June 30, 2010 - how to get a FERC preliminary permit for your hydrokinetic project licensure

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Today I provide a quick look at marine hydrokinetic energy projects and their permitting. Let's say you've been following this blog and have a great idea for a site to develop a hydrokinetic project. From a permitting perspective, the first step is to seek a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Preliminary permits, which are typically issued for up to three years, give the developer "guaranteed first-to-file status" -- basically, priority to study a project at the specified site for the duration of the permit. Preliminary permits don't authorize construction, but stake a developer's claim to study a given site.

After securing a preliminary permit, the next step in the FERC licensure process is to apply for a license to construct and operate a hydrokinetic electric generation facility. Licenses can be good for up to 30 - 50 years. If you're most interested in developing a pilot project -- for example to demonstrate proof-of-concept, or a pre-commercial development of new technology -- you can go through a special hydrokinetic pilot project licensure process. This more streamlined process can provide you with an easier path forward to project completion.

Here's a map (current as of March 2010) from FERC showing the locations of issued tidal, wave, and inland hydrokinetic preliminary permits.

In Maine, those permits are:
  • P-12704, Half Moon Tidal Energy, Tidewater Associates, Cobscook Bay
  • P-12711, Cobscook Bay Ocgen, ORPC Maine, LLC, Cobscook River
  • P-12680, Western Passage Ocgen, ORPC Maine, LLC, Atlantic Ocean
  • P-12777, Castine Harbor and Bagaduce Narrows, Maine Maritime Academy, Atlantic Ocean
  • P-12710, Passamaquoddy Tribe Hydrokinetic, Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, Western Passage
  • P-13329, Town of Wiscasset Tidal Resources, Sheepscot River
  • P-13345, Homeowner Tidal Power Elec Gen, Shearwater Design Inc., Kennebec River 

Also pending in Maine is a preliminary permit application for:
  • P-13646, The Power Company, Damariscotta River

In coming days, I'll look at these projects in more detail. Who out there will be next to file for a preliminary permit?

Brief news roundup: in Farmingdale, Maine, where CMP acquired the former Kennebec Heights golf property and now plans to run transmission lines across the course, angry citizens packed a planning board meeting. Citizens didn't know that CMP was negotiating to acquire the course, and report feeling blindsided by a decision that they believe will lower their property values and municipal tax revenues.

The Lower Montsweag Dam removal project continues to be controversial. This Times-Record article describes how some Wiscasset citizens are worried that removing the dam will destroy valuable recreational space and a valuable backup to the town’s water supply, and that removing the dam will not actually result in the anticipated fish passage benefits.

June 29, 2010 - Arrowsic tide mills; federal climate bill

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First, a photo I took last night looking upstream of the dam into Winnegance:


Continuing my exploration of historic tidal power resources in my neck of the woods: today, the Crosby tide mill in Arrowsic, Maine.

The Crosby mill, which operated in the early 1900s, was a tidal water-powered sawmill. The mill was located on Mill Island (off the Old Stage Road) between the millpond and the Back River. The Town of Arrowsic's newsletter has an interesting account of life at the mill, including felling trees, scooting them to the river by oxen, rafting the logs up, and towing them to the mill. The mill's gates were built into an earthen dam. The gates opened on a rising tide, and automatically closed when the mill pond was full.

When the millpond was higher than the river, the sawyer could opened a small gate into the box of the waterwheel. As the water poured from the mill pond through the box into the Back River, it turned the 6'-8' wheel and shaft, powering the machinery. Because the saw took so much power to run, it could only be used effectively when Mill Pond was at least 4' higher than the Back River. On an average 8' tide, the Crosby mill could run for 4-5 hours. Recall too that the time of high tide changes every day. As the Arrowsic newsletter recounts, "It was convenient when an overnight high tide was timed so that the pond was full when the men arrived for work in the morning. They started the day at full power when this happened."

So what happened to the Crosby mill? It closed in the late 1930s, a time of great change for the area. At about the same time, the Spinney Mill on the west side of the island closed too. At least one of the Crosby workers ended up working at the Winnegance Mill in Phippsburg, which remained in operation after converting to electricity for power.

Speaking of Winnegance: here's a picture I took last evening of the remains of some cribworks at the mouth of Winnegance Creek.  Those piles of rock exposed on the mud flats once supported the tide mills themselves.  You can see the location of this now-vanished dam on the 1894 map of Bath.

Winnegance tide mill cribbing

In energy policy news: the Senate is drafting a climate bill that will only place restrictions on emissions from electricity generators, but would not cap greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors like manufacturing and transportation.

June 28, 2010 - federal grant money for ethanol R&D; Syncrude found guilty in oil sands duck kill

Monday, June 28, 2010

Here's a "do you know..." for you: do you know anyone doing biomass R&D, especially working with cellulosic ethanol? There's a round of federal grants for research and development of handling processes and feedstock logistics. Grants are expected to average $5.5 million each.

DOE, USDA issue funding opportunity for biomass R&D

Up to $33 million is available for biomass research and development projects through a joint funding opportunity from DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The funding opportunity aims to develop new technologies in biofuels, bioenergy and high-value bio-based products.

Pre-applications are due July 13. 
DOE is interested in developing systems to handle large amounts of biomass feedstocks, such as wood chips and wood wastes.

One goal of this funding opportunity is to develop logistics systems that can handle and deliver large amounts of feedstock year-round for cellulosic biofuels production.  DOE’s Biomass Program is focusing its R&D efforts on ensuring that cellulosic ethanol is cost competitive by 2012. For more information on the agencies’ biomass goals, see DOE’s multi-year program plan and the USDA’s Bio-preferred Program, which aims to create a market pull for new products and technologies.

In the news: a Canadian judge has found oil sands developer Syncrude Inc. guilty of quasi-criminal charges related to the death of 1,600 ducks that became mired in oily settling ponds.  Allegedly, Syncrude knew or should have known that a large flight of ducks was inbound (one source says Syncrude had 48 hours notice based on radar) at a time when most natural ponds were frozen.  Syncrude was found guilty of depositing materials hazardous to ducks without deploying its "duck protection systems" in time to prevent these ducks from landing on the settling ponds.  The federal charges could be as high as $300,000 per bird.

Tide power: Irving has walked away from its exclusive rights to evaluate tidal power at 11 Crown-owned sites in the Bay of Fundy.  With Irving's relinquishment, the government will likely issue another RFP for the sites.

June 25, 2010 - abandoned bridges, and paddling Merrymeeting Bay

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tidal thoughts today, following yesterday's E2Tech forum on ocean energy. E2Tech put on a great event, with speakers Beth Nagusky from state government, Des Fitzgerald of Principle Power, John Ferland of Ocean Renewable Power Company, and Bill Staby of Resolute Marine Energy. Thus all on one panel, we had developers of wind, tidal, and wave energy projects, plus a representative from the government.

Paddling back through time around the site of the former Merrymeeting Bay Bridge.

Gliding over Merrymeeting Bay

The Merrymeeting Bay Bridge was built in 1835 to connect Topsham with East Brunswick. Located near where the Androscoggin River flows into the Bay, the bridge provided a shortcut for commerce. Friends of Merrymeeting Bay have a great history page about the bridge. Bottom line: tolls barely exceeded maintenance costs, and the bridge was repeatedly and badly damaged by floods and ice. In 1896, the bridge was finally wiped out by the spring freshet, and was not rebuilt.

Today, you can still see the granite cribbing that was used to support the 24' wide wooden deck. Here's a shot of the stonework on the south side of Mustard Island:

Bay Bridge remains on the Bath side of Mustard Island

And on the north side:
Bay Bridge remains on the north side of Mustard Island

Right near this point, a very large fish (probably a striper or pike) roiled the water next to my boat, making a 48" diameter boil on the surface. Sturgeon were slapping down all around, and I flushed a great blue heron. There was also a splashy beaver.

Merrymeeting beaver

I'm interested in learning more about how it was decided to build the Bay Bridge back in the 1830s, and what it was like to spend an estimated $1 million in maintenance over 60 years on an asset that just barely broke even in a good year. I'll do some research, but I will be sure to return to the Bay for another firsthand look.

Mustard Island sandbar

June 24, 2010 - FPL's De Soto Next Generation Solar facility; Patriot Renewables and Maine wind

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In past entries, I've looked at FPL's Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which will combine solar thermal energy with existing steam boilers to power combined-cycle turbines.  As it turns out, FPL and its NextEra siblings already operate the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the United States: the 25-megawatt DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center. At DeSoto, over 90,500 PV panels are projected to generate about 42,000 megawatt-hours annually, enough power to serve about 3,000 homes.  Over 30 years, the DeSoto facility's generation will decrease fossil-fuel usage by approximately 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 277,000 barrels of oil.  This shift will displace more than 575,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent of removing more than 4,500 cars from the road every year for the entire life of the project.

How about costs?  The DeSoto facility cost $150 million to construct (and was $22 million under budget).  This translates roughly into a capital cost of 12 cents per kWh over the 30-year lifetime of the plant.

In Maine renewable news, the Lewiston Sun Journal reports that a petition is circulating in Dixfield that asks to leave wind siting decisions to a vote of the townspeople.  The second of two successive six-month moratorium periods will end this fall.  Dixfield wind energy isn't just a hypothetical situation; Massachusetts-based Patriot Renewables LLC has proposed developing the wind energy potential on Colonel Holman Mountain and its surrounding ridges.  Patriot Renewables also has a project proposed in nearby Carthage and Woodstock. (Woodstock and Carthage have both rejected moratoria recently.)  The area is also home to proposed projects by First Wind and Independence Wind in Rumford and Roxbury.  (Thanks to Mike Novello for straightening me out on the projects in this area of Maine.)

June 23, 2010 - the history of the Trafton tide mills; Russia-Belarus gas dispute

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monday's paddle brought me through the remains of the Trafton tide mill. What I hadn't realized is that the eastern branch was home to another tide mill owned by the Trafton family.

From the Georgetown Historical Society's A History of Georgetown Island:

The lumber mill on the western branch, which was built by David Oliver and Thomas Trafton, continued to be operated into the first decade of the 20th century, and the mill dam can still be seen. David Oliver, Jr. had a son David of the 3rd generation (grandson of David and Grace). He and his wife, Hannah Stacy, came to Georgetown from Lynn, Massachusetts. He and his father, David Jr., and Thomas Trafton, built their first lumber mill on the eastern branch of the Cove on what is now the Indian Point Road. Later they built a second lumber mill on the west branch of the Cove Thomas Trafton also had a gristmill on the west bank of the western branch, near the former old Post Office at the bottom of the hill in Georgetown Center.

I found an interesting blog, Five Islands Orchard, which provides some more history and information. Apparently the students of the Georgetown elementary school are considering building a demonstration tidal mill at the western Trafton site. Blogger Ben Polito says he did a rough calculation of perhaps 1.4GJ of energy per tide, equivalent to about 390 kWh or 10 gallons of gas. While this might not seem like a lot of energy today -- particularly since harnessing it would likely require a $1 million-plus hydro facility -- the Trafton mill would have provided the energy equivalent of 300 laborers, all for a relatively low cost.

On the international energy news front: the conflict between Russia and Belarus over gas offers a classic example of how energy policy choices interface with national security. Russia's state-owned utility Gazprom first cut off 35% of Belarus's gas supply, then increased the cut to 70% of normal flows, over about $200 million in debt Belarus is said to owe. In response, Belarus has cited $260 million in unpaid tariffs as a reason cut off Russia's access to the international pipeline needed to get Russian gas to Europe. In today's interconnected world, states and nations rely on fuel supply and infrastructure in neighboring jurisdictions. Russia is dependent on Belarus's pipeline to deliver 20% of its total European exports, and Belarus is dependent on Russia for gas to power electric generation, industry, and (in winter) heating. Though this relationship provides each nation with resources it wouldn't otherwise have, friction in the relationship leads to periodic strife such as we see today. Some cite this downside risk as grounds for increased domestic self-reliance and energy security. Indeed, if the situation progresses to where Russia delivers no gas to Belarus, that nation will need to have an alternate fuel source and contingency planning to keep businesses and homes running.

Finally, hay is for horses: a Kennebec River hay farm, during first harvest.

From Energy Policy Update

June 22, 2010 - news roundup; tidal paddling

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Continuing the energy/adventure theme: a project I'm working on kept me in the office later than I'd hoped last night. I still wanted to go paddling, so I decided to stay close to home and head to Sewall Pond. As I approached, I saw quite a few rescue vehicles parked at the boat launch, and emergency personnel with a long rescue rake. Today's news told me that there was a missing person, possibly drowned. The professional rescuers appeared to be wrapping up their operation, so rather than volunteer my kayak and get in the way, I continued on to the head of Robinhood Cove.
From Energy Policy Update

From the boat launch, I paddled through the remains of the tide mill on the western finger, then back around and up the eastern finger of the cove. From the harbor, the eastern finger heads about a quarter-mile south beneath pine-topped vertical-sided cliffs, then jogs left and enters a more open bay. It's a beautiful area, hidden from the state road and surprisingly undeveloped.

I entered the cove just at the top of high tide. As I set off, the tide was perceptibly flowing into the secret bay. Where the southward gorge jogged left and opened up into the bay, the tidal current set up powerful eddies. From my whitewater kayaking experience, I know that when turbulent water catches the side of your boat, it is easy to be spun around or even flip. Last night's adventure was relatively moderate, but several times I did place a paddle right into an eddy, feeling that disconcerting feeling of no resistance as the eddy swirled in the same direction as my stroke. This is a good illustration of a common challenge facing tidal and hydrokinetic power projects: avoiding turbulence and keeping a nice, smooth laminar flow.

News roundup:

A report in Business Week that any federal carbon plan may be limited to the electricity generation sector, rather than the ambitious economy-wide carbon cap/tax that has been discussed.

An editorial in the Purdue (Indiana) Exponent arguing in favor of implementing a renewable portfolio standard to keep renewable power in the state.

June 21, 2010 - adventure and news

Monday, June 21, 2010

From the energy/adventure department: yesterday I went kayaking on Center Pond in Phippsburg, Maine. (Thanks to the Phippsburg Land Trust for helping conserve the lands and access!) Center Pond, like Winnegance, was originally a tidal salt marsh. It was dammed in 1883 to make an ice pond. Ice was big business along the lower Kennebec, as it was the principal source of refrigeration for the world, and the combination of clean fresh water and proximity to shipping made the Kennebec a busy place for shipping ice.

I had a great paddle, although I did get chased off by a powerful lightning storm that ended up knocking out power for a few hours.
From Energy Policy Update

Quick energy policy news: an editorial in today's Morning Sentinel about biomass energy. This article comes in the wake of recent studies suggesting that despite other analyses, biomass combustion does have carbon and climate impacts. Indeed, several recent studies have suggested that not only does biomass combustion emit long-term atmospheric carbon, but that increased harvesting will exacerbate the carbon imbalance. The editorial notes that in Maine, biomass for combustion has typically come from wood waste and thinnings, not wood suitable for use for pulp, fiber or lumber, and suggests a compromise that may include restrictions that require the use of wood waste and thinning, not higher value material.

This is consistent with a conversation I had this morning with a client. We were discussing biomass markets and the federal BCAP program. He told me that BCAP was responsible for a number of processors setting up chippers in the woods in order to participate in the incentive program, and that some of this BCAP-induced activity involved chipping wood that could have been used for fiber or lumber. I've heard similar accounts several times in the months since BCAP went live.

June 18, 2010 - quick roundup

Friday, June 18, 2010

The town of Oxford, Maine, is looking at perhaps $25,000 in repairs needed at the dam at the former Robinson Mill. Last year, the town foreclosed on the mill property over $244,920 in back taxes from the last three years, and then voted to take possession of the mill property after the owner failed to make payments on his installment workout plan. The town expects repairs to include replacing the dam's log boom and grates, plus new decking and walkway supports. The dam maintains the water level in Thompson Lake.

The Lewiston Sun Journal reports that First Wind has canceled its presentation to the board of selectmen in Rumford, Maine. Rumford is considering a wind siting ordinance, and the Sun Journal reports that First Wind said it would be premature to present on the project before the ordinance comes out. First Wind had proposed a wind farm on Black Mountain and North and South Twin mountains, but has retooled the project after finding that the wind intensity didn't match the specified turbines.

The price of power from Cape Wind continues to make news. Now Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has intervened in the case before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities over the proposed Cape Wind power purchase agreement with utility National Grid. Wal-Mart is reported as saying it supports the concept behind the project, but challenges the price it would have to pay for the wind-generated electricity.

June 17, 2010 - hay is for horses

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Yesterday, I looked at the U.S.'s historic energy usage.  In 1900, according to the U.S. Census, there were 76,094,000Americans, who consumed an estimated 9.587 quad of energy.  This works out to 125 million Btu per capita -- about 38% of today's U.S. per capita energy intensity.  As noted yesterday, I suspect this figure does not include the substantial energy that was used to feed draft livestock in 1900.  We don't usually think of livestock fodder as containing solar energy, but in a very real way, photosynthesis has been a major energy base for millennia.

To that end, I found an interesting note in the Thirty-Fifth Annual Report of the Secretary of the Maine Board of Agriculture, from 1892:

By W. B. Kendall, Delivered at Clinton.


' On July 4th of each year our State of Maine celebrates its agricultural independence, by presenting its farmers with a constant, and never-failing million ton crop of grasses, the great basis of our agricultural life and wealth, in this northern clime.

So constantly do we gather this king of all crops into our barns, that, while almost every year, some of our cultivated crops, through drought, flood, insect blight or "season" are failures, the great hay crop, because ever present, is not given the gravity of consideration it demands. The hay crop of Maine has averaged, for the past ten years, one and one quarter million tons. At 87 per ton in the field $8,750,000 and at 810 per ton in the barn, $12,250,000,or more than the value of all others combined. We hear much of Maine's great lumber crop, and industry, but even this does not, in primal value, nor in the capital invested in its manufacture, nor in value after it is manufactured, amount to as much as the value of the hay crop in the field, the labor, machinery and barns for its storage and the cash value of the same delivered in Boston market, or consumed on the farm.

Our hay crop, the basis of our dairy industry, supports through our northern winters 1,100,000 head of cattle, horses and sheep.

In fact, a total failure of our hay crop for three years would practically depopulate our State, farm, town and city.

The agricultural report focuses on Maine's export of hay to southern New England, both to feed livestock used for food production (like the dairy farms) and to feed draft animals.  When you drive around the Maine countryside today, and see the hay fields that remain scattered here and there, it's easy to forget that all that hay is a vehicle for storing and consuming solar energy -- and that Maine has a long history of exporting that energy southward.

June 16, 2010 - a look into historic energy usage

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The United States Energy Information Administration tells us that in 2008, Americans consumed 99.304 quadrillion Btu of "primary energy" resources.

How much is that? One quadrillion Btu, or "quad", is one thousand million million Btu, or 10^15 Btu. One quad is roughly the amount of energy contained in:
* 8,007,000,000 Gallons (US) of gasoline
* 293,071,000,000 Kilowatt-hours (kWh)
* 36,000,000 tons of coal
* 970,434,000,000 Cubic feet of natural gas
* 5,996,000,000 gallons of diesel oil
* 25,200,000 tons of oil

Dividing the 99.304 quads by the U.S. population, each American is responsible for 327 million Btu annually. Energy intensity, or the annual per capita consumption, peaked for America in 1978-1979 at 359 million Btu, but we've been moving back and forth above 311 million Btu since 1968.

How do these numbers compare to historic figures? US EIA has an interesting table showing estimated primary energy consumption for the U.S. for 1635-1945. The table shows 0.001 quad consumption in 1645, the first year for which data is provided. By 1835, the figure has broken above one quad (1.305 quad). Energy consumption grows fairly linearly through 1900 (9.587 quad), after which the figure shoots up sharply.

In 1835, the official U.S. population was 14.7 million. This gives an 1835 intensity of 88 million Btu -- about one quarter of today's per capita consumption.

Interestingly, I suspect these figures don't take into account the literal horsepower provided by livestock in 1835. How much more energy do we really consume today?

June 15,2010 - Maine dam removal: Lower Montsweag Brook Dam

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two Maine dam removal projects recently won funding from nonprofit conservation organization American Rivers and the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Restoration Program. The Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation won $65,000 to remove the West Winterport Dam on Marsh Stream, a Penobscot River tributary, in Winterport and Frankfort, which will open up 4.5 miles of the stream and restore 20 miles of river habitat.

The other grant was $100,000 to the Chewonki Foundation for the removal of the Lower Montsweag Brook Dam near Wiscasset and Woolwich. This removal will reopen three miles of fish passage and restore the 20 acres of riverine habitat currently flooded by the dam.

Lower Montsweag Brook Dam (map) was constructed by Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company in 1968. The purpose of the 30' tall dam was to impound a backup supply of emergency water for Maine Yankee's nuclear power plant operations.

Chewonki acquired the dam as part of the 2008 Natural Resources Damages Restoration Plan and Settlement Agreement (NRDAR) between Maine Yankee and the State of Maine. As part of that settlement, Chewonki committed to evaluate alternatives for restoring fish passage and riparian habitat in the lower brook.

A feasibility study by Stantec Consulting, Inc., of Topsham, showed that removal of the concrete dam is the most effective and least expensive way to restore fish passage for fish species such as river herring, rainbow smelt, brook trout, and American eel.

Chewonki plans to remove the dam later this summer at a cost of $750,000 to $800,000. A slow drawdown of the impoundment was scheduled to begin in May. This drawdown will allow contractors to inspect the upstream face of the dam and to begin revegetating the impoundment area. Demolition activities will be scheduled to coincide with the low stream flow period of late summer.

June 14, 2010 - Maine roundup: offshore wind, and changes at the PUC

Monday, June 14, 2010

Maine Public Utilities Commission chair Sharon Reishus will be stepping down effective July 12, 2010.  Governor Baldacci will name Commissioner Jack Cashman as Acting Commission Chairman.  In a press release, the Governor said he expects to nominate a new PUC Commissioner to be confirmed by the Legislature during a Special Session to be held later this summer.

Federal Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is visiting Maine today. He is touring the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, where Habib Dagher and company are design and testing floating deep-water wind turbine platforms.  This work will be supported by the $11 million bond Maine voters approved last week.

June 11, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

The briefest of posts today: I'll be traveling from the Kennebec into the Penobscot watershed for a pre-hearing conference. More thoughts on the energy industry's history on Monday.

June 10, 2010 update - a new Maine tidal project

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Today's Bangor Daily News includes an article about Halcyon Marine Hydroelectric's plans to install a tidal power project in Cobscook Bay.

Ramez Atiya, founder of Halcyon, has developed invented a new way to build tidal hydropower systems at a much lower cost.  Atiya has a patent on his "parallel cycle" “tidal wing.  His prototype would be a concrete structure 400 meters long, 15' above mean water level, housing 4 generators.  In a new refinement of the Passamaquoddy Power Project's technology, Halcyon's approach would combine power generation on the flood and ebb tides with pumping.  Atiya claims that the tides within the cove will rise and fall just as if the tidal wing were not there.

Where does Halycon want to build?  First, a demonstration project at Half Moon Cove.

June 10, 2010 - tidal power in Maine in the 1930s

I've been reading the 1937 Federal Writers' Project book Maine - A Guide 'Down East' in the past days. I was first drawn to the description of my home territory, including the tide mill at Winnegance. This reading in turn pointed me at the grand Passamaquoddy Power Project.

It is interesting to see how writers in 1937 viewed the linkage between tidal energy development and economic development and growth . Take, for example, the Guide's description of Lubec:

LUBEC (alt. 80, Lubec Town, pop. 2983), 11 m., has had greatly increased activity since the beginning of the Passamaquoddy Power Project (see Tour 1N). It is a picturesque seaside village with beautiful views of surrounding bays and coves.

At the time, Maine was viewed as having vast mineral resources, needing only affordable energy to develop:

The clays that form enormous deposits around Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Bays and elsewhere are particularly rich and promising sources of bauxite, the only ore of aluminum now in commercial use. The existence of cheap power, which the completed tide-harnessing project at Quoddy would supply, should make the development of this important resource economically possible.

Maine - A Guide 'Down East' at 10.

The description of the Passamaquoddy Project echoes these values:
The electricity generated at Quoddy would be greater than the combined capacity of all existing power stations in the State, and would supply cheap power to farms throughout Maine and to industries which might be encouraged to enter the region. It was hoped by advocates of the project that the newly created opportunities for manufacturing would bring about the development of the State's mineral deposits.

You probably don't think of Maine as a hub of mining and refining powered by tidal power.  The Passamaquoddy Power Project was never completed.   Lubec and Quoddy were hives of activity for several brief years in the mid-1930s, as hundreds of men and women descended on the area to construct a number of dams for the project.  Dams were built between several key points and islands, including tidal dikes built between Treat Island and Dudley Island and from the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation to Carlow Island, and then connecting to Moose Island, which makes up the bulk of Eastport.

After all this excitement and activity, the project was ultimately canceled.  Congressional support was pulled.  In the ensuing 70 years, the government has renewed its interest in the tidal power of Passamaquoddy Bay several times, although the lack of consistent support and direction may be responsible for the lack of any completed projects.  I'll look at why this may be in the coming days.

Maine energy efficiency grants

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Right now, there are a number of energy efficiency grants that are up for grabs in Maine. In particular, three Requests for Proposals (RFPs) I'm following are:

RFP#201004675: Commercial Project Grants
  • $1.4 million in total program funding this round
  • Grants matching up to $50,000 of eligible investment
  • eligible activities include energy efficiency improvements, boilers and steam systems including biomass fired, combined heat and power, waste heat recovery, geothermal, and renewables
  • RFP issued May 6, 2010
  • Proposals due 2:00 p.m., June 21, 2010
RFP#201004668: Large Greenhouse Gas Reduction Projects
  • $3 million in total program funding this round
  • Grants from $100,000 to expected maximum of $750,000
  • bang for the buck in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, on the basis of short tons of CO2 equivalent avoided per year per award dollar requested
  • RFP issued April 30, 2010
  • Proposals due 2:00 p.m., June 25, 2010

RFP#201004668: Large Electrical Efficiency and Conservation Projects
  • $3 million in total program funding this round
  • Grants from $300,000 to expected maximum of $750,000
  • bang for the buck in reducing kWh per year per award dollar requested
  • Applicants must show that the project results in a decrease in net source Btu.
  • RFP issued April 30, 2010
  • Proposals due 2:00 p.m., June 25, 2010
I'm working with a number of applicants to pursue these Maine energy grants.

    June 9, 2010 update: Maine election results, including off-shore wind bond

    Maine just held elections. Voters weighed in on gubernatorial candidates (Democrats choosing Libby Mitchell, and Republicans Paul LePage), a citizens' veto of a tax reform law enacted last session, and a series of bond measures, all of which appear to have passed.

    One of these bond measures touches directly on energy policy.  Question 2 addressed offshore wind energy as well as energy efficiency and infrastructure across the state's public higher education systems.
    Question 2 (Bond Issue):

    "Do you favor a $26,500,000 bond issue that will create jobs through investment in an off-shore wind energy demonstration site and related manufacturing to advance Maine’s energy independence from imported foreign oil, that will leverage $24,500,000 in federal and other funds and for energy improvements at campuses of the University of Maine System, Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy in order to make facilities more efficient and less costly to operate?”

    The Maine Secretary of State's Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election (DOC) provides more detail on the allocation. The bond package includes:
    • $11 million for "research, development and product innovation associated with developing one or more ocean wind energy demonstration sites", plus "funding for robotics equipment to accelerate wind energy components manufacturing in the State"
    •  $9.5 million for energy and infrastructure upgrades at all University of Maine System campuses
    • $5 million for energy and infrastructure upgrades at all Maine Community College System campuses
    • $1 million for energy and infrastructure upgrades at Maine Maritime Academy
     Of these provisions, perhaps the Maine Marine Wind Energy Demonstration Site Fund is most interesting. The Fund was established by Chapter 414, Part D, Public Laws of 2009, and was amended by Chapter 645, Part C, Public Laws of 2009. The Legislature established the Fund to "provide the basic investment necessary to obtain matching funds and competitive grants and other funding from federal, state and private sources for research, development and product innovation associated with developing one or more ocean wind energy demonstration sites."

    The Fund is designed to funnel money into research by the University of Maine. In fact, the definition of "research and development" enacted in Section H-1(2)(B) of the Public Law limits it to "applied engineering and scientific research and related commercial development conducted by the University of Maine", although partnerships are allowed. The Fund is administered by the University itself, on behalf of the trustees. Funds could be used to conduct siting studies for offshore wind sites, and to design, develop prototypes for, and test offshore structures, composites and components that could be manufactured in Maine.

    As often seems needed in pitching a bond proposal, this one is designed to leverage matching dollars. The Secretary of State reported that it is anticipated that funds from this portion of the bond proceeds would leverage $24,500,000 in additional funds from other sources.

    What does it cost? Total estimated life time cost is $33,058,750 representing $26,500,000 in principal and $6,558,750 in interest (assuming interest at 4.5% over 10 years).

    Voters approved Question 2 by a 59/41 margin. 133,763 votes were cast in favor of the bond package, with only 94,016 against.

    It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Maine Marine Wind Energy Demonstration Site Fund that we have all agreed to fund!

    June 9, 2010 - tidal power in Maine: the Passamquoddy Power Project

    Maine's historic wood and stone tide mills were just going dark in the 1930s. At the same time, larger tidal power projects were in the works. Chief of these was the Passamaquoddy Power Project, a large project designed to generate 300 to 500 MW of capacity.

    In 1919, having returned from dam siting and building in South America, Dexter P. Cooper took some rest and relaxation on Campobello Island, just over the New Brunswick border from (and only accessible by road from) Lubec, Maine. As the August 1935 article in Popular Science put it:
    With nothing to do, Cooper spent whole days watching the tides swirl past the island. He calculated the billions of horsepower going to waste. As a sort of hobby, he began imagining ways of putting the rising and falling water to work. In the end, he became convinced of the entire practicability of harnessing the Fundy tides.

    What Cooper envisioned was the construction of five huge dams connecting various points and islands near the junction of Passamaquoddy Bay and Cobscook Bay. Cobscook Bay would be effectively walled off from Passamaquoddy Bay. As the Bay of Fundy's tide rose in Passamaquoddy Bay, the topography would make Passamaquoddy fill much faster than Cobscook. Once a five-foot head was built up, the penstocks would be opened and Passamaquoddy would fall down into Cobscook, spinning turbine generators along the way. Under expected conditions, the head could build up to as much as 18 to 23 feet. At low tide, gates would open and equalize the water levels.

    Tidal projects have always had to deal with the effects of lunar time changes. Each night, the moon passes its zenith about 50 minutes later than the night before. In older times, this meant that the milling could only take place for part of the day, and not necessarily at convenient times. The Passamaquoddy project included an early pumped storage reservoir. A 180,000 horsepower pumping station at Haycock Harbor was to pump seawater into a 13,000 acre reservoir at 130' above sea level.

    If you've ever been to Lubec, or if you follow tidal power projects, you probably know that the Passamaquoddy Power Project was never completed. I'm looking at the "why", to see what we can learn from history.

    June 8, 2010 - tidal power in history: Winnegance to Passamaquoddy

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    I was fortunate to use wind power yesterday afternoon: I went sailing with a colleague on his Hunter 41. While on my way to the dock in Falmouth, I stopped by the site of a historic tide mill:
    From Energy Policy Update
    This isn't the best photo, but beyond the picnic table, you can see a stone pier extending across the mouth of Mill Creek. It seems information on the history of this mill site is limited, but it is suggested that it milled grain, and then lumber. The Town of Falmouth maintains a short but nice trail here, although parking is very limited.

    In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Federal Writers' Project, a program under the WPA designed to put writers to work while promoting economic development through tourism and industry. The project published 48 state guides to America (plus Alaska, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.) known as the American Guide Series. Each state in this series compiled its own detailed histories and descriptions of every city and town, along with narratives of interesting automobile tours.

    Yesterday, I looked at the history of tidal power development at Winnegance, near Bath and Phippsburg, Maine. The 1937 Maine Writers' Project Guide describes the one remaining tide mill at Winnegance:

    At 3 m. is the junction with a dirt road. Left on this road to a Tide Mill, 0.4 m., which until 1935 was used for cutting lumber. This old structure is a primitive forerunner of the mills and factories planned as part of the Passamquoddy Power Project.

    So we can see that by 1937, policymakers including the federal government were reconsidering Maine's tidal power resources. Winnegance's tide mills were just on their way out, but the Passamaquoddy Power Project was just on the eastern horizon. Tomorrow I'll look at the 500 MW PPP in more depth.

    June 7, 2010 - update: Fort Halifax dam removal and erosion

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    A Morning Sentinel article today describes how the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is requiring FPL Energy Maine Hydro, the company that removed its Fort Halifax dam in July 2008, to stabilize the riverbank beneath the Fort Hill cemetery.

    After years of legal battles, FPL removed the Fort Halifax dam from the mouth of the Sebasticook River in Winslow, Maine. As a condition of its dam removal permit, FPL was required to "closely monitor the slope adjacent to the cemetery and promptly remediate any slumping or erosion" in order "to protect the Fort Hill Cemetery from irreparable harm." Back in April, the riverbank suffered after another major landslides. FPL commissioned a study by Findlay Engineering Inc. of Yarmouth, which concluded that heavy rains and a small earthquake 41 miles away were contributing factors, but largely absolved FPL of responsibility.

    Today, the news breaks that the Maine DEP is challenging FPL's study. DEP points to soil loss during the dewatering process, and a resulting lack of work by FPL to re-stabilize the slope after drawdown.

    June 7, 2010 - historic tidal energy: tide mills and

    I've been looking into the history of tidal power and coastal use policy. The Winnegance story is illustrative of the kind of resources and opportunities that exist along the coast of Maine and many other states, as well as the kinds of conflicts that arise through development of these resources.

    One classic conflict is between energy development and environmental protection. For dam proposals, whether tidal or in rivers, one of the common considerations is the impact on fish. Recently, this came up in the Fort Halifax dam case, where a lack of agreement over fish passage resulted in 2008 in the depowering and removal of the 1908 dam.

    Fish protection came up with the dams and mills at Winnegance as early as 1892. In that year, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine considered the case Oliver v. Bailey. On February 24, 1892, game wardens on patrol came across a bass net that had been strung across Winnegance Creek by John Oliver, whose property abutted the stream. This was prohibited by a special act passed in 1885, which regulated the level of water behind the dam as well as the catching of bass in Winnegance Creek.

    The Court's opinion notes the the local history and alterations to land use based on commercial needs:

    prior to 1837 Winnegance creek was an Inlet of the Kennebec river; that in that year, under the charter granted in 1835, the dam was erected across said creek, and northeast of the public highway, extending from the Bath to the Phippsburg shore; that sawmills on the dam were erected, and gates constructed, for the purpose of sawing lumber; and that the dam so erected, and the mills so constructed, thereon, had for their purpose the utilization of water to be held In the creek above said dam by the operation of said gates.

    The Court's opinion provides an interesting look into how the tide mills played a major role in shaping the local landscape:
    It was also agreed that since said date, at different times, as business might warrant, the several mills upon said dam have been in operation; that the owners of said mills each have above the same, and between the dam and the highway, booming privileges. In which to place their logs, and that the same were set off and allotted to the several owners of the mills on said dam, wherein each might place and hold his logs for use; that the flood gates in said dam are 18 feet wide, would admit scows, lighters, and rowboats, and that such had at times passed through said gates, and under said highway; that, at a certain time of tide, mastless scows, skiffs, and boats can pass under said highway, provided the owners of the booming privileges leave an opening so to do; and that there has been place left by the owners of said booming privileges for craft, of the kind and type designated, to pass up said creek.

    The court again addressed the impacts of the tide mill development on navigation and commerce:
    It was also agreed that the bridge connecting the city of Bath and the town of Phippsburg has been maintained by both for many years; that said bridge is built, legally, of cobwork spiling, and across the channel are stringers, affording a space under said bridge from 30 to 40 feet long, that gundolos may pass through up and down; that some 40 years ago a schooner was built and launched In the creek, and taken out to the Kennebec river, by removing a portion of the dam sufficient to give passage to said schooner from the creek Into the river; that the lighters mentioned, carrying boards and wood of some kind, have occasionally passed through the gates, and under the bridge; and that the millowners, when the tide had reached its flood, have all the gates so constructed that, at the beginning of slack water, they close, and the water is held for the purpose of running the mills constructed on said dam.

    Oliver argued that the regulations were "intended only for the protection of salt-water fish, or fish that migrate between salt and fresh water". Oliver argued that the 1835 legislative dam authorization and 1837 dam construction, use of the upstream pond for booming logs, and limited navigation through the dam, "separated Wlnnegance creek above the dam from the general body of the tidal waters of the state, and taken it out of the above-cited statutes for the protection of migratory fish."

    The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, stating, "The statutory protection of these fish is as important now as before the erection of the dam." Oliver lost his case, and presumably his net.

    In Oliver's case, the court wrestled with the question of whether the tidal power development had so fundamentally changed the landscape as to take Winnegance Creek from tidal to non-tidal status. The court concluded that, in light of environmental considerations, it had not. There may have been other more subtle issues in play in the 1892 case, but it provides an interesting window into the past history of tidal energy development in Maine.

    I'm curious how this issue would be addressed today. What are the inshore effects of tidal barrage and related power technologies? Today these issues might not come up in the context of game wardens, but the descriptions of the tide mills' impacts of navigation, commerce, and fisheries all have relevance to modern tidal power development.

    Soon to come: more Winnegance history, and a look at how things were for the much larger Passamaquoddy Power Project in the 1930s.

    June 4, 2010 - tidal power in Maine, a history, part 1

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Humans have harnessed the mechanical energy of tidal fluctuations for a long time -- at least as far back as the Romans in 600 A.D., and possibly as early as 200 A.D. The exact mechanisms vary, but the basic idea is to convert the potential energy of water that has been lifted by a high tide as it falls to a lower elevation. Typical sites are on tidal estuaries or rivers: sheltered from the effects of open ocean waves, but salty enough to have a significant tide.

    Tide mills were common in Maine, especially just downriver from my house in Bath. At Winnegance, on the Bath-Phippsburg line, a bend in the Kennebec River with a natural cove made for optimal conditions for tidal power.

    The History of Phipsburg, Maine, from George Varney's 1886 A Gazetteer of the State of Maine, describes some of the local resources:

    At the north looms Parker’s Head, and at its south-western side is the inlet basin forming the tide-power known as Parker’s Head Mill Pond. Next succeed the harbor at Phipsburg Center, with Drummore Bay two miles above, with inlet and tide-power. Through Fiddler’s Reach, a curve of the Kennebec around the northern end of Phipsburg, we pass to Winnegance Creek, nearly three miles in length, and a basin at its extremity, forming two unsurpassed tide-powers, and separating Phipsburg from Bath and from West Bath except for a neck 200 rods in width, the Winnegance Carrying Place.

    The History gives more detail on the Winnegance mills:

    On the Winnegance Tide-Power, three miles from Bath post-office, and four miles from Phipsburg Center Village, have been sixteen mills, nine on the Bath side and seven on the Phipsburg side of the line. Some of these, however, were burned several years since. There are now ten sawmills and one grist-mill operating in the town.

    So why Winnegance? The site was right, in that the coves and tide range were ideal. Furthermore, the site was near the mouth of the Kennebec River, where millions of logs floated downriver every spring and summer for processing into lumber, and loading onto schooners to send the boards to markets around the world. Many of the older houses in the Winnegance and Bath area, ours included, bear the marks of the kind of up-and-down tide-powered saws that operated there.

    I'm curious to learn more about why tide mills largely vanished. (At Winnegance, the Morse & Sons Lumber mill still operates where the Morses have run it since 1801, but it no longer apparently harnesses the tides.) An interesting piece in Discover Maine Magazine points to the inconvenience of the timing of tidal power. If you are limited to tapping the ebb flow, the time of the peak drop will move -- at Winnegance, each high tide is 12 hours, 22 minutes later than the previous -- so some days, your power resource will only really be operative at night. I'm not sure this was enough to eliminate most of the tidal power development in Maine, but it was a start.

    I'm also going to look at more ambitious historic tidal power plans like the Passamaquoddy Power Project.

    June 3, 2010 - Red Sox, whales, and tidal power projects in history

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    I'm fortunate to be headed to this afternoon's Red Sox game. Boston is not really that far from Maine, at least not by Maine standards. I grew up around Boston. Between business and family, I'm often in Boston these days. To be able to take in a Sox game is a real treat.

    Last weekend, I went on a whale watch out of Boston with the New England Aquarium. We saw a number of humpback and minke whales, plus an offshore seal that may have been a gray seal.

    We cruised through Boston Harbor, with views of the Custom House and the working waterfront. We passed right by the Everett LNG terminal and the short but prominent wind turbine. Past the archipelago of Boston Harbor Islands National Park, we headed off to Stellwagen Bank, where the action was.

    I go on whale watches mostly to see the marine mammals, birds and fish. I've had some amazing encounters out there.

    Sailing from different ports from Key West through Essipit in the Cote-Nord of Quebec, it's interesting to see common threads of history in harbor and coastline development. One of these that I've encountered in several places recently is historic tidal power development.

    Tomorrow, I'll look into a local tide mill just downriver from my house, as well as the grander Passamaquoddy Power Project of the 1930s: a proposed 500 MW international tidal barrage project. The lessons we can learn from history are invaluable as we consider new iterations of old questions.

    June 2, 2010 update - peak wood (?); more erosion on the Sandy River Road

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    You've heard of "Peak Oil". How about "Peak Wood"? That's the title of this interesting Miller-McCune article by John Perlin. Perlin, the author of A Forest Journey: The Story of Wood and Civilization (Amazon), notes historical examples of the depletion of wood resources (for energy, timber and habitat) leading to conquest, expansionism, and societal downfall. What do you think of his thesis?

    Remember the rural road in Chesterville, Maine, that is eroding into the Sandy River? The road continues to erode.

    June 2, 2010 - Integrated Solar Combined Cycle: piggybacking of solar thermal onto combustion

    Yesterday I wrote about FPL's Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which uses "Integrated Solar Combined Cycle" technology. FPL describes the Martin plant as the "first hybrid solar facility in the world to connect to an existing combined-cycle power plant". The idea is to use parabolic trough reflectors to concentrate sunlight to help heat a special heat-transfer fluid that will be used to make steam -- steam that will be mixed with the steam produced by gas- and oil-fired boilers, and used to power generators.

    Through discussions, I learned that others are experimenting with integrated solar combined cycle technology. In August 2009, Abengoa Solar announced its plans to build the first CSP installation integrated with a coal-fired plant. The Abengoa modification to Xcel Energy's existing Cameo plant, located near Grand Junction, Colorado, could add up to 4 MW equivalent (MWe) to the installed capacity.

    The ISCC plant that is farthest along appears to be a 470 MW plant located at Ain Beni Mathar, Morocco. To be operated by nationalized utility Office National de l'Electricité (ONE), the Ain Beni Mathar plant combines parabolic trough solar technology and a conventional gas-fired power plant. Projections suggest that the solar component will supply 20 MWe, with the remaining 450 MW coming from the conventional thermal plant. On a production basis, the solar output is projected to be about 40 GWh, or just over 1% of the project's annual net production of 3538 GWh per year. Ain Beni Mathar is just one part of an ambitious 2000 MW solar program underway in sunny Morocco.

    Here's a link to the Ain Beni Mathar project page on the African Development Bank Group site. The site lists a project cost of 179,073,180 Euro -- or about $218 million in US dollars at today's exchange rates.

    Yesterday, we looked at the price tag of FPL's Martin plant: $420 million for 75 MW of solar. Dividing this linearly, we get a cost of $5.6 million per MW installed solar capacity. By comparison, Ain Beni Mathar offers about 20 MW of solar equivalent, or $10.9 million per MW.

    Can these numbers be right? From the technology perspective, this is really neat stuff -- but are these prices reasonable?

    June 1, 2010 - Update: news roundup

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Baxter State Park: An Ohio hiker was rescued after being missing for two days in the Park. Michael Hays of Stow, Ohio, was spotted by helicopter. He had been immobilized by a crushed kneecap and was covered in insect bites. (No joke: this time of year, the bugs in Baxter are fierce. As is the fishing, thanks to those bugs.) After Mr. Hays failed to sign out on a trail register and his rental car was found in a parking lot, the search began. Hays had a cell phone with him, but had no reception. This was Baxter State Park's largest missing person search since the 1970s involving about 40 people, six dogs as well as Maine Forest Service aircraft. Park Director Jensen Bissell warns hikers not to rely on cell phones, and to stay on trail.

    Forest fires in Quebec are affecting northern New England. More than 50 fires are burning about 100,000 acres of forest, mostly started by a May 25 thunderstorm and the dry conditions. The U.S. National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert for northern Vermont and New Hampshire and all but extreme eastern Maine.

    The Atlantic hurricane season has begun. NOAA predicts 23 tropical storms, 8 to 14 of which may form into hurricanes.

    Site restoration for the former Cascade Woolen Mill in Oakland has been complicated by the discovery of asbestos in the ruins.

    June 1, 2010 - market theory of policy, and the madness of crowds; FPL's 75 MW solar thermal

    BP shares are taking a hit today. One estimate suggests BP has lost $50 billion in market value based on share price. Meanwhile, another estimate suggests the true cost to BP of the massive oil release from its Deepwater Horizon well is on the order of $20 billion.

    From the policy level, it's interesting to observe the market perform its assessment of BP's liabilities. If the large-cap stock market is the product of the "madness of crowds", what is the gap between share price and true value? How does the size of this gap vary with time and conditions?

    This inquiry has implications for the policy world as well. What is the absolute value, in economic or preferential terms, of a given policy outcome -- for example, affordable electricity, or reduced CO2 emissions? How does society value that policy outcome? What is the size of the gap between the value we place on an outcome, and its true value? What choices should we as a society be making that we don't find "worth it", but that are truly the lowest-cost and best path forward?

    More grid-scale solar: FPL is building a massive solar thermal plant near Lake Okeechobee, Florida. At up to 75 MW, FPL's Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center is on track to be the second-largest solar plant in the world. This solar thermal plant has a unique design. The plant will use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight 80 times, and then heat water up to 700 degrees. To get over the limitations of Florida's humid and often cloudy weather, the Martin facility is unique because it is co-located with an energy campus that already has 13 oil and gas-fueled generators. The heat exhaust steam from four natural-gas generators will be combined with the solar plant's steam to spin an existing generator. This saves the significant capital cost of installing a new generator, and seems like an efficient use of existing untapped capacity.

    What's the cost? About $420 million, or about 16 cents a month to the average FPL residential bill.