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Commercial solar project goes up at Thurmont firm

Monday - 8/13/2012, 6:00am  ET

solar panel Federal Stone Industries (Frederick News Post)
Mark Beverunger, left, and Sergo Rousselin install solar panels Thursday on the room of two buildings of Federal Stone Industries in Thurmont. The installation is being done by Solar Energy World. (Frederick News-Post/Bill Green)
Thurmont has its first commercial solar energy project with the installation of a system at Federal Stone Industries.

David Rethemeyer, vice president of the business at 142 Water St., said he believes the $136,000 investment will pay off in the long run.

Brent Cotton, who is coordinating the installation for Solar Energy World in Elkridge, said he met Rethemeyer at a home show in Baltimore.

"Dave's booth was next to me, and we met by chance," Cotton said.

There will be 150 panels installed at the business, which manufactures precast swimming-pool coping. Coping is the cap on the edge of a swimming pool or spa, which is mounted on the bond beam.

Thurmont has only one residential solar installation, according to town officials. Cotton said Thurmont, which has its own electric utility operations, had not implemented net metering (surplus power return).

The Maryland Public Service Commission helped the town set it up, Cotton said.

Rethemeyer said he was impressed to see the Constellation Energy solar array at Mount St. Mary's University. That system, on about 100 acres, will supply power to the university and some of the surrounding community.

"It seems like Thurmont was caught in the '50s when looking at Emmitsburg," Rethemeyer said.

Federal Stone Industries, which has served the swimming pool industry for nearly 50 years, is an innovative business. It developed the Radiuschart, a tool for determining the radii of a pool wall, and keeps abreast of the latest technology in the field. The company also emphasizes safety for those enjoying their pool.

"It will reduce our expenditures, and I'm looking at the long-term investment," Rethemeyer said.

Geoff Mirkin, a founder of Solar Energy World, said the project was the first commercial one for the company in Frederick County.

"The cost of solar has gone down, perhaps 50 percent in the past few years. Plus there are some grants and tax credits," Mirkin said via telephone.

"We anticipate the payback in five to seven years," Mirkin said. "It is better than putting the money in underperforming funds."

Rethemeyer said he wasn't complaining about Thurmont's electric rates.

"They are not gauging us. They have been reasonable, but if we can produce power and put it back to the grid, that is a good thing.

"It is no 'silver bullet' to solve all the energy problems, but it means less use of fossil fuels," Rethemeyer said.

On its website, Solar Energy World notes that its commercial installation process includes a complete analysis to see if the project is the best way to go for a potential client; how to do the installation without interrupting business operations for the client; submitting all paperwork for applications, local building permits and any tax credits or other incentives; manage inspections and monitor electrical output and performance.

Cindy McKane-Wagester, Main Street Manager for Thurmont, said members of the Main Street group are interested in alternative energy.

Part of the Main Street mission is to look at clean, safe and green energy, McKane-Wagester said.

"We are looking for opportunities for solar energy for commercial buildings," McKane- Wagester said. "We are researching it. Yes, it is in our future."

Part of the discussion also includes increased recycling programs and chargers for electric cars, McKane-Wagester said.

"That would be an important part of the expected increase in tourism for Thurmont," McKane-Wagester said of the chargers. No specific plans have been made for the chargers.