Archive for the ‘Steve’s State’ Category

A Renewable Energy Postcard from Eastport Maine

Monday, April 12th, 2010

by Steve Barrett

The heyday of Eastport Maine was when 13 sardine factories were processing the daily catch and shipping it by boat to city centers in Portland and Boston.  That was 13 decades ago.  (Not a very lucky number.) Today, the remnants of a prosperous past are visible in the stately Victorian homes and brick-lined Main Street with mostly empty store fronts.  Today, about 1,500 people call Eastport home.  The only way to make a living here is to have multiple jobs and at least one of those is likely to involve the ocean.  However, there is hope for a future in Eastport and most everyone hopes that Eastport’s future lies in tidal electricity generation. 

Eastport Maine

Eastport Maine

The tides and currents around Eastport are legendary.  Eastport sits on a peninsula of land bounded by Cobscook Bay to the south, the mouth of the St. Croix River (and boundary with Canada) to the north, and Campobello Island and Atlantic Ocean to the east.  The old sow whirlpool, the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, is located off Eastport. And Ocean Renewable Power Company (OPRC), a tidal energy start-up company from downstate in Portland, thinks that there is limitless energy in these waterways. 

The number one specials board at the Happy Crab says “Seafood Roll and Seafood Chowder.”  Chris Sauer, President of ORPC, recommends it highly and I don’t ask questions.  As the only restaurant (and watering hole) in town, the Happy Crab is the center of all social life in Eastport, and Chris has eaten many meals at the Crab.  Chris has become a local fixture in Eastport despite never visiting until tidal energy became his area of expertise five years ago.  Now everyone knows Chris.  And on this day, the day after “launching” the largest tidal energy system ever deployed in the US in Cobscook Bay in Eastport, the locals come into the Crab and offer congratulations to Chris.

But leading a new technology company start-up is one part glory to ten parts headache.  The “launching” did not occur as planned the previous day due to a technical glitch in the turbine generator requiring it to be towed from the Eastport waterfront back to the Maine Boat School, ORPC’s surrogate marine shop.  ORPC hopes that the problem will be fixed in the next month.  Permits allowing for the deployment stipulated that the turbine could not spin when endangered Atlantic Salmon smolts might be navigating the waterway in May and June so the delay prompted a phone summit with federal and state fisheries agency representatives to consider the implications. 

The beta unit, as the current tide engine is referred to, is remarkable in its simplicity.  A special barge was constructed to lift and drop the generator and foils (not blades) in and out of the water.  The barge is equipped with special equipment for measuring the performance of the contraption and the electricity it produces.  It includes an on-board inverter that converts the electricity from DC to AC before storing it in large batteries that will be transported to the US Coast Guard Station to heat the rescue boat that must be warm and ready to head seaward at a moments notice 24-7.  The whole contraption looks like a push mower.

So what’s a guy from HMMH doing in Eastport Maine eating seafood chowder and observing the ups and downs of a start-up tidal technology company?  Well, you may recall that a flagship project of our new clean energy practices is working with the Town of Edgartown Massachusetts on a tidal energy project proposed between the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  The technology that Edgartown is proposing is the Gorvlov Helical Turbine after which ORPC has fashioned its beta model.  Data collected in Eastport on technology performance and environmental impacts can be used by Edgartown as it pursues a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to generate tidal energy in off its east coast.  And we are in the early stages of bringing the old lawn mower and custom barge down for testing in Massachusetts. 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sense of Scale

A Sense of Scale

 

 

 

 

Solar Guide for Airports

Monday, March 29th, 2010

by Steve Barrett

This past week, Bob (Miller), Phil (DeVita) and I met with Jake Plante, FAA’s Project Manager, to kick-off the Solar Guide for Airports Project.  Over the next nine months, HMMH will be compiling information on solar technology, financing, FAA rules, and government funding, and consolidating it into an easy to read guidebook that will help airports assess the solar generation opportunity.  We will also be presenting detailed case studies of Airports – like DIA and ABQ – that have already developed solar projects and describe the factors that have made them successful.  How important is the amount of solar resource to the economics of a project?  What government incentive programs have been successful?  What are the roles of the different players (airport, solar company, utility)?  Have existing projects resulted in economic and other benefits?  How has the FAA ensured that these projects protect safe air navigation?  We look forward to working with the FAA in coming months to answer these questions, and more.

Moon Power: HMMH Moves Into a New and Exciting Field

Friday, September 18th, 2009

by Steve Barrett

Tides are the rising and falling of Earth’s ocean surface caused by gravitational forces of the moon and sun.  The rising and falling is most dramatic twice each month when the Sun, Earth, and Moon align in space, revealed to skygrazers as either a full or new moon.

Moon Phases Diagram

Moon Phases Diagram: www.moonconnection.com

Tides are also more pronounced at the poles than at the equator, and in jagged and irregular coastlines than straight coasts.

Bay of Fundy at high and low tide, taken by Samuel Wantman in 1972

Bay of Fundy at high and low tide, taken by Samuel Wantman in 1972

People have used the power of the Earth to do work for centuries.  River water and the wind driving grist mills provide the most familiar examples.  The power of the tides has been more difficult to harness primarily due to the vastness of the ocean.  Recent advances in technology are making the conversion of tidal currents to electricity possible.

HMMH is currently working with the Town of Edgartown, Massachusetts to investigate the opportunity of extracting tidal current energy from the Muskegat Channel – located between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket – to provide power to the Town’s residents.

For a view of the study area, see: http://media.marine-geo.org/image/nantucket-sound-2008

A 2005 report by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on tidal energy resources identified Muskegat Channel as the best tidal energy site in Massachusetts.  Because Muskegat Channel is within 3 miles of land and therefore in the legal boundaries of Edgartown, the Town decided to claim the right to evaluate the resource for energy development.  In March of 2007, it was granted a Preliminary Permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), giving it exclusive development rights.  Since that time, the Town has been working with researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology to more accurately measure and map the current velocity in Muskegat Channel to confirm the power of the resource and its capacity to generate electricity.  These data, reported in July of 2009, confirmed that the power of the currents (measured in knots per second) was even better than that predicted in the 2005 EPRI Report.  With this fundamental puzzle piece now placed, the next step is to prepare a project concept, undertake baseline environmental data collection, and conduct analyses of potential impacts from the project.

In anticipation of this next phase, Edgartown asked HMMH if it would lead a proposal team to bid on a solicitation from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Power Program to fund baseline environmental data collection and environmental impact analysis.  In early June, HMMH submitted its proposal titled “Environmental Effects of Sediment Transport Alteration and Impacts on Protected Species: Edgartown Tidal Energy Project.”  On September 3rd, DOE awarded grant funds to HMMH to implement the research.

HMMH’s proposal is based on the installation of a 1.5 MW pilot stage tidal energy project.  The study will consider each of the two prevailing tidal energy technologies that could be used:

  1. horizontal open bladed turbines mounted on monopoles
  2. horizontal helical turbines that float from moorings
Helical Turbine

Helical Turbine

A graphic illustration of an open-bladed turbine can be viewed at: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/02/hydropower/image/turbine.jpg&imgrefurl=http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/02/hydropower/source/2.htm&usg=__WeXtQA_T_ebNoce9AAiQ0Y-d6eo=&h=400&w=450&sz=62&hl=en&start=15&sig2=194je0CpJKgR_0zwH_01Aw&um=1&tbnid=xGbuq280pBTg7M:&tbnh=113&tbnw=127&prev=/images%3Fq%3DVerdant%2BPower%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-us%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1&ei=exyxSsSnBZPV8Abzy_SlDA

Projects for each of the two technologies have been demonstrated on the East Coast of the U.S.  In the East River in New York City, Verdant Power has deployed two horizontal bladed turbines and presently has an application before FERC for a larger pilot project.  Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has deployed a one-third scale model of a helical turbine in the western passage near Eastport, Maine and is currently building a full-scale model to be deployed this winter.

For the Muskegat Channel Environmental Study, the DOE is funding Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and UMASS-Dartmouth to conduct baseline data collection to characterize the oceanographic processes and benthic habitat in Muskegat Channel, which will be used to develop a site-specific computer model for predicting changes in sediment dispersion caused by the pilot tidal project.  The model will be run for both types of technologies for comparison.  The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies will be collecting all of the available existing information on marine protected species occurring in Muskegat Channel and assessing the potential impacts of the two tidal technologies on those species based on known behaviors and habitat preferences.  HMMH, acting as the Town of Edgartown’s consultant, will manage and direct all research activities, interact with regulatory agencies and the public, and facilitate all project reporting.  The studies will be completed over a two year period.

Look out, Virginia! Here we come!

Monday, August 10th, 2009

by Steve Barrett

I think we all struggle to grasp the threat of climate change.  Believers issue the clarion call of melting glaciers and drowning polar bears when few of us have ever seen a polar bear beyond the technicolor of TV.  Cynics say we can’t risk our economic health (I can hear the wheezing) worrying about science fiction of the distant future.  Listen, the year 2050 seems a long way off and many of us will be well beyond the pale in some form by that point.  Leave the problem to the ingenuity of future generations who will have larger brains and more sophisticated tools to remake the third rock from the sun or create a new paradise in some other neighborhood in the universe.  Heck – I could be swayed to just kick back, crank up the air-conditioning and drive a Winnebago around the world, ignorant to the subtle signs reported on NPR as I drive the ribbon of highway soon to connect the purple mountains majesty with the Tierra del fuego.  But then there is that slow train coming heading south to Virginia.

Emissions Scenario

Emissions Scenario

As a native New Englander, the thought of Massachusetts migrating south to Virginia makes me sweat.  It’s not that I dislike Virginia or think it somehow uncultured when compared to my elitist home (hub of the universe, Athens of America, yada yada).  In fact, I spent 5 years living with southern “Commonwealth” cousins, and I can tell you, there aren’t more welcoming people.  It’s just that I am partial to the combination of mountains with the brilliance of fall from the maples and birches, coastline of rocks and sand, and rivers all nice and clean thanks to successful environmental regulation. 

Cape Cod forms an amazing eco-boundary between the humpback whales and sea turtles of the south and the cod and lobster of the north; all of that great bounty for us New Englanders to plunder and restore for 400 years – which we have done well.  But none of these wonderful creatures will be here in 2050 if we don’t take action today.  Well, a few mutants will survive and create populations closer to the arctic, but isn’t there a better way?  Do we really want to induce such environmental havoc where humans live with the likes of poison ivy and Asian long-horned beetles? 

I say sprinkle some wind turbines amongst the glory of fall foliage (head north on I-93 to I-89 to Route 10 and the small town of Lempster NH for your first glimpse)

 

Lempster

Lempster

and throw a few more in the ocean off Nantucket.  Not only will it put some speed bumps along the eastern seaboard to slow our advance on Virginia, but it will also give us elitists of New England another “first” to crow about besides Harvard and the Industrial Revolution.