Archive for the ‘Steve’s State’ Category

Muskeget Tidal Energy Update

Monday, August 29th, 2011

by Steve Barrett

Last week, there was some exciting activity in the waters between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  And I am not talking about the frogmen who were securing the islands in advance of the President’s vacation.  The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy were working together to deploy a 30 foot long barge equipped with a marine tidal energy converter to test the potential for tidal current energy in Muskeget Channel. 

The tidal turbine was supplied by Free Flow Power, a Massachusetts-based company, which has focused on extracting energy out of the Mississippi River and is now developing its marine energy capabilities.  Another Massachusetts start-up, battery maker FastCAP, was also a participant, using its advanced storage technology to store the energy produced by the Free Flow Turbine.  Concurrent with the technology testing, UMASS researchers collected environmental data including current measurements upstream and downstream of the turbine, zooplankton sampling to record physical impacts on biota, and hydrophone recordings of the background noise and sound signature of the Free Flow Turbine.  HMMH and UMASS will use the data to evaluate the potential for a combined research and development facility and a commercial scale tidal energy project to supply electricity to the Town of Edgartown. 

HMMH, serving as the Project Manager for Edgartown, continues to work with UMASS and other project partners on projects funded by the Department of Energy and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to move the project through the federal and state permitting process.  Edgartown hopes to deploy the first permanent tidal turbine in the second half of 2013. 

Testing was conducted for five consecutive days with the barge towed to Edgartown Harbor each night to protect it from the unpredictable maritime weather.  Fortunately, the weather cooperated for the period of deployment and all tests were completed successfully.  While the project team includes the experience of marine engineers, biologists, and maritime technicians, weather is one thing no one can control.  All the project participants were happy to have the barge safely in port and find themselves busy crunching numbers in the safety of their offices while Hurricane Irene was passing over Muskeget.

Free Flow Turbine

Portland (Maine) Airport’s Geothermal Project – Providing the Cooling (and heating) Power of an Iceberg

Monday, June 27th, 2011

by Steve Barrett

Portland International Jetport in Portland Maine is in the latter phases of constructing a $75m airport terminal expansion.  As part of the project, the City of Portland received $2.5m in funding from the FAA’s Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) Program for a geothermal heating and cooling system that will serve the new terminal building.  VALE provides dedicated funding for projects that reduce airport emissions.  The funded geothermal system in Portland will avoid the need for 50,000 gallons of oil (and the emissions associated with its combustion) that would be needed to heat the space each year.  The upfront investment has an economic payoff as well producing $200,000 a year in savings and $8m over the life of the system.  The airport is seeking LEED Silver Certification for the terminal as a green building.

Bob Miller, Phil DeVita, and I got a close-up look at the terminal and geothermal system last week when Roy Williams, Deputy Director at the Airport, facilitated a tour for us.  After welcoming us and affirming the success of the geothermal system and terminal project, which is expected to be complete in September, he turned us over to the care of Turner Construction, the construction manager for the Terminal Project. 

We donned hard hats, orange vests and protective eye ware (Bono-style) for our tour through the active construction zone.   As we made our way from the construction trailer to the new terminal building, we looked over at the geothermal wellfield which is now covered by a new employee parking lot.  The visuals of a geothermal system are akin to an iceberg where the bulk of the system and its “gravitas” lie below the surface.  The wellfield consists of 120 wells dug 500 feet deep to tap groundwater used to deliver heating and cooling as dictated by the weather.  Inside the terminal building, weaving our way through the work-in-progress, we found the tip of the geothermal iceberg residing in the mechanical room.  It consisted of a myriad of pipes: large arteries pumping water directly from and back to the wells, and smaller capillaries distributing conditioned water throughout the building.  Eight heat exchangers warm and cool the water from its base temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit before circulating it.  The footprint of the entire system occupies a room about the size of an elementary school classroom. 

With its large windows delivering lots of natural light and the eight enormous wooded beams and rich wood ceiling, even half finished, the terminal made a good impression.  Just wait until the finished product is unveiled this fall!  The terminal’s less flamboyant geothermal system gave us HMMHers some perspective on how airport geothermal has been effectively utilized for both the environment and energy efficiency.  This information will be valuable to us as we are presently working with Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (NH) on a VALE geothermal project conceived to be nearly an order of magnitude larger than the system in Portland.  Now that will be an iceberg!

HMMH Exhibits Wind Energy Services at Community Wind Conference

Monday, December 20th, 2010

By Steve Barrett

HMMH attended the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Community and Small Wind Conference in Portland Oregon during the second week of December.  This was our first time on the road in the “Energy and Climate” arena with our new booth which communicates HMMH’s expanding skill set including renewable energy support services.  While the annual AWEA conference, held each year in late spring, now attracts up to 25,000 attendees and has over 1,000 exhibitors, the Community Wind Conference offers a more intimate venue to meet with the wind industry’s community and residential segment.  Small wind is generally characterized by wind turbines that are under 100 kW; many exhibited at the conference were in the 5-20 kW range suitable for homes, farms, and small industry.  Community wind has a less precise definition but is typically characterized by wind projects owned by landowners with the model being Midwest farmers constructing multiple utility-scale (i.e., 400 foot tall) wind turbines and generating alternative sources of income.  Particularly in more densely developed areas like New England and coastal areas, interest in community wind projects are increasing because projects with fewer wind turbines fit more appropriately into the landscape and the benefits of the wind energy can be provided locally.  Several projects that HMMH has recently worked on in Massachusetts – Falmouth, Cohasset, and West Gloucester – all fit this model.  And because these projects are often located close to residences, they require sound studies to assess potential noise exposure from a proposed wind turbine on neighbors, which is one of HMMH’s developing areas of specialty.  While Portland was seasonally cool and rainy during our visit, the conference provided us with an opportunity to meet people working on small and community wind projects throughout the country and we hope to expand our work in this sector capitalizing on our success in the Northeast.

Solar Guide for Airports Released

Monday, December 6th, 2010

by Steve Barrett

I am very happy to tell you that the FAA has formally released the “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports”, also known as the Solar Guide.  The Solar Guide is the FAA’s central reference for solar development projects.  For airports interested in exploring solar opportunities, the Guide provides information on appropriate siting, required approvals, and options for funding.  For FAA staff, it provides guidance on technical reviews of issues like glare and radar interference and what type of information may be appropriate to address those concerns. 

Over the past six months,I worked with Dr. Jake Plante from the FAA’s Airport Planning and Environmental Division to draft the Guide.  Phil DeVita and Bob Miller provided critical research and review to make sure the Guide was up to HMMH’s professional standards of quality.  Several other members of HMMH’s technical and communications staff also contributed to the final product.   I think you will find the Solar Guide to be a very easy to read document that will facilitate better communications between aviation and energy groups with a mutual interest in developing solar, as well as enhancing and streamlining the regulatory review and approval of future airport solar projects.

It’s Not a Mirage – It’s a Solar Project at an Airport

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

by Steve Barrett

A little less than a year ago, I joined the HMMH team to provide clean energy services to existing clients and expand services in new areas.  Given HMMH’s long-standing and strong relationships in the aviation community, a key element of the plan was finding a way to marry aviation and energy; we thought the best prospects were in solar.  With solar technology expanding in markets throughout the world and public policy incentives increasing under the Obama Administration combined with Airports’ perfect blend of high electricity consumption and unobstructed southern exposures for capturing sunlight, our thinking seemed cogent.  But other than some knowledge of what Denver had done at the Airport’s entrance road at the Democratic Convention in 2008, we weren’t sure if we were seeing a clear future for solar at airports or just a mirage in the distance.

Now I am working with the FAA to write a Solar Guidance Document for Airports that, in part, reviews existing solar projects and provides lessons learned on what has made these projects successful and how they might be replicated by others.  Phil DeVita and I have had the opportunity to meet with five airports (with a sixth coming up) to touch the panels, hear them rotate, and meet the people who championed the projects and continue monitoring their progress.  We have collected information on siting decisions, economics, regulatory process, and operational experience.  We have gathered data to dispel myths and identified steps that were critical to success.  The paths taken have not been the same, but the results have been.  All projects have been an unequivocal success for the Airports providing cost-effective electricity and positive community relations while remaining compatible with the Airports fundamental mission. Here is a bit of what I saw (and heard).

Denver is the leader of the solar-airport movement with two projects built and operating, and a third under development.  Denver has all of the elements that make solar a “no-brainer”: cheap land, state solar incentives, a strong political commitment from the City, and lots of sun.  Each project has delivered cheaper and cheaper electricity while giving the airport deserved recognition as a leader in the field.  There is no reason Denver won’t continue to build solar projects over the next 10 years.  And despite the installation of almost 17,000 solar panels on airport property, there have been no complaints about glare.

 

Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport

The City of Albuquerque sits in the gold zone for solar energy and has taken a leadership position in the Southwest, including the installation of panels at the Airport.  Its first project, located on an existing car parking structure, is relatively small but it has recently received partial funding from the FAA to expand that system four-fold.  This project will put more panels on four more structures.  Without the land Denver has, the near-term goal at Albuquerque will be to fill up the remaining seven parking structures and generate a substantial amount of on-site electricity from the sun.

The Golden State has been the hub of the US solar industry and many of the major airports have seized the opportunity of sun and state incentives to build projects.

San Francisco International responded to a request sent out by the City to host solar panels.  It would be a good deal for the host – receive solar electricity for the cost of the typical customer rate paid for other electricity sources.  SFO had a new terminal with a flat roof-top tailored made for solar.  The location, being highly visible from the terminal train, also would demonstrate the Airport and City’s commitment to an alternative energy future.  With that project constructed in 2007, the City utility now wants to build a second project on the rental car parking facility and the initial design is underway with construction planned for the fall.

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport

Anthony Kekeluwela, a veteran engineer with the Port of Oakland, started talking about a solar facility for the airport in 2005.  His approach was a bit different from the others – why not build solar along the Airports runways in lands that can’t be used for other purposes.  The logic made sense – solar is physically low in profile and can be placed close to Part 77 imaginary surfaces without physically impeding airspace.  He worked with a solar developer who leased the land, built the project, and sells electricity to the Airport.  Today it operates with minimal maintenance and maximum benefit.  And is a working example of a solar system built near a runway causing no impacts.

Oakland International Airport

Oakland International Airport

Fresno’s success story is just as remarkable.  It decided that the Runway Approach Zone, a large area subject to high noise levels from arriving and departing aircraft, was the perfect location for a large solar array.  Because no human occupied land uses could occur in the runway approach zone, airport personnel decided that solar panels would go there.  Fresno worked with the FAA to get the project approved.  Nearly two years after its construction, there have been zero complaints about its placement and Fresno would like to construct a second project.  By the way, the solar facility provides approximately 60% of the annual electricity demand of the airport.

While not all of these projects have been simple, the economic and public relations payback have been substantial.  And all of the airports that we spoke with said they would build another project if they could line up the same economic deal.  Because energy is a secondary purpose, most have not put the time in to construct a follow-on project.  Having this group of projects built and operating, does demonstrate solar at airports is more than a mirage – its good business.