August 26 2016, 09:28 AM
Since June 2015, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick (APEGNB) have had their Fredericton-based head office connected to the New Brunswick energy grid through NB Power’s Net Metering Program. The Association’s Council members were inspired to explore renewable energy generation options after hearing a presentation by NB Power executives in the summer of 2014.
The members of the Association heard NB Power President and CEO Gaëtan Thomas, PEng, speak about the future of NB Power, energy in New Brunswick and trends in the electric utility business. Mr. Thomas spoke about a future that embraces renewables, smart grids, smart user systems, distributed generation and net metering. These - and other methods - will help to reduce peak demand and provide more security and flexibility in the province’s electric utility business.
Motivated by this message, and recognizing the societal need to mitigate climate change and inspire confidence in renewable energy, the Association decided to take a ‘lead by example’ approach. As a regulatory body ensuring only qualified and licensed professionals practice engineering and geoscience in the province, it was important to their members that the Association provide social leadership as an early adopter of renewable energy.
“We are the people at the forefront of new technology—from its development to its implementation,” said past President Paul Campbell, PEng. “Recent advances in solar energy and electric utility management have made active solar power a cost-effective investment for property owners. The time was right for us, as New Brunswick’s technology innovators, to show community leadership in the fight to mitigate climate change and become an early adopter of renewable energy.”
Following the energy efficiency pyramid which prioritizes energy conservation and energy efficiency, followed by renewable energy, APEGNB underwent an energy audit to identify areas to reduce the building’s energy usage and improve its energy efficiency. The evaluation found that thanks to a high-performing building envelope and two high-efficiency air source heat pumps, the overall energy use of the building was low in comparison to other similar facilities. The energy audit recommended the installation of programmable thermostats, LED light fixtures, water-efficient faucets and solar panels. Adding a renewable energy source to the building was the natural next step to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs associated with the APEGNB building.
The Association’s members decided to install solar panels and participate in the net metering program. Within a few months, the plan to install sixty 250-Watt solar panels to generate a total capacity of 15 kilowatts was in place. By late June of 2015, the panels were capturing the power of the sun and converting into energy for use at the Association’s office or, when not needed at the office, putting energy on the NB Power grid for other New Brunswick customers.
The total energy production of the solar panels at the APEGNB site is anticipated to be 18,000-19,000 kWh per year. With an annual average energy use of 52,000 Kwh per year, the new solar installation will meet approximately 35% of the electricity needs of the APEGNB building.
Mr. Campbell emphasized that for the Association, success has already been realized through the awareness of renewables raised among the public.
“Many people and environmental groups have applauded our leadership in helping to mitigate climate change. Having the largest solar array in New Brunswick has certainly raised the profile of engineering and geoscience,” he added. “We can say that on the sunniest days, our solar array generates well over 100 kilowatt-hours of energy during a 24-hour period.”
Members of the public can see for themselves how much energy APEGNB’s solar panels generate each day by visiting www.apegnb.com. Read the full case study on APEGNB’s Net Metering project here.
July 20 2016, 08:48 AM
Last year, NB Power customers were served with greener, cleaner and more efficiently produced power than ever before. A record 75% of energy provided to New Brunswickers was from non-emitting sources, including nuclear. Just 25 years ago, those numbers were reversed, with fossil fuels generating the majority of our electricity. Today, foreign oil accounts for between just 1- 2% of our energy mix and this flip, in the space of a generation, is something we can all feel proud of.
We have heard consistently from customers that renewable energy is critical to our future. We have also heard that we need a slow and steady approach to adding renewable energy so that the added costs don’t drive up rates and home electricity bills. That’s why we’re managing this transition to a cleaner energy future over time.
The amount of renewable energy on the New Brunswick grid hit record highs in 2015-2016 topping out for the year at 42% overall.
We continue to lead the way with new renewable energy programs such as the Community Renewable Energy – First Nations Opportunity and another program for municipalities, co-operatives and not-for profits expected next January.
Some commenters have wondered whether investments in Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station will pay off in the long term, and whether NB Power ought to speed up adoption of renewables to replace nuclear energy.
It is true that our nuclear station has experienced challenges during the spring and summer months of the last three years. We have been forthright with our customers and our regulator about the challenges, the costs and how we are solving them.
However, it is also true that the station performed exceptionally well during the cold winter months of those same years, providing New Brunswickers with a consistent base load of clean energy when we needed it most. Nuclear kept our homes warm and bright during the darkest days of winter in all of the last three years it has operated.
Today, NB Power is using the best training, technology and globally-based peer knowledge to ensure the station delivers on its promise to provide New Brunswickers with safe, clean, affordable energy over its 30 year life-span. The last 3 years have taught us the need to be even more aggressive with preventative maintenance, focusing on diagnosing and fixing issues before they become problems. We are confident in this industry-proven approach and in the plan we have in place. We intend to deliver on the promise we made to our customers that Lepreau will be a key part of our energy future in New Brunswick for years to come.
Our greatest challenge now is to manage a transition to an even greener grid, adding more renewables without passing on large cost increases to customers.
While our province is a windy place some of the time, New Brunswickers need electricity all of the time. Green energy comes and goes as the winds pick up and slow, as the sun moves behind a cloud and as rainfall flows through our hydro dams.
Renewables are part of a constant balancing act with other types of electricity generation. As they ebb and flow, other stations adjust to ensure customers don’t experience brown-outs, blips or outages.
With the development of a smart grid here in New Brunswick, we are preparing for a future that includes more renewables generated locally and flowing back onto the grid, balanced by other generation. Meanwhile, we need our baseload generation, including nuclear, to be able to test and improve the performance of renewables, and also to provide customers with the safe, reliable and affordable electricity they demand and deserve.
New Brunswick continues to lead in the adoption of renewable energy while managing the delicate balance of keeping rates low and stable and starting to pay down debt.
I’m very proud of the continued transformation of NB Power into a business aimed at helping our customers stop using electricity they don’t need while ensuring what they do use is as green and clean as possible.
July 14 2016, 13:24 PM
This is the first post in our new “A day in the life of…” series, which aims to showcase the diverse career opportunities at NB Power and the employees who thrive in these jobs.
As the morning light in downtown Fredericton starts to bleed through the windows of NB Power’s energy marketing desk, Andrew Robinson quietly sets up his work station for the day, mind already reeling with the day’s tasks and figures.
Once his system is up and running, Andrew’s day is off to a fast start. All the marketing desk employees gather for their morning meeting to discuss the factors of the day in order to keep NB Power’s electricity costs low. These factors can range from water flows, world conditions, weather, fuel prices and business opportunities.
NB Power’s Energy Marketing Desk buys and sells electricity in markets outside of New Brunswick, moment by moment, 24/7- just like the stock market. Andrew and his coworkers in the marketing desk analyze the system load forecast, information on NB Power’s generation assets and external factors to determine whether it’s cheaper to buy or sell electricity that day.
“We plan for any generator outages that are scheduled during the next few days. Once all this information is collected you need to identify any shortages or surpluses of generation for the next day,” he said.” Then determine the marginal cost of your generation and identify if there is any way to reduce that cost through purchasing or if you can sell any excess generation for a profit.”
Sometimes it might be cheaper for NB Power to buy electricity for an hour than it is to generate, while other times it’s more profitable to sell or transmit electricity for other companies. Any electricity sold to utilities outside the province goes into subsidizing rates for New Brunswickers.
“The activities in the energy marketing desk affect the bottom line of other activities in NB Power,” said Andrew. “The decisions we make have a direct correlation with buying and/ or selling energy.”
For the fiscal year 2015/16 the New Brunswick Energy Marketing Corporation generated $83.8 Million in gross margin all of which is used to lower electricity rates.
Andrew started working with NB Power while he was in his fifth year of university at the University of New Brunswick. He has worked for the company for eighteen years. He knows his duties as an energy marketer are critical for the well-being of the company. He has to meet several deadlines and manage time constraints every day.
“I love my job,” he said. “Every day is a new day and a new opportunity. I like making decisions and being responsible for my actions. This is what I most like about working in the energy marketing desk.”
The desk has employees planning and analyzing solutions in this economic nerve centre of NB Power 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Employees like Andrew make sure to take advantage of the market prices of energy, whether those prices increase or decrease.
“We always make sure to take advantage of those changes,” he said. “The market is constantly changing and here in the marketing desk we’re always learning and adapting to that change.”
June 24 2016, 09:19 AM
It was spring of 2015 when Kyle Boucher bought his 100-year-old Hillsborough home, and though the weather was mild at the time, it wasn’t long before he realized he would need to invest in some energy efficiency upgrades.
“You could stand in the attic and look straight down to the basement,” he says. There wasn’t much – if any - insulation to be found throughout the two-story home.
That fall, knowing that incentives were available through NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings Program, Kyle registered for the program and had a pre-upgrade evaluation completed on his home.
During a two hour visit to Kyle’s home, an energy advisor measured and documented insulation levels in the basement, attic and walls, and determined air leakage rates and priority areas with a blower door test.
Armed with the advice and recommendations of his home’s personalized energy evaluation, Kyle proceeded to spray foam the attic, basement walls and header and main walls in the home. By insulating with spray foam, Kyle simultaneously improved the home’s air tightness by 26%. He also swapped his home heating systems from wood and oil to a heat pump.
Kyle spent approximately $8,500 insulating his home and he received an incentive from NB Power for $6,200. Thanks to the added insulation and air-sealing in Kyle’s home, the estimated annual energy savings are approximately $4,000 each year, giving him a payback of less than one year.
Participants save an average of $1000 on their annual electricity bill and receive an average of $1960 back in incentive for insulation and air sealing upgrades.
With the savings, Kyle plans to continue to invest in his home’s energy efficiency, starting with a heat recovery ventilation system installation.
“Without the incentives, I wouldn’t have been able to do the upgrades, or add the right amount of insulation to the house,” Kyle says. “If I could say anything to other New Brunswickers, it is to get going and just do it. It is a really great opportunity to get help from NB Power to add insulation to your home, which is something that almost everyone can benefit from.”
June 2 2016, 14:41 PM
Did you know how quickly the water flows change above and below NB Power’s 7 hydro facilities?
As electricity demands change for the province, during peak times of the day dam gates are opened and closed regularly. These changes can result in rapid water level and flow changes above and below dam structures.
Water in the head ponds above hydro dams and stations and the waters directly below them are particularly dangerous. Fast-moving water coming from the station or dam creates dangerous turbulence and strong undercurrents.
We work to ensure all safety measures are in place so people understand the risk involved in getting too close to a hydro dam.
All of our hydro stations operate remotely from the Mactaquac Generating Station. These facilities can release water at any time, any day of the year. This means that calm waters can suddenly turn into rapids with strong undertows that can easily pull you under water.
Areas inside warning signs, buoys and booms are extremely dangerous.
Here’s an example of how quickly the water can change- this is the same spot near one of our facilities- just a few minutes apart.
Remotely operated gates at the dam release large volumes of water that could leave you stranded, swamp your boat or put in in the undertow of water current.
Above a dam, the intake currents are strong. This is why we’re installing additional safety measures, such as booms (large yellow barrier hooked to anchors) above the Mactaquac dam to keep boaters and swimmers safe from entering the fast currents of the dam entry points.
New safety boom recently installed at the Mactaquac Generating Station.
Signs and Fencing
NB Power follows the Canadian Dam Association’s guidelines to make sure people are aware of the risks near hydro dams. There are signs and fencing around our hydro stations in the locations identified below.
These exist for your protection. They make sure people aren’t caught up in a changing water flow and unable to get to safety.
Lights, Cameras and Audio
We have installed video cameras below the dams that provide control room operators the ability to check the area below the dam before changing the operation of the dam that will change water flows. These cameras are not completely reliable on their own, especially if it is at night. There are also strobe lights and alarm sounds to signal the change in water flows. These signal the water flows are going to change - and indicates to people in the vicinity to get out of harm’s way.
Another beautiful part of our province is the Grand Falls Gorge which has evolved into a tourist attraction with zip lines, kayaking and camping. People come for fun in the sun with a beautiful view. However, it is crucial for people to recognize the dangers associated with the gorge.
Grand Falls generating station operates by step spillage. This procedure is in place to prevent the release of large amounts of water all at once but rather through a series of smaller discharge steps over a period of time so to reduce the potential hazard downstream should anyone be present.
Here is a time lapse video a hydraulic assessment at La Rochelle. This is a 12,000 CFS step discharge.
In case of an emergency near a hydro dam, call 911 immediately.