Maryland runs on ... chicken litter?

Waste from expansive poultry farms that line Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay has long been the source of much consternation: pollution, lawsuits, and, oh, the smell.

But Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Friday said it’s about to become part of the solution — at least to help Maryland meet its goals to get more energy from renewable resources.

Maryland and its university system have joined forces to purchase at least 10 megawatts of power from a plant that will run primarily on chicken waste.

The state did not immediately disclose what it agreed to pay for the energy, but said th econtract was competitively bid. O’Malley’s spending plan for the budget year that begins in July includes $2.5 million for so-called “manure to energy” projects.

“Obtaining manure from poultry manure or animal waste helps helps Maryland government reach its goal of generating 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources,” O’Malley’s General Services Secretary Alvin C. Collins said in a statement.

The state’s contract is with a California-based renewable energy company called Green Planet Power Solutions. It plans to locate the chicken-litter plant in Federalsburg, in Caroline County.

In a statement, O’Malley said the deal shows Maryland is willing to be a leader in all forms of renewable energy. “It is only through a diverse, renewable fuel mix that we will be able to...protect our precious environment.”

The governor’s office said it hopes the initiative will save the state between $53 million and $80 million over the course of the 15-year contract period.

The governor’s statement also said construction of the plant would create 200 construction jobs and 24 permanent ones as well as reduce 230,000 pounds of nitrogen runoff into the Chesapeake Bay annually.

The state advertised in late 2011 that it would be accepting proposals for animal waste to energy initaitives. In order to qualify, “The successful supplier must have an electric generating capacity of up to 10MW from animal waste – such as poultry litter or livestock manure – and must be directly connected to the regional electricity grid. The selected supplier must begin providing electricity to the State by December 31, 2015.”