Frank Heller's Comments

November 19, 2014

Halifax Water Generates Power from a 32-kW In-pipe Small Hydroelectric System

I've evaluated smaller systems for water districts with ample flow and a need for a backup power supply given the growing problem of grid instability from ever larger wind and solar farms, while the water supply and head is a constant, for their treatment plant---why buy a backup generator, fuel, etc. when for the same cost you can connect a hydro power generator to a relief pipe? There are a few systems that can be installed, but meeting US safety requirements is another matter.

One district I've assessed has spring fed ponds, ample water supply, 183 ft. of head, a 12" relief pipe, and unstable grid supplies. This is a 'bolt on' situation waiting for the right turbine. btw...this is an award winning water supply....Maine has exceptionally high quality water they protect, and is a major exporter of spring water.

Several systems are competing...Lucid has targeted large water distribution systems like Southern California's, while the prototypes here use a conventional in-line turbine.

The one that 'works', is easy to install and maintain, gains a market that can easily afford and maintain it.

November 07, 2014

New DOE Grants Can Apply to Small, Low-Head Hydropower Turbines

With the re-election of Gov. Paul LePage in Maine, an Rep. majority in the Senate(Maine Leg.), and near majority in the House; we will see the following policy initiatives re-invigorated:

>>lifting the100 MW cap on hydropower; potentially opening a floodgate for cheap, reliable, dependable Quebec Hydropower at 6 cents/ KW or less and with 20 year contracts, this will give Maine's economy the same boost inexpensive hydropower has given Quebec's.

>>The fast spreading natural gas pipelines and subsequent conversion of tens of thousands of homes over to natural gas has built a fast growing stakeholder in any expansion of regional and national sources of natural gas, and even bio gas refineries which can supplement the regional supply. The more natural gas; the more its use as a fuel and to power on-demand generators to replace power lost from the fickle wind farms whose subsidies and land use practices are under constant attack.

>>Undeveloped hydropower resources in Maine will be highlighted in a soon to be released report from the State Energy office on the best ones for generating. These include abandoned ones, ones that can be revitalized and integrated into micro grids with renovated mill buildings, unpowered dams; and the best of the nearly 3,000 long abandoned tidal mill sites.

>>Emerging hydropower technologies that enhance the quality of water, enhance the ability of impounds to provide a sustainable fishery for low income; redistribute excess energy generated at municipal sites to LIHEAP clients; and adaptation of technology like the Archimedes screw can provide safe, guaranteed down and possibly up-stream passage for a wide variety of endangered fish as well as retaining the amount of wetlands and the wildlife benefits they offer. Additionally, the value of waterfront properties will be further enhanced, removing a major threat to the revenue streams used to finance schools and other critical public services.

Indeed, the current election has dramatically shifted the winds of change back to hydropower; and Maine's long standing role as an exporter of hydroelectricity will further increase. The Governor announced both expansion of the gas pipelines, keeping them filled, and lifting the cap on hydropower are major immediate priorities.

This is the death knell for renewable artifacts like F.I.T's, wind farm subsidies and DEP 'rubberstamping' of permits; ushering in a new age of fast track, common sense permitting of >100 KW hydropower plants..

October 03, 2014

U.S. Energy Department Approves Transmission Line to Deliver Quebec Hydropower to New York

Maine is next to receive clean green renewable energy from Quebec.

August 06, 2014

A Requiem for Today’s Grid

I parked in Downtown Boothbay Harbor over the weekend and went to lock up the car with the electronic lock and nothing happened. I assumed it was the battery, and asked my wife to use her 'key' Same thing. So I assumed it was the receptor in the door, and made a call to the distant dealer for a service appointment and used the manual key, thankful it was a new CROSSTREK with both manual and electronic keys.

Got home and decided to find out where the problem was in the car; or in the neighborhood. The search took me into the swamp of competing Radio Frequencies which cancel each other out; interfere with cell phone coverage; and when strong enough will prevent a key from locking/unlocking a vehicle.

I wouldn't say that the generation of all this RF 'noise' has become a dead zone and is akin to the evolution of individual power generation; but it's becoming a growing problem rendering electronic communication useless in certain spots and perhaps beyond the F.C.C. regulation and allocation of frequency ranges.

If you haven't, I suggest you assign a writer to research out this growing problem and the growth in 'dead zones' and who is responsible for trouble shooting them. This tower of babble has many antennas on it.

August 06, 2014

Can Small Islands Show the World How To Fight Climate Change?

Ed Bosarge, Ph.D. and very wealthy, made one of those brain-popping presentations at Bigelow Labs last summer when he described how he first electrified a small private island with wind, then solar and most recently, scrapped both as unreliable and used ocean currents and tides to power the Island.

"The third in the weekly summer-long series of public discussions about science issues is set for Tuesday, July 8, from 6 to 7 p.m. Café Scientifique, hosted by Bigelow Laboratory for Oceans Sciences, will feature a presentation by Dr. Ed Bosarge, a local resident who has developed an energy efficient and sustainable island in the Caribbean. Bosarge will discuss how this was accomplished and the technology involved. This presentation will be part of the special series marking the laboratory’s 40 years of discovery.

His talk is entitled, "40 years of energy innovation: Over Yonder Cay, an example of the new energy frontier.”

He is now providing the same ocean tidal/current know-how to other Islands who have these resources, however I have no contact information.

**BTW thanks for an exceptionally lucid and coherent combination of trends and wishful thinking---many expensive problems remain in bringing wind derived and solar farm energy to distant load points; and in both leveling load---how will those electronic electricity meters which can throttle available power work when the load is also a generator; insuring 'clean' power from so many sources; and maintaining at a cost reliable system backup. It's wishful thinking to have every 'mom & pop' solar installation believing they will get 'paid' for their excess power; or perhaps a result of a public who believes in liberal, quasi-socialized government. Eventually, climatic events or a "stoned' driver takes out the right pole and down come phone, cable tv, and power and no-one comes to replace it.

Ma Bell might be long gone; but is Uncle Sam that much better?

July 29, 2014

Net-Metering: The Great Debate

"That solar raises the cost for other people who have to use the utility? wow, what horse poo"'

That's exactly what happened in Maine, when the major utilities caved on an individual grid reserve connection fee and instead backed a grid maintenance fee increase for EVERY rate payer and another black eye for solar.

And today's news from Germany:

"FRANKFURT -- Germany’s push toward renewable energy is causing so many drops and surges from wind and solar power that the government is paying more utilities than ever to help stabilize the country’s electricity grid."

Remember Maine has had net metering for a long time and much experience; however as aggressive solar sales people lobbied to set up solar farms and 'sell' the power to share holders using the grid for distribution and reserve backup; the utilities said 'enough'.

Lots of issues remain, and technical studies indicate grid instability will result and the government's ability to control power use through smart meters is diminished among other things, as is who pays for line & switch and backup reserve operation and maintenance.

Small hydro is on the State Government's front burner with both riverine, lake, and tidal generation capacity being assessed.

When you combine restored hydro with community and economic development using micro-grids, you have a very powerful incentive to go hydro, esp. given the other advantages of water storage, recreation and even restored fisheries and edible aquatic gardens....

The low costs of hydro, its 24/7 operation and long life span give it a significant advantage (R.O.I., etc.) over solar and wind; esp. in a state with thousands of fallow sites and dams that cannot be removed for various reasons, yet can be restored with naturalist migratory fish ways for those elusive salmon and smelts.

**btw...why don't solar sales people include the alternative investment of the cost of a solar system in their calculation, i.e. take the $25k for the solar system and invest it in 20 year mutual fund and calculate that into the overall cost of the power produced?

July 19, 2014

Microgrids: They're Kind of a Big Deal

Municipalities in Maine are in the forefront of establishing micro-grids by working with waterfront developers to restore riverine and tidal power generation using innovative technology like Archimedes screws that not only can generated power from high vol./ low head rivers, but are very fish friendly, since they can be reversed to 'pump' upstream fish like shad which school.

Dams can be partially removed and replaced with weirs and I am researching pre-cast frames that can be dropped into a prepared 'slot' in the weir and 'screws' made locally of composites. This drops the cost well below either solar or wind alternatives and installation may be done in a day after site prep.

Cities in Maine have long run their own power plants, Madison, Presque Isle, and many have long abandoned their facilities; yet the rivers and civil works still exist. It has been estimated that Maine has approx. 55 MW in underutilized capacity. This did not include large tidal impounds which are filled on the incoming time and released on the outgoing tide with a differential of up to 11'.

The least expensive and most reliable power was from hydro plants run by municipalities. Delivering it to both public and private users is now a possibility with a micro-grid.

Grid connectivity is proving difficult, expensive and problematic for solar and wind farms because of the irregularity of the supply; while hydro is more stable and predictable and tidal the best of all.

ps. I am looking for firms with micro-grid experience and the ability to 'package' up grid connections with micro distribution.

June 05, 2014

Envisioning an Innovative Local Electric Utility

Boulder has one of the greenest energy systems on the planet and the envy of most small cities. I can't believe the solar crowd wants to sacrifice it to sell PV.

What is wrong with this model that needs 'modification'?

"Since 1985, the City of Boulder hydroelectric program has turned water power into electricity, generated revenue, and provided sustainable, non-polluting electricity. The city owns and operates eight hydroelectric power plants, with one purchased and seven constructed over the last 20 years. The seven constructed power plants were installed on existing water supply pipelines. No new dams or overhead transmission lines - two of the negative impacts often associated with hydroelectric power - were built.

"Significant pressure develops as water flows downhill from the city’s mountain reservoirs to delivery systems in Boulder. Instead of mechanically reducing the excess pressure, the city converts it into energy by causing the flowing water to spin turbines that spin electrical generators to produce electricity. No fossil fuels are consumed and nothing is emitted in the energy conversion process."

April 23, 2014

Solar Disruption? Yes. Utility Death Spiral? Not Necessarily

Last week,I and 50 others were lectured by the president of Central Maine Power, now owned by EMERA, a global energy provider, on the technical details of grid instability caused by solar micro grids and the uneven flows through distributed generation of energy produced from remote and off shore Wind farms.

The prospect of having a large residential or commercial solar farm which can 'sell' power into the grid under net metering arrangements and when the sun stops shining, be backed up by the grid is crashing on the reality of how the fluctuations affect switches, reserves, etc.

The immediate response by solar/wind advocates is that generation redundancy, local backup, increased transmission, etc. will solve these problems.

Unfortunately, even ISO New England can't forecast the impact and growth of these generating points; so the responses are either going to be demand actuated, mostly natural gas, or inadequate.

In either case, the warning signs are obvious and the 'cure' is expensive; maintaining system backup and redundancy is raising the overall price of power. ---today's paper has the owner of a coffee shop complaining about how local power instability is ruining some expensive espresso machines; while the suggested cure was a $4,000 UPS and surge protector.

Canada has fastened on hydro-power's wealth of benefits and existing distribution networks as the best solution; meanwhile solar micro-grids are advised to be self-contained and self sufficient as possible and not rely on 'selling into the grid' or depending on it for periodic backup.

To make matters even worse, once the cloud of 'energy efficiency' improvements clears away we find residential use of electricity continues to climb. Now what?

April 18, 2014

Run-of-River Hydropower Market Worth $1.4 Billion in 10 Years, Says Expert

Maine has thousands of low dams and diversion weirs that won't be removed since they are vital for nuturing watersheds, providing drinking water, flood &, ice control, providing reliable power 24/7, providing a huge habitat for many species of fish, birds and amphibians/freshwater clams, and recreation for a broad variety of users of every age.

The dream of restoring sea runs of migratory fish have evaporated with minuscule returns of salmon to the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin; despite millions spent on stocking programs. Even this year's ice fishing season was cut short by a darth of river herring.

In the words of one angler who closed his salmon fly fishing shop; the fishing sucks! Biologists now believe the problem lays far at sea; and not with impediments in the river, and paradoxically the alewives are plentiful and trucked upstream past large dams. Last year's fish viewing room at the Tophsam dam fish ladder was 8' deep in alewives, but no salmon!

Now for some good news!

There is a new generation--actually very old, of hydropower technology that's been enhanced, to both generate power and move migratory fish upstream during spawning and back to the sea. Archimedes screw turbines are longlived 'workhorse' devices that can be modularized for nearly instant installation, and can enable upstream fish migration, including 'pumping' them by reversing the screw.

Naturalistic fish 'ladder's can even be included to add a recreational and park like setting, as well as a feeding ground for a wide variety of birds--eagles and ospreys, esp. and a fishing ground for low income residents, and with some planning, a white water kayak course.

These are major improvements and enhancements now being considered by local groups concerned with renewable power with the widest range of benefits to the entire community. Once the benefits are totaled up, both solar and wind options pale in comparison. Maine will once again blossom with hydro powered industrial parks that blend residential, 'hi-tech' commerce and enterprise and recreation into an appealing complex.

Fishing, canoeing, inexpensive reliable micro-grid power, and a source of food for low income and other residents......it doesn't get any better than that!

March 07, 2014

Survey: Distributed Generation an Opportunity, Not a Threat to Utilities

Natural gas is being generated from organic human and other waste. It is then 'scrubbed' to pipeline quality to add to the existing stream of natural gas.

Having converted to natural gas, I and a charter school are experimenting this spring with home digesters for use by natural gas using residences.

The next step is to convert one of the vehicles to burn multi-fuels including compressed natural gas using a compressor in the garage to 'fill the tank'.

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