Sat. Apr 20th, 2024


by Ana Grarian

The ongoing saga of a CNY county trying to ride the wave of

  sh*t technology and carbon credits.

Cayuga County NY sits in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region between Cayuga and Owasco Lakes, stretching all the way north to the shore of Lake Ontario. It is an achingly beautiful rural county under seige from those who wish to see it increasingly as the dumping ground for industry.

I have spoken before of the proposal to link the major CAFO farms which have spread like a cancer across the southern half of the county, to an industrial park near Auburn, the county seat, via a 40 mile long pipeline for dirty bio-methane gas. All at a significant cost and liability to the taxpayer.

This is only one of the digester projects in the works.

At the same time the Biogas Project was being pursuded and pushed at the county level, the City of Auburn was struggling with it’s own, similar project.

The city of Auburn operates a landfill and a sewage treatment plant. The city created the Auburn Municipal Power Agency and made a plan with CH Auburn, a subsidiary of CH Energy, to build a generator that would run on methane generated by the city landfill and methane from a digester to be built to process the sludge from the sewage treatment plant.

A good idea, if it worked, to capture methane from the landfill and sewage, scrub out contaminants which could be sold for carbon credits, and generate power at the local level. You know the saying about best laid plans right?

Originally the city was going to do it on its own, but due to a spending cap (debt ceiling?) they had to partner with another organization.

Under the agreement the City of Auburn  (ie: the taxpayer)

Provided free methane from the landfill (and STP digester when/if it was built)to the CH Auburn generator.
Agreed to buy a minimum of 2 MW/hr at 5.999 c/KWhr, 24/7/365, even if that much electricty was not produced, AND would pay for lost carbon credits whenever that much electricity could not be produced.

CH Auburn would build, own and operate the generator for 15 years, after which it would turn it over to the city. (when it’s old, obsolete and requires massive amounts of upkeep?)

That was the plan….

To make a long story short – too late –

The project cost more than estimated, parts of it have never been built, it does not generate as much as estimated, and the cost of power is prohibitively high.

The city buys 2 MW/hr at 5.999 cents per KW while only recieving ~ 1.3 MW of power. The city only uses about 1/3 of that to run its waste water treatment plant. The excess power is sold to NYSEG (a private utility) who only pays for 80% of what it receives (because the city doesn’t own the plant), at about 25% less than what it is costing Auburn to buy it. (the price of electricity on the open market has fallen to 4.5 cents /KWhr)

The methane that was supposed to be generated by the sewage sludge in the digester, is not available because it has been determined that, that part of the plan is not economically viable because the city would not be able to enter the carbon credit market. (interestingly the biggest buyers of carbon credits are WWTP’s) So the city, which shut down its sludge incinerator in anticipation of this project, now pays to have its sludge hauled away because it is not legal to dump it into the city’s landfill, where at least it might still generate more methane. Though, since digesters do not eliminate sludge, there would be a disposal process anyway.

Technology salesman promise miraculous cures for problems caused by technology. Someone makes money off these projects. Obviously it is not the citizen who is fitting the bill for the projects through their tax dollars.


 ”The worst disease of the world now is probably the ideology of technological heroism, according to which more and more people willingly cause large-scale effects that they do not see and that they cannot control. This is the ideology of the professional class of the industrial nations—a class whose allegiance to communities and places has been dissolved by their economic motives and by their educations. These are people who will go anywhere and jeopardize anything in order to assure the success of their careers.” Wendell Berry

Links to resources on this subject:

Skeptics on the farm: Can Biogas Pipeline project work?

Power Plant a Drain on City Resources

CH Energy Group Begins Renewable Energy Project in Upstate New York

CH Energy Goup/ CH Auburn

By AFarmer

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