Unseasonably warm weather led to noise issues during testing of the National Institutes of Health’s on-campus power plant this week, according to a NIH spokesman.
The routine emission testing, required by the state every two years, usually goes unnoticed by neighbors of the 300-acre, 75-building campus between Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road.
But earlier this week, when record-breaking temperatures reached 70 degrees, the complex process of having to create steam in warm temperatures led to the louder than typical noise, NIH Office of Research Facilities spokesman Brad Moss said.
Word reached NIH, which quickly prepared a fact sheet for neighbors about the testing process and how the warm weather led to the noise. As temperatures have cooled down, Moss said the noise is no longer an issue and shouldn’t be as testing goes on for the rest of the week.
The “cogeneration” power plant came online in 2005, according to the NIH’s newsletter, and at that time provided 40 percent of campus electricity needs and produced 30 percent of the steam required to heat buildings in the winter and sterilize scientific equipment.
The $38 million facility is owned and operated by Pepco, but the federal government will take control in 2015. The plant was reportedly expected to reduce pollutant emissions by 600 tons per year compared to the installation of another boiler to create steam.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Service Center Director Ken Hartman noted the company performing the testing has been made aware of the county’s noise ordinance, according to a weekly email alert.