Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Other New England Energetics

Congressman Christopher Murphy announced legislation to allow the Town of Canton to refurbish and operate the idle dams located in the Collinsville section of town. It is reported that the refurbished dams could power 2,000 homes. Well done.

Meanwhile Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is pressing forward on several issues involving alleged excess electricity charges from within and outside the state.

The Northeast Utilities Service Company which included the Connecticut Light & Power Corp is seeking to obtain Canadian hydropower by constructing a transmission tile line connecting to Hydro Quebec.

Rhode Island
The R.I. office of Recovery and Reinvestment is participating with the D.O.E. to obtain industry-led investments to develop, deploy and test modernized processes to improve the hydropower infrastructure and “increase both the quality and value of the hydropower generation.”
The Pawtucket Blackstone River Project is the first hydro project in Rhode Island to earn certification as a “Low Impact Plant”

There are already numerous hydropower installations supplying power to Massachusetts. In 2009 these will provide 366,000 Megawatthours of electricity and considerably more large and small scale projects are in the planning stage.

New Hampshire
The “Granite State” hydropower system produces electricity at the annual rate of 513,000 Megawatthours. Plans are to greatly increase this capacity. The Granite State Hydropower Association sees present needs to improve the efficiency and size of existing installations while waiting for the economy to stabilize to the point where investment funds will once more be available for the development of the smaller horizontal flow plants and newer technologies.
It too sees considerable interest in obtaining power from Quebec and Ontario.

And then there’s Maine --- see next issue.

Monday, July 20, 2009

And Still Canada Waits

Numerous times we have said that within the United States and Canada there exists enough potential hydropower to completely eliminate the need for either country to burn coal – for any purpose!

How long, one wonders, can the major coal, oil and gas powers manage to conceal the truths of their missogeny that so severely threatens the future health of all the people of the earth? You may have read our articles entitled “The Politics of Energy and the Energy of Politics” The two are inseparably entwined, a marriage of convenience whose offspring have been illness and death.

A little dramatic? In answer to that we recommend readers refer to a paper by the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled “Clean Energy – The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels.”

We will dwell more on that document later. Suffice it to say that hydropower contains no hidden dangers, no surprises, no harmful wastes, no environmental impact other than the guarantee of clean air and water – and perhaps survival of all the species.

Canada waits, as does the United States, for the full development of its hydro potential. The facts are that in Canada there awaits a total technical potential of 200,000 Megawatts (MW) of power while in the United States there awaits the sum of 150,000 MW.

These amounts are in addition to the existing hydropower capacity of 150,000 MW.

The total of all these categories represents the closing of all the coal mines in both countries and thereby the elimination of what has been proven to be the “filthiest fossil fuel, mostly carbon that when burned releases smoke pollution and more than its own weight of CO2 into the air.”
If the funds required to “clean up coal” (see our article “Clean Coal-Oxymoron”) were used instead to develop the available hydropower the result would be cleaner air and earth in half the time the coal “proponents” say it would take to bury their carcinogens.

So what Canada – and the United States – still awaits is the determination of the “powers that be” to do the right thing – and the investment in time and capital to get the job done.

Economists report that due to the present financial insecurities there are literally trillions of dollars (and other world currencies) being held back waiting for use when “things settle down.”
In our opinion, things will “settle down” when dedicated people make those powers that be respond to the serious worldwide demand for what we must call Energy Sanity.

Some Vermont Ideas at Work

As we have said, for a small state Vermont has come up with some pretty impressive ideas – and better yet, put them to work. It is the leader in New England in many ways and an example that could be well followed around the nation.

Among other things, Vermont is the only state in New England that conducts “prefeasibility assessments.” These are conducted to help “streamline the permitting process” for developers to enable their projects.

The state has been active in determining the areas where new hydropower can be developed
For example, it has been discovered that Vermont has at least 174 Megawatts of undeveloped hydropower potential. That’s about 22 percent of what the state presently uses on a regular basis. (And, by the way, it would offset the burning of more than one million barrels of oil.)
And most of the sites that make up this additional power are classified as “mini-hydro.” That is, they are smaller than 1,000 kilowatts. These can be developed at existing dam sites with no additional environmental impact to rivers or wet areas.

The “prefeasibility assessment” comes in when a developer wants to proceed with a hydropower plant. The amount of agencies that have approval authority can be staggering. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has licensing explanation and assistance program that provides considerable help in satisfying FERC, Vermont Public Service Board, Agency of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation. And in some cases the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gets into the act.

With all these processes to go through, a developer will find it takes about three years to receive all the required approvals.

And the bad news is that in states that haven’t even considered providing these preparatory services it will be longer before clean additional hydropower will be available to replace the fossil fuel energy sources.

As we have said many times in the past and will continue to exclaim- your elected representatives must be pressed into action in what will most certainly be the fight for the survival of human life not just in North America but on earth itself. And all agree that hydropower is the one complete solution to the energy pollution problem.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vermont, Small State With Some Pretty Good Big Ideas

The state of Vermont was the 14th state to join the union. Its citizens have always exhibited that firm independence that has made America the tower of freedom it has become.

It all started back when explorer Jacques Cartier claimed the St Lawrence River Valley for France. It was later claimed by the colonies of New York and New Hampshire. But as the area called Vermont was developed, the people of Vermont decided not to be controlled by either New York or New Hampshire and Vermont was declared an independent republic in 1777. As time passed, the United States was formed and Vermont asked to join the union. In 1791 Vermont was approved as the 14th state.

The development of New England as the manufacturing center of the U.S. in the 1700’s and 1800’s was based on the water resources available and the beginning of the use of “hydropower” as a major source of energy.

Ultimately, the discovery and use of oil and natural gas replaced much of the famous water wheels and dams that became landmarks and in some cases, curiosities.

But somewhere in the state consciousness remained that natural feeling for water as the great power not only of the past but of the future. And that feeling began to influence some very important planning – that provides an example all states should be following.

In 2008 the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources sought to increase the development of renewable energy in the form of small hydro power projects. It is now working closely with developers so that they understand the feasibility of their potential sites and the permits that will be required to enable their developments.

Vermont also has a Water Supply Division which is charged with the protection of the public health by assuring safe drinking water and managing the sources of water. In addition, the Division contains a Support and Planning Section that is responsible for managing both the short-term and long-term planning, strategic and financial, of the continuing development of the supply of water for the state.

In our next edition we’ll show some of the ideas Vermont has put into action and how those processes will have great impact on a national basis if followed by the other states, in, we hope, rapid recognition of the need for and the feasibility of hydropower vs. the fossil fuel giants.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where is the Government in all This?

And which government you might ask. For today’s purposes we’ll stay mostly within the U.S. and Canada. That’s plenty of territory to start with.

In the U.S. there are three basic levels of government control (or interference) involved in obtaining and providing energy services. This includes in some cases regulation of the rules and rates and who can be a customer and under what conditions.

And they are:

The Department of Energy and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

House committee on Energy and Commerce (5 subcommittees)
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (4 subcommittees)

Each state has a utility commission controlling electricity, gas, and communications

Counties and Municipalities:
Many have energy control related services

Then there is the international flavor:
Between the Federal and some States and Canada there are Independent System Operators (ISO). These are organizations formed at the direction or recommendation of the FERC to coordinate, control and monitor operations of the electrical power systems within a state, a group of states or states and Canadian provinces.

In addition there are Regional Transmission Operators (RTO) that coordinates, controls and monitors the operation of the electric power transmission system (grid) over a wider area crossing state borders.

Finally, while FERC only has authority over electric utilities within the United States, a larger authority known as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), according to Wikipedia “…overlays the entire FERC footprint and also includes a Mexican utility and several Canadian utilities. As such, international reciprocity is commonplace and rules or recommendations introduced by FERC often are voluntarily accepted by NERC members outside the US.”

So it is clear that there are many hands in the pie, all subject to government policies and the impact that powerful energy interests have on such policies.

In our next offering we will display and discuss some of the specifics of government induced problems while giving credit, where appropriate, to the laudable efforts being made by some in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why All This Water Talk?

Why indeed. We here are, after all, an energy organization that goes back to 1908. And from that time to this energy has mostly meant electricity, gasoline, home heating oil and all the products connected with those forms of energy.

When asking a consumer today what services to his home are the most essential he would probably say heat, water and light. And like so many, he would expect the switch on the wall to turn on the lights at any time without thinking about it. And the water to flow when turning on the tap.

So the prospect of any of those services not being available is unthinkable. One may expect occasional “blackouts” or slow delivery of oil. And of more concern on a daily basis is the cost of those services and the impact on the family budget.

However the real fact is the growth of availability of fresh clean water is not matching the growth of the earth’s population. It is also true that there are parts of the world where the clean water supply is not adequate today and the resulting loss of life in some areas is terrible.

What is the answer? We have been offering solutions in many of our reports and they all boil down to the need for a total worldwide commitment, including financial, to the development of hydropower, water treatment (desalination, purification) and removal of all systems which add to the pollution of water – and air.

We have discussed the fact that while electricity provides the most efficient use of energy, it is the most expensive because it is generated by burning fossil fuels - that pollute both air and water. The full development of hydropower from both falling and flowing water would provide electricity costs mere fractions of cost of the fossil generators.

But cost is not the major consideration – reduced as it may be. The concern was so well put by Jacques Cousteau - air and water are the two essential needs for the survival of humanity. They must be protected at all costs.

And once again it falls to the governments of the world to rise to the needs of the people. It probably will not be easy to get all world organizations to cooperate or in some cases to even talk – the effort must be made.

And the American people have the voice. Let us hope and pray it is used.