Borough breaks ground for power plant

September 26, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Taking the first step to ensure the future of Chambersburg's power supply, the borough broke ground Wednesday for a $20 million electric generating station.

"For 103 years the borough electric department provided affordable, dependable service. Today is the first step in guaranteeing affordable, dependable service for the next 103 years," Borough Council President Bill McLaughlin said.

Officials ceremoniously turned the earth along what will become the road to the power plant, while red and blue balloons several hundred feet away marked the site of the plant in the Chambers-5 Business Park.


Many called the borough forward-thinking for moving ahead with the plant.

"Chambersburg is a leader in Pennsylvania with its borough-owned utilities. We control our own destiny today," McLaughlin said.

The 23-megawatt facility will augment Chambersburg's existing 7.3-megawatt plant, allowing the borough to buy less electricity from a wholesaler and become more self-sufficient, officials have said.

Consultants began studying the borough's options more than a year ago in the wake of California's skyrocketing energy costs that had local officials wondering if it could happen here.

"The benefits are not something we will see in a day, a month or even a year," said Doug Harbach, chairman of the Chambersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. "This is long-term."

The project will improve reliability for borough electric customers, protect against future price spikes and provide local control.

Last month, the borough issued a $10 million bond to help play for the Orchard Park Electric Generating Station. It will have to take out a second bond next spring to finish paying for the plant and its contract with Wartsila for the four engines that will generate the electricity.

Consultants predict the borough will save about $400,000 a year when the new plant is up and running, which could be as soon as June.

Even after the borough pays off the 20-year bonds, the power plant should still be operational for another 30 years.

Until World War II, the borough's electric system was self-sufficient, supplying all of its needs. But from that time on, the borough purchased increasing amounts of electric from Allegheny Power.

The borough's contract with Allegheny Power ends in November, and officials expect to enter into a new contract with Detroit Edison Energy Trading. Though they are still hammering out the details, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said Detroit Edison submitted the most competitive bid for wholesale energy costs.

With the new facility, the borough should only have to purchase electricity to cover its basic power load and will be able to supply the needs during peak times and variable usage on any given day.

The borough's electric department serves about 10,300 customers.

The Herald-Mail Articles