Power outages expected to be reduced by new system

Rebecca Jordan

Staff Writer

Power outages that have been darkening campus as recently as this past Tuesday are in the process of being resolved, thanks to a more than $1 million increase in funds dedicated to making Hudson Valley more energy efficient.

In October 2014, the Board of Trustees approved $1 million to be used to enhance the college’s energy management system, a computer-based system that controls the boiler, air conditioning, and other temperature-regulating systems around campus. In June 2015, an additional $700,000 was appropriated toward the same cause.

According to Richard Edwards, director of the Physical Plant, these funds are not being used to upgrade the computer system itself, but are going toward two projects related to managing energy. The money will be used to tie the campus back into National Grid’s power system in order to stabilize the power supply to campus buildings. Plans have also been made to build a system to recycle heat emitted from the liquid-cooling unit and channel the otherwise wasted energy back into powering Hudson Valley.

The majority of campus is currently powered by the CoGen plant, the only exception being the Science Center, which is powered by National Grid. The CoGen plant was completed in 2004 and originally run by five generators: one powered by diesel, three by natural gas, and one with methane gas from the Troy landfill adjacent to the property. Although a sixth generator was added in 2005 to help reduce the power outages experienced around campus, it did not completely eliminate the problem.

Though the campus has essentially been off-grid since the construction of the CoGen plant, the administration decided that allowing National Grid to take on more of the campus’s power needs will be beneficial for students, faculty, and the campus equipment.

Edwards is optimistic that allowing National Grid to provide more of the campus’s power will drastically reduce the number of blackouts experienced. He said, “When the load on the generators rises too quickly, blackouts occur, and tying back into National Grid will help to stabilize the power.”

This news is definitely what students want to hear. “[During] the first class I was supposed to be in, we actually had to leave class because it was a computer class, and we had no power,” said Josh Carman, a freshman, about the most recent power outage, which occurred Tuesday. “If there’s no power, I can’t go to class, and I’m losing out on the education I’m paying for.”

Rubin Varghese, a third-year student at Hudson Valley, had a similar opinion. “Everyone loses a lot of study time, computer classes specifically,” said Varghese.

Edwards and his team recognize that this problem must be resolved as soon as possible. He said, “It is hard to put a dollar amount to what tying back into National Grid will save the college, but it is even harder to put a cost on what the blackouts are costing the college in reputation. Incoming freshman experienced a power outage on their second day of school, and we want our reputation to be one of having consistent power.”

He said that the heating loop system cost about half a million dollars and is expected to produce a four- to five-year payback. “The heating project should be done by mid-October, and the electric work by February, 2016,” Edwards said in an email. “This won’t cure every ill, but it should keep the power outages to a minimum.”

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