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John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
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is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

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Posted 09.27.04
Fool's Hollow, Quebec

JOHN MAHONEY

Methane-powered electric plant delayed

COVENTRY, VT | Plans to construct a 5-megawatt methane-powered electrical generating plant at the massive Casella landfill here have been temporarily stalled by the state Public Service Board.

The PSB says that Washington Electric Coop cannot start construction of the plant or the 7.5 mile connector transmission line until planned expansion of the landfill meets state approval.

The WEC had petitioned to start work immediately on the $ 7.2 million power project to beat the onset of winter weather, which will drive up construction costs.

WEC and Casella officials had expected state approval of the landfill expansion by summer's end. However, intervention by Canadian interests concerned with possible pollution of Lake Memphremagog by landfill leakage has delayed final approval. This may come this autumn, pending agreement between Casella and the Canadian intervenors.

This may mean than WEC will have to buy electric power on the open market when it's current contract for methane-produced power from Connecticut runs out on December 31. This is anticipated to raise hydro costs.

The WEC says that could increase their spending by more than $112,000.

In addition, winter construction costs more money because of adverse working conditions and special techniques.

And then there's the possible loss of sales on more than $230,000 in renewable energy credits.

However, WEC general manager Avram Patt of Worcester, Vermont, says it's all pretty much a tempest in a teapot.

"We may run a little late, it may cost a little bit more," he said Sunday evening.

"But once we're online [next winter], a month or so delay will make little difference a year or so later."

The WEC has some 9,000 customers to whom it markets some 15 megawatts of power annually. The methane-powered plant - one of 300 in the US - is expected to generate about one-third of the annual needs, once it hits peak generation. Life expectancy is about thirty years, based on the lifespan of the landfill and the volume of methane produced and harnessed.

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