Case Study: New Cogeneration Facility Taps Unused Landfill Gas

When Hudson Valley Community College was looking for ways to save money and help the environment, it needed to look no further than a closed city landfill just a quarter mile from the campus.

An innovative cogeneration facility recently completed at the Troy, N.Y., campus burns methane generated by decomposition in the landfill, as well as natural gas, to provide electricity for the entire campus. The plant went online in April 2004 and has effectively taken the college campus off the electrical power grid.

Hudson Valley, one of the largest community colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, partnered with Seimens Building Technologies to build the three-megawatt cogeneration facility. It is the first such facility in the SUNY system.

By tapping into an otherwise wasted source of usable energy, Hudson Valley improves the local environment by reducing air pollution. The greenhouse gas reduction benefits of the project equate to planting more than 48,000 acres of forest, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

"Hudson Valley Community College's new cogeneration facility makes good environmental, economic and educational sense, and we are proud to be using a cutting-edge technology that is both cost-effective and environmentally sound," said Hudson Valley Community College President Marco J. Silvestri.

Hudson Valley partnered with the city of Troy in Rensselaer County, N.Y., and Siemens to make the $8.4 million project a reality. The college will pay the city of Troy a total of $200,000 for the methane the city supplies during an 11-year period.

A 15-year performance contract between Siemens and the college covers all costs associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of the plant.

The financing for the project works like this: Hudson Valley had spent about $1.5 million annually on electricity, and $300,000 per year on natural gas. The new facility has reduced the college's campus electricity bill to zero, but has increased its natural gas costs to $900,000, which results in an overall savings of approximately $900,000 annually in energy costs.

The college will use its annual energy costs savings to pay Siemens for the construction, operation and maintenance of the facility for the length of the 15-year contract. That contract with Siemens also guarantees the college will save at least $1.3 million above and beyond those annual energy costs savings during the first 15 years of the facility's operation.

Once the college's contract with Siemens expires, the cogeneration facility will be paid in full; at that point, the college will decide whether to continue to contract with Siemens for operation and maintenance of the facility. Once the facility is paid for, the college will save about $700,000 to $800,000 annually in energy costs.

The new facility even provides an added bonus - waste heat produced by the operation of the system is used in the college's McDonough Sports Complex to power a heating/air conditioning system. This use of the waste heat costs the college nothing.

Officials from the college and Siemens Building Technologies also are studying whether to tap into another community landfill in the future for access to more methane, which would be used once Troy's supply is depleted in 14 years. The facility will run exclusively on natural gas if another source of methane isn't identified.

The college received a $500,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) for the project, as well as an additional $50,000 NYSERDA grant that will allow the college to install Web-based metering of electrical use of all campus buildings. In addition, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will reimburse the college for $2 million of the cost of the project.

The facility also will be integrated into the college's curriculum. It houses a classroom that will be used by Hudson Valley's Engineering and Industrial Technologies programs. As small- to medium-sized cogeneration plants are becoming more widely used nationwide, the facility will be a training tool for potential plant operators and other engineering and industrial technologies disciplines.

In addition to being a wise environmental and educational investment, the project further enhances Hudson Valley's role as a community resource. In the wake of the blackout in August 2003 that crippled much of the Northeast and a heightened awareness of the potential for terrorist activities, it is important for the college to be a safe haven for the community in the event of another widespread blackout or disaster, natural or otherwise, President Silvestri said.

For more information on Hudson Valley Community College's cogeneration facility, contact Steve Cowan at .

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