, a current developer of St. Charles.

Officials of CPV St. Charles, a natural gas facility, claim their power plant will use advanced technology to produce electricity cleanly and efficiently. By using a cooling system that requires minimal groundwater, they say it will not be a strain on local water resources. Further, they say it will help reduce dependency on the older coal-burning power plants that supply a majority of the region's power.

CPV also recently received priority rights to tie the plant directly into the region’s power grid. This may give CPV St. Charles a time and cost advantage over other proposed power plants in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. According to Charles County Board of Commissioners F. Wayne Cooper, local power company SMECO is not, at this time, slated to purchase power from the new plant, so it may not actually power Charles County homes. However, CPV reported it will meet with SMECO in the near future.

By contributing to the region's growing need for electricity, CPV St. Charles will help prevent the rolling power blackouts which have occurred as a result of electricity shortages in other power-starved regions. According to recent studies by PJM Interconnection LLC, the regional transmission organization that manages the electric grid for 51 million people in the East and Midwest, Southern Maryland could face the same problem in the year 2011 without the construction of new power generation facilities.

The CPV project is predicted to cost more than $400 million. Its community benefits, aside from its environmental effects, include: becoming one of the largest taxpayers in the Charles County, creating 350-400 new jobs at peak construction, creating 30 skilled fulltime jobs with an average annual salary exceeding $55,000, and generating about $2 million in annual tax revenue when it becomes operational and $125 million in local revenue during the construction phase. The company has assured the Charles County Board of Commissioners that they will use local labor to the greatest extent possible.

Sharon K. Segner, director of the CPV St. Charles project, said, “We will be opening an office in Charles County soon and we look forward to talking with community members about the facility, the cutting-edge technologies we employ, and the advantages of environmentally-responsible natural gas generation.”

The timetable for the plant calls for construction to begin in 2009, with power production set to start in 2011.
The timetable for the plant is, according to Segner, "to file permitting applications with the state this fall, and the plans would be for construction to begin in 2009. The plant would go into operation and produce power in 2011."

When asked whether there were any plans to bring a CPV St. Charles type-facility to Baltimore, with five times more population than Charles County, which is experiencing extraordinary rate hikes from BGE, Segner referenced CPV St. Charles and the development of a similar plant in Front Royal, Virginia, stating, "Those two plants are our primary focus at this time, and we will continue to look for opportunities to address the area’s energy needs." She did not rule out a Baltimore area plant, however, saying, "We are a growing company and would like to do more projects in [the] Maryland area." The company was established in 1999.
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According to its web site, investment partners of Competitive Power Ventures include the private equity firm Warburg Pincus and some individual investors.

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This story was published on August 17, 2007.