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College’s Methane-Fueled Power Plant Gets Low Marks

Troy, New York-based Hudson Valley Comunity College’s methane-fueled power plant, designed and installed by Siemens Building Technologies in 2004 at a cost of $8.4 million, is not providing the amount of power the college expected, the Times Union reports.

The flow of methane from the 40-acre landfill hasn’t been consistent. Sometimes the concentration of methane is so thin that it cannot burn, lights sputter, and computers crash, forcing the college to use a more-polluting diesel engine for emergency power.

The methane problems have forced the college, which sits on 120 acres and has 19 buildings, to buy increasing amounts of natural gas to power other generators in the plant. The college even sought state permission to use more diesel power, but it withdrew that proposal last month.

The share of electricity generated by methane has steadily declined, from 25.5 percent in 2004 to 17 percent in 2005, to 11 percent in 2006, when for three months the methane-powered generator did not run at all.

One problem is that the college draws methane from an unlined landfill, which doesn’t trap gas as well as lined landfills.

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