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First Nations field monitor Austin Paul reports from the Saint John River

April 8 2016, 14:22 PM

First Nations field monitor Austin Paul reports from the Saint John River

Austin Paul is an anthropology student at the University of New Brunswick and works with NB Power on the Mactaquac Project. In this guest blog post, Austin will describe more of the activities he was involved in as the First Nations Liaison Field Monitor from writing summary reports for NB Power and First Nations communities to tagging fish with the Canadian Rivers Institute.

During the summer of 2015, I spent most of my days outdoors and worked closely with the Canadian Rivers Institute who conducts various studies in and along the river, this included tagging fish for active and passive fish monitoring.

For active monitoring, the Canadian Rivers Institute scientists place hydrophones in the water that detect tagged fish, which are identified with a unique identification number. For passive monitoring, the scientists have also placed electronic receivers throughout the Saint John River that record where tagged fish pass by. All this collected data will be analyzed and included in NB Power’s Comparative Environmental Review.

To tag a fish, the caught fish is sedated in a solution of fresh water, clove oil and ethanol. Once it is unresponsive to touch, we measure and weigh it. We would also collect scale samples and fin clips for genetic studies. Through a small sterilized surgery, tags are inserted in its stomach cavity and below the dorsal fin. The fish is then placed back into a recovery tank with fresh water before being released back into the river. 

The Wolastoq (Saint John) River is exceedingly important to the First Nations communities.  The river was a natural highway linking many communities throughout the province.  The Wolastoq is greatly respected and thought of as the blood of mother earth. It nourishes the soil and provides sustenance to the people who inhabit the river valley. We are intimately linked to the river.   

For thousands of years, the First Nations people have used the river as a means of travel and established communities along its banks.  Many traces of these communities remain present on the landscape in the form of archaeological sites.  Nearly every river junction and island is host to archaeological sites both large and small.  Many of the artifacts that erode out of the river banks show evidence of excellent craftsmanship and are often made from material that is non-local, demonstrating a vast interaction sphere.  People acquired tool stone from as far north as Ramah Bay Labrador and as far south as the Ohio River Valley. 

These archaeological sites are sacred to the Wolastoqiyik people. When studied, the sites provide a glimpse into the distant past that allows us to form a clearer picture of the ancient way of life and cultural changes over time.  The evidence seems to demonstrate that First Nations communities were highly adaptable to the ever changing environment and enjoyed a rich culture.

 

The information attained through archaeological record is invaluable.  First Nations communities were decimated by diseases brought from Europe, of which the Native population had little immunity.  A great deal of the oral history that had been passed down from generation to generation was lost as many of the elders perished.  It is now through the study of archaeological sites that we are able to gain an appreciation of the remote past.

NB Power’s First Nation engagement commitments are based on inclusion, responsiveness and respect.

As a first Nations Liaison Field Monitor, it is also my responsibility to identify potential First Nations concerns in terms of land use, resource sites and archeological sites. I created a communications plan with the local First Nations to ensure that the information collected is available to those who are interested in it and supported the Mactaquac Project team at the various open house sessions that have been hosted in towns and First Nation communities. 

These sessions were designed to provide further opportunities for community members to voice their concerns and ideas regarding the Mactaquac Project. 

Save money this April with Smart Habits Rebates

April 1 2016, 11:15 AM

Save money this April with Smart Habits Rebates

Using energy-efficient products is an easy way to use less energy in your home, which helps you save money on your power bill. Starting April 1, we’re helping you save even more on these products with our Smart Habits in-store rebates.

You can save between $4- 10$ on water-efficient showerheads, LED bulbs, LED light fixtures and our newest item, smart strip power bars for the month of April. Not sure what store carries these items? Check out our list of participating retailers here.

Take control over your devices

Do you know about phantom power? It’s the energy used by devices in your home like computers and entertainment systems when they’re idling in standby mode.

The amount of energy these devices are using can account for up to 10% of your annual electricity consumption.  You can start fighting phantom power by taking advantage of the $10 rebate on smart strip power bars. By using these power bars in your home to turn off these standby devices when not in use, you could save up to $25 a year on your power bill.

Smart strip power bars may look like traditional power bars, but their smart design sets them apart. If a device is idle and plugged in, the smart strip power bar will turn off that outlet. Learn more about how smart strip power bars work.

Brighten up your home

There are lots of advantages to choosing LED bulbs or fixtures as part of our in-store rebates this month. Not only will they last 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, but they’ll last approximately 2-5 times longer than compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs- so you won’t be replacing them very often. You’ll also use up to 75% less energy with LED bulbs than with regular incandescent bulbs.

With our rebate on LED light fixtures, you can now benefit from additional in-store savings of $10 on select flush mount and down light fixtures with a minimum expected life of 25,000 hours.

Before you head out to the store, make sure you know what to look for in a bulb so you get the right LED for your needs.

Are you going to take advantage of our Smart Habits rebates this April? Is there a product you’d like to see join our rebate offerings? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Mactaquac and the New Brunswick power grid

March 22 2016, 14:47 PM

Mactaquac and the New Brunswick power grid

We have a big decision to make about the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station. The station is nearing the end of its life, and NB Power is considering what to do next. Whatever is decided will have a big impact on the environment and the people who live and work near the station. That’s why NB Power is working with experts and the public to find out what those impacts might be, and how to lessen them. NB Power will recommend a path forward in 2016. In this week’s blog post, we’ll take you through how Mactaquac fits into New Brunswick’s energy mix and why this decision is so important.

Why was Mactaquac built in the first place?

Mactaquac was built between 1965 and 1968. At the time, the Mactaquac Generating Station was the largest single engineering project in the history of New Brunswick. The project promised more energy on the grid, more jobs through increased productivity of businesses and more outdoor recreational area around the newly created headpond. When it was built, the station was expected to last 100 years.

How important is Mactaquac for the New Brunswick grid?

The Mactaquac Generating Station can produce approximately 670 megawatts of electricity for New Brunswick homes and businesses, which is about 12 % of all the electricity NB Power provides annually. For NB Power, Mactaquac is more than a generating station. It delivers essential services that support a safe, reliable and diverse power grid. In the unlikely event of all stations going offline, Mactaquac’s generators can deliver enough power to kick-start the grid. The headpond also acts as a reserve in case NB Power needs extra load to meet peak demands. NB Power’s 7 hydro stations that over the course of a year generate renewable energy that equates to about 25 % of what is consumed in New Brunswick.


Why did NB Power choose these three options as they are?

The station’s anticipated end of service life is around 2030. NB Power is looking at 3 options: repower, retaining the headpond (no power) and river restoration. These options were chosen for consideration because they are considered technically achievable, and they provide a long-term solution to problems facing the current station. While the options are being studied, NB Power continues to investigate whether new strategies can be adopted to prolong the station’s life and at what cost.

Why don’t you just repower?

As a public utility, NB Power understands that any course of action regarding Mactaquac had far-reaching consequences for all New Brunswickers. There are cost, environmental, social, and engineering impacts to be considered. This is why NB Power is consulting with the public and experts on the choices ahead.

 

Is your home leaking money?

March 16 2016, 16:20 PM

Is your home leaking money?

Older, drafty homes – and in particular, homes built before 1945 that were constructed with little to no insulation – have the biggest potential when it comes to saving money through energy efficiency upgrades. And one of the most overlooked upgrades for homes is insulation.

Insulation: it’s not as sexy as a new granite countertop, but the savings realized through your upgrades might just pay for one. Many homeowners don’t realize that adding insulation is one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ upgrades they can carry out.

You probably already know your home needs additional insulation and/or air sealing if:

  • the walls are cold to touch;
  • you have problems with mold on walls;
  • the floors are cold;
  • you can feel drafts;
  • you have high winter heating bills.

If you experience some, or all, of these problems, your home could benefit from NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings Program. The program offers information and incentives to homeowners to help reduce their energy consumption through targeted air sealing and insulation upgrades.

Participating is easy! Just follow these 5 steps:

1-      Register. Go to www.nbpower.com/homeinsulation and complete the online registration form. If you do not have internet access you may call 1 800 663-6272 (select option 5).

2-      Energy Evaluation. A representative will contact you to set up your Pre-Upgrade Evaluation. This evaluation will identify the upgrades to your home that may be eligible for incentives. The fee for the evaluation is $210+HST.

3-      Receive approval. After the evaluation, you’ll receive a list of recommended upgrades and a pre-approval form. You have 30 days to identify which of those upgrades you wish to complete and return the form to us.

4-      Complete upgrades. Once we have confirmed your participation in this program, you will have nine months to finish your planned upgrades.

5-      Have Post-Upgrade Evaluation and receive incentives. As soon as you’re finished your upgrades (or before the nine month deadline), call us at 1 800 663-6272 to book a Post-Upgrade Evaluation (no cost)

Have you already participated in NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings Program? Are you seeing savings and feeling more comfortable in your home this winter? We’d love to hear your story!

What’s the problem with Mactaquac Generating Station?

March 10 2016, 14:29 PM

What’s the problem with Mactaquac Generating Station?

We have a big decision to make about the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station. The station is nearing the end of its life, and NB Power is considering what to do next. Whatever is decided will have a big impact on the environment and the people who live and work near the station. That’s why NB Power is working with experts and the public to find out what those impacts might be, and how to lessen them. NB Power will recommend a path forward in 2016. This blog post is the first in a series that will introduce you to each aspect of the process of finding a recommended solution.

Since the 1980s, the concrete structures at Mactaquac have been expanding due to a chemical reaction known as alkali-aggregate reaction. But what is alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR) and what does it do? 

Alkali-aggregate reaction is a chemical reaction. As you may know, concrete is a mix of cement, rock, sand and water. When alkalis in the cement react with silica in the rock, it produces silica gel. Silica gel absorbs water and swells. This swelling gel causes concrete to expand.

Hundreds of hydro stations, bridges and other structures around the world have been affected by AAR. It also affects the concrete portions of the Mactaquac Generating Station (highlighted in yellow).

The earthen dam that retains Mactaquac headpond is a rock-filled structure sealed with clay and does not have AAR problems.

Where did the concrete come from?

When the dam was built, the rock was crushed and made into concrete at the site. It’s similar to rock that was used at that time to make concrete in the Fredericton area. But once AAR was discovered at Mactaquac, Fredericton area concrete plants had to find alternative sources of concrete aggregate.

How much has the concrete at Mactaquac expanded? 

The concrete expansion varies widely. The most extreme numbers are a rate of 0.12 mm for every meter of concrete. While this doesn’t seem like much, for a structure that is 42 meters tall, it adds up to 5mm/year. The movement of the concrete slowly shifts embedded equipment such as turbines, generators, gates and pipes.  This must be addressed, because it can affect the operation of this equipment. 

What’s done to keep the station operating?

NB Power employees at Mactaquac operate and maintain the station 24/7 year round. NB Power has different solutions to manage the effect of AAR, for example, slot cuts were made into the concrete with diamond wire.   

The earthen dam that retains the Mactaquac headpond is a rock-filled structure sealed with clay and does not have AAR problems. This massive rock structure relies on its weight to resist the force of the river while protecting the clay core that prevents water coming through. 

How do you know the dam will reach the end of its service life by 2030? 

Since 1994, there have been regular engineering studies that looked at when the concrete main spillway, diversion sluiceway and the powerhouse will need to be replaced. These studies have shown that, without significant repairing or rebuilding, the existing structures will need to be replaced by 2030. 

Can you extend the life expectancy of Mactaquac to avoid a massive project or until a better solution comes up? 

We are examining if we can extend the life of the station beyond 2030. We work with independent experts to see if we can make more repairs to the concrete or partially replace some of the concrete parts. This work is being done in parallel with the studies being conducted to determine the best option for replacement, should it be required. All this work must be completed so that a decision can be made at the end of 2016 and work completed by 2030.

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