Aug 19, 2010

DeepCwind Consortium: who, what, where, why? Updated 8/19/10

The DeepCwind Consortium is one of those glittering spheres of furious intellectual activity, held together inside a once speculative, now (August 2010) appropriated  funding bubble,  using that money and the earnest politicking of its leader and  supporters to work its way into the  renewable ocean energy game. See 2010 membership list, below. (and 2009 list)

To do this, DCW now needs to warm the cockles of the fishing, sailing and birding public, in hopes that these citizens will allow industrial level energy extraction into their shared environment: the offshore public air and viewsheds, the state's waters and its submerged public  lands. 

This presumes it can get past the lawsuit pending before  Maine Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hjelm The case challenges the submerged lands lease granted by Bureau of Parks and Lands. The BPL awarded the scenic vistas off  Monhegan - beloved worldwide by generations of  artists, photographers and scenic area goers -  a "low quality" viewshed rating.  The suit by Ron Huber of Rockland asks the judge to require that the scenic evaluation be redone and if warranted, the deepwater  wind R&D operation be set up off  one of the other six final candidate sites that were considered by BPL.

Membership of the DeepCwind Consortium as of August 2010. Arranged by type of organization

AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center
University of Maine College of Engineering
University of Maine Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Maine Department of Industrial Cooperation/
University of Maine School of Marine Sciences 
University of Maine School of Biology and Ecology 
University of Maine Physical Oceanography Group
Maine Maritime Academy
Northern Maine Community College 
University of Western Australia

Ocean Energy Institute
Island Institute
Gulf of Maine Research Institute
New Jersey Audubon Society

Centre for Offshore Foundation Research

Bernstein Shur Counselors at Law
James W. Sewall Company
Kleinschmidt Associates
Technip USA 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 
Sandia National Labs 

Santos Wind Energy Technologies
Ashland, Inc.
Kenway Corporation 
Harbor Technologies 
PPG Industries
Owens Corning 
Zoltek / Polystrand, Inc.

American Composites Manufacturers Association  
Maine Composites Alliance
Maine Wind Industry Initiative

Cianbro Corporation 
General Dynamics
Bath Iron Works

Bangor Hydro Electric Company 
Central Maine Power Company
Technip USA/
Reed and Reed


2009 Membership of the University of Maine DeepCwindConsortium  (source: BDN):

Universities, government and nonprofit agencies
University of Maine — AEWC Advanced Structures & Composites Center (Lead)
University of New Hampshire
Maine Maritime Academy
Northern Maine Community College
University of Western Australia
U.S. Department of Energy
Governor’s Office of Energy Independence & Security
Maine Department of Economic and Community Development
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Ocean Energy Institute
New Jersey Audubon Society
Island Institute
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Siting, design and fabrication operations
Cianbro Corp.
Bath Iron Works
Bernstein Shur Counselors at Law
James W. Sewall Co.
Kleinschmidt Associates
Technip USA
McNiff Light Industry
Santos Wind Energy Technology (SWEeT)
Principle Power Inc.
Bangor-Hydro Electric Co.
American Superconductor
Northern Power Systems
Clean Energy Design
Composites Materials Industry
Ashland Inc.
Kenway Corp.
Harbor Technologies
PPG Industries
Owens Corning
Polystrand Inc.
Industry partners, organizations and manufacturing automation
MAG International
Maine Composites Alliance
Simmons & Company International
American Composites Manufacturers Association
Maine Wind Energy Initiative

Massachusetts deepwater floating windpower plan makes Cape Wind obsolete?

Blue H Group, a Dutch company, announced this week that it wants to build 120 floating wind turbines in deep water 23 miles off Martha's Vineyard.

The company is seeking government approval to install a test turbine. 

Blue H officials then joined with the main opposition group fighting Cape Wind's proposed wind farm off Cape Cod in touting Blue H as a viable alternative that would be far from ferry lanes and invisible from shore.

"If you had a horse and buggy and then the automobile was invented, it makes sense to embrace the technology moving forward," said Blue H spokesman Martin T. Reilly.

There's only one problem: No one knows whether a floating wind farm will work.

Modeled after deep-sea oil rigs, the float technology has never been applied to wind turbines in the deep ocean. In December, Blue H launched the world's first floating turbine, an 80-kilowatt demonstration project off the coast of southern Italy. Soon, the turbine will be moved about 10 miles offshore to water more than 350 feet deep. Blue H plans to launch the world's first commercially operating floating turbine off Puglia by the fall.

Yet wind specialists say that it is unlikely that a commercial-scale floating wind farm will be operating anytime soon.

"I don't think they can get a large-scale operation going in two to three years, but the first step is to get a single experimental turbine up," said Walt Musial, principal engineer for ocean renewable energy at Colorado's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The idea for a floating wind farm off the Vineyard, in water 167 feet deep, would need to overcome numerous technical obstacles, such as determining how big the floating platforms' submerged structure should be to support a turbine, how ocean currents will affect the dynamics of the structure, and even how the transmission cable will operate, Musial said.

Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said he does not worry that new technology will outpace his project and render his seven-year investment in Nantucket Sound moot. "There will be a whole range of issues that they'll need to confront," he said.

"I think we need all the renewable energy we can get," Gordon added. "Certainly, if they can get through the development process, then we welcome them and wish them well."
Click here for rest of article

Aug 18, 2010

Tidal power in Cobscook Bay - preliminary results called "promising".

Pretty much a puff piece, but there is some cause for optimism there too.

Tidal Power System Tests Yield Promising Results
Maine Public Radio News. 08/18/2010 11:57 AM ET  

That's according to Ocean Renewable Power Company, which has been testing an ocean energy power plant installed in Cobscook Bay off Eastport.

Tests of a system designed to extract energy from Maine's tides are yielding promising results. That's according to Ocean Renewable Power Company, which has been testing an ocean energy power plant it installed in Cobscook Bay off Eastport.
The company says the 60-kilowatt Beta Power System has successfully generated "grid-compatible" power from the bay's tidal currents. The company plans to use the test results to fine-tune the design of a commercial version scheduled to be installed in Eastport next year.

That so-called TidGen system, which will be connected to the New England power grid through Bangor Hydro Electric Company, is expected to generate enough electricity to power 50 to 75 homes, company officials say.

"Proving the efficacy of the Beta Power System and its ability to generate grid-compatible power day in and day out is a huge milestone for America's ocean energy industry," says ORPC President and CEO Chris Sauer in a statement announcing the results. "It reaffirms the limitless opportunities to advance the nation's renewable energy agenda and ensure a more sustainable future."

Company officials say tidal power has the potential to be a billion dollar industry in Maine within the next decade, and generate hundreds of jobs.

Camden, Maine to set up Ragged Mountain Wind Work Group. No financial or other committments made

On August 17th the Camden Selectboard  listened to a precautionary report by Concerned Citizens against windfarm on Ragged Mountain, then, following discussion and questions by citizens at the meeting, voted to accept a memo from the Camden Energy Committee and adopt  the energy committee's recommendation to set up a Ragged Mountain  Wind Work Group.

Below are recordings of the Ragged Mountain  part of the select board  meeting,   (Listen to August 13 meeting of the Camden Energy Committee discussing the memo and recommendations) 

There was mention of the windmills on Vinalhaven. For reference, here is a link to an hour long audio recording of the Vinalhaven wind turbines, recorded from the porch of a house 1/2 mile away on January 1, 2010. This is likely what could be expected to become the ambience of the Snow Bowl if wind extractors get set up on the ridges

Aug 13, 2010

Ragged Mountain: Camden Energy Committee hands wind plan off to town selectboard

As opposition rises to the plan for a windfarm in the Camden Hills, and local citizens' group Friends of Ragged Mountain starts coming into existence,  a memo from the Camden Energy Committee about the future of the project heads to the Camden Selectboard, which will take it up on August 17th

Listen to a 38 minute podcast of the August 12, 2010 Camden Energy Committee finalizing their Ragged Mountain Workgroup letter and memo for consideration  by the Selectboard.  [See local media coverage of the Energy Committee meeting] 

The recording begins with a 5 minute consideration of the wording of the 1 page cover letter. The remaining time focuses on the memo: "Ragged Mountain Wind: Next Steps" 
It breaks down into 12 minutes about how to use the new Camden development director as part of the work group. 
Then a ten minute discussion on who should run the Ragged Mountain work group, (which  includes people from Hope and Rockport governments too) and whether a 'sunset provision' for the work group should be added.  Then  a fundraising discussion follows - plan will need $50K-$70K for initial feasibility study- but none of the three towns show interest in contributing. The will of their people is not known.  The recording ends shortly after the final vote to accept the now-amended memo.  

Aug 6, 2010

Maine's lunar energy initiatives in 2010 so far.

Tidal energy, or, more properly, "lunar energy", is more reliable than any other renewable energy source. Unlike solar and wind energy extraction, it is not limited by time of day, nor by cloud cover or local wind speeds. There is little chance of the moon changing its orbit or orbital velocity any time soon. 

Just-released Maine DEP emails and other documents on tidal energy in Maine, January - June 2010, obtained via  a Freedom of Access Law request,  detail some of the  the tensions and dynamics between agencies and actors in this new (for Maine) field of tidal energy.

What is the effect of continuous industrial-scale  tidal energy extraction on tidal waterbodies?  For, like other energy extraction tech,  tidal energy extraction devices parasitize megawatts of power  from the local natural energy systems they are operated within. They are persistent "energy sinks" within those greater tidewater systems where they are installed.  

Like any extractive technology, small impacts from small operations. But multiply those small operations, and boost their effectiveness, and unintended collective consequences can happen across a tidal bioregion

Happily half of the investor lemmings who surged toward Maine coastal waters in recent years have abandoned their quests.  A June 2010 report by Maine DEP  (3pg pdf) shows that out of 19 tidal and wave energy development applications given out  by the state, seven had been "surrendered", three withdrawn and one rejected.

The Ocean Renewable Power Company is a survivor; ORPC may start pulling power out of Cobscook Bay this year. Maine Maritime Academy and its TEDEC consortium, are also on the move.  First okayed October 9, 2007, their project will including installing modular TideGen submerged rotors in Cobscook Bay. A  "Breus" rotor  designed by Sergei Breus of Blue Hill is also involved.

The Bagaduce River may give up 15% of its tidal energies to the Marine Maritime Academy-led TEDEC consortium.  was  found "not subject to FERC licensing" on March 23, 2010, freeing it from needing to meet important federal requirements.. On May 5th  MDEP  decided they didn't need a permit so they 'terminated"  the preliminary permit. The Academy plans to install a "Breus" rotor  designed by Sergei Breus of Blue Hill,  Maine

So, what might the effect of  continuous industrial-scale  tidal energy extraction on a tidal waterbody be? 

Water velocity and tide height is different on either side of a tidal energy extractor up to 15% different. Just as air pressure is different on either side of an operating ocean windfarm. Figuring out when and where that energy extraction makes a difference in local weather and local water conditions   needs to happen in this experimental phase of ocean energy development.  

Before contracts are signed, and tons of steel and composites start to assemble.  Because, once the Great Tide Rush is on, and large utilities begin buying up the individual tidal power operators that have snapped up square mile after square mile of Maine coastal waters,  it will be much harder to  modify the technology or correct  its deployment, to minimize what is in effect, "tide pollution".

For example, will they slow down or redirect the critical annual migration of  larval lobsters from downeast waters into Penobscot Bay and points south?   Or, alter the tidal cycle of a particular bay or tidal river enough to delay the arrival or bloom of those even smaller microprey that our larval lobsters and larval cod  must have if they are to survive their first precarious months of existence

Like the environment of any area exploited by an extractive industry, the environment of the locations where  tidal energy withdrawal takes place is/will be changed. Whether the changes are benign or injurious, it is the duty of the state to require those changes be identified and quantified, and evaluated for their impacts, onsite and off short term and over time. Only then are informed decisions possible.

While MMAs Tidal Energy Center is dedicated to  prototyping experimental systems, the goal is to stimulate commercial- or community-scale tidal power extraction in state waters. Unless the state has got some real data to model from, it won't be able to predict whether a proposed large scale tidal system is problematic to critical regional or local  plankton flows or other tide-dependent biological activity.

This will guide the expansion of commercial and community-scale lunar energy extraction.

Norway has belatedly begun doing this with ocean windfarms Its meteorology agency has been intensively studying its nation's ocean windfarms, and discovered that energy withdrawal from the lower atmosphere winds by ocean windfarms is quantifiable and is  significant to climate and to water quality.

We should be equally careful with our tidal energy development.

Aug 3, 2010

Plans for a Ragged Mountain turbine complex twist slowly in the wind

I went to the August 2nd meeting of the Camden Energy Committee. The windmill supporters are troubled. Listen to hourlong  podcast of meeting here. ...

If it is to be community wind, the residents of Rockport, Hope and Camden must cough up many tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to even get out the starting gate of preliminary feasibility study and public outreach.

Not one of the three towns Camden, Rockport, Hope, have shown any interest in providing that $$$$.

Ragged Mtn on left, Bald Mtn on right, from Vinalhaven ferry.
If it's a private wind farm developer, (and such HAVE been contacting Camden officials)  then large amounts of public land owned by Camden have to be leased or sold to the private developer as well as more public land denuded for access. Private landowners in Hope will have to be convinced to allow access roads to be run through their land. Else no reasonable access to the proposed site.   

And then, who benefits? The investor will have to be content with the much lesser profits accruing to the business from "Community Wind" development.  The alternative is a private windfarm, owned by an absentee corporation which will sell extracted windpower to the New England grid, while in addition to some cash, Camdenites get to listen to the throaty howl of windturbines  forever in their audio background... 

Something the people of the area, who appreciate the value of natural Maine, are highly unlikely to accept.

Here are some excerpts from that hour long meeting:

"We're trying to tap the public will," Committee chair Des Fitzgerald said "to see if there's a way to figure out if people out there are willing to give money toward this early assessment [of ragged mountain for wind energy extraction]. We're trying to figure out that structure that poses that question."

Town official: "The rub is mixing community wind with finding a private developer. We have lots of interested developers, until you put the coin to community wind."

Richard Podolsky: Environmental Consultant  (scratching his forehead in exasperation in photo) "There is a pot of money out there. Most of the Massachusetts Community Wind RFPS camefrom the renewable energy trust administered by Mass Tech.  It is a collaborative can flow anywhere in New England. They draw on large sum of funds collected from ratepayers. Most community wind feasibility projects I have worked on been funded by MTC fund. "

Severals others objected that this fund has already been used several times in Maine. They said that well is dried up.

Podolsky shrugged: "That's one pot. There may be others."

It was pointed out that stimulus funds in Maine are not specific to wind.  Through Efficiency Maine, they are.   
"The Maine energy trust requires matching funds; you can't play unless until you bring your check first."

Something none of the three towns wants to do.

Q: "Is it the will of the Energy committee  they want to continue exploring feasibility?" [Of a Ragged Mountain windfarm]

Response 1: "No!"
Response 2. What we (Camden Energy Committee] would really like to do, is we would like make some suggestions for next steps [to the Camden Selectboard] and then stand back and watch it happen. We feel like we've done our job."

The Camden Energy Committee after all has other issues on its plate: It is also looking at a plan for a water turbine in the stream that runs through their downtown. And other energy initiatives.)

Des Fitzgerald: Its got to be formal; either its an RFP and you let the market place respond to it, or put out a press release to the community have an open meeting, let people come and shake it out.

On the topic of whether this should be a private "community group"  instead of a municipal one, the consensus was said by one person:
"There's wisdom in having a municipal relationship to whatever this is."