Archive for August, 2011

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

October 2011 INM Course

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

by Brad Nicholas

HMMH’s is offering its fall Integrated Noise Model (INM) training course October 5-7.  Registration is open and space is available.  Check our website for registration details.  The course covers:

  • Airport noise terminology
  • Airport noise modeling basics
  • INM input
  • INM output
  • Several complete INM test cases

The vast majority of the course deals with the nuts and bolts of entering and editing model input, running the model, and handling the output.  Students get a lot of hands on practice.  If you plan on creating or reviewing airport noise contours, this course is for you.

I’ve been working with students in the INM course for nearly nine years.  We get a folks from a variety of backgrounds and I always enjoy helping them to learn something new.

INM Screen Capture

Transit Noise and Vibration Training Course

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

by Lance Meister

The National Transit Institute is offering a three-day course on transit noise and vibration impact assessment.  The course is based on the FTA Noise and Vibration Impact Assessment guidance manual and will run from September 19-21 in Baltimore, MD.  Information about the course can be found on the HMMH website.  You can sign up to take the course at the NTI website.

Having taught the course a number of times, I can say that the majority of the students find it very valuable and worth the time and expense.  Check out some student testimonials here.  The course covers much of the material in the manual, including:

  • noise and vibration basics
  • screening and general assessments
  • introduction to the detailed assessment
  • construction noise and vibration
  • use of the FTA noise model

We have class exercises reflecting real-world scenarios to help with the learning experience.  In addition to the instructors from HMMH that will be in Baltimore, there will be a representative from FTA to assist with the policy discussions.

Finally, at the end of the third day, we offer an open forum for class participants to discuss their projects and any noise or vibration issues they may have.  This is an excellent opportunity to get advice on project specific concerns from experts in the field.

Space is limited, so sign up now.  We look forward to seeing you in Baltimore!

Let the sun shine!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

by Phil DeVita

Recently I installed a photovoltaic (PV) solar system on the roof of my house to generate electricity.  Some of you may be thinking “I have always thought of putting in a solar system but the costs seemed too high.”  I had similar reservations until I recently read an article in the Boston Globe about a west coast solar company (SunRun) which was offering to install and operate solar residential PV systems for minimal money down.  What’s the catch?  You have to buy the power generated by the system from SunRun at a fixed price over an 18-year period.  I thought this was an interesting concept, but I was still skeptical and had a lot of questions.

First, we should step back and see how this all came about.  When I bought my house many years ago I knew there was good potential for solar, evidenced by the annual baking of my backyard.  The main roof is oriented to the south with minimal shading during the late morning and afternoon (ideal solar production hours).   I thought this would probably be a great place for a solar PV system.   I researched a couple of systems but the price was a little too high.  Other priorities took precedent, so I put the idea on the backburner for a few years until I came across this article on SunRun.

After reading the article, I was intrigued and made an appointment with Alteris Renewables (the local representative for SunRun).  Alteris came out to my house and looked at the orientation and pitch of my roof, surface area, solar resource, shade, etc. and confirmed my initials thoughts that my roof would be an ideal candidate for solar.  Alteris took my last couple of electric bills and made some calculations to determine the adequate size of my system (kW) which would determine the number and size of the panels.  The results were computed on the spot and out popped a 5.5 kW energy plant, enough to power approximately 80% of my electricity needs.  This is great you say, but what about the price?   With SunRun, you have the option to purchase the system out right or with a little money down, SunRun will install and operate the system and the homeowner purchases the electricity at a set price over an 18 year period (also known as a power purchase agreement).  I was familiar with the PPA option through our research developing the FAA Solar Guide; however, I had not heard the concept applied to residential applications.  This seemed to be a much more affordable option; however, by not owning the system, I would not reap the total benefits (i.e. free electricity and RECs).   I sat down with both options and laid out the pros and cons of each.

Owning the system

 Pros

  • You get free electricity (i.e. no PPA) and net metering benefits (i.e. spinning the meter backwards for electricity generated but not used);
  • Tax credits available from the Federal Government along with state incentives to subsidize the costs; and
  • Additional revenue potential from generating renewable energy credits (RECs) produced by the system which can be sold on the trading market.

Cons

  • You own the system.  Responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the system;
  • The inverter alone can cost $5K to $10K and is good for about 10 years; and
  • High investment cost.

Leasing the System

Pros

  • 3rd Party is responsible for the operation and maintance of the system;
  • Guaranteed production from SunRun and stable electricity costs each year;
  • Lower investment costs.

Cons

  • Do not get credit for the RECs;
  • 18 year PPA commitment.

I did some additional research and carefully weighed each option and decided to pull the trigger on the PPA plan.  It was an attractive plan for me where I would not have to worry about the maintenance of the system (peace of mind), minimal investment upfront, guaranteed production, fixed cost for my electricity (lower than what I was currently paying), and still have the net metering capability. 

Alteris ordered all the equipment and the system was installed over a two day period.  My system consists of 30 panels which are tied together and run to an inverter in my basement which is then tied to my utility meter.

Having the system has been a great learning tool for my kids to teach them about renewable energy and climate change.  It is also a talking point in the neighborhood where people come up to me and ask about my system and how it’s operating.  Many of my neighbors say, “Hey I like your system, I want to get solar panels for my house”.  Unfortunately, solar is not for everyone.  You need to have good southern exposure and unimpeded sun during the peak hours for it to work efficiently.

My system has been operating for about 7 months and to date I have generated over 3,576 kilowatt hours of electricity, equivalent to operating a television for 25,007 hours, the energy to power 26 computers for one year, or the energy to power 99 homes for one day. 

Even though I do not care for the summer heat, I do realize that when it’s hot and sticky outside, that hot summer sun is helping to offset my utility bill and reduce GHG emissions, which are good things.

So let the sun shine!