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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.

Protect yourself against fraud

March 2 2016, 10:43 AM

Protect yourself against fraud

Scam artists are clever. They always find new ways to trick you to give them your personal information or money. That’s why it’s crucial you stay alert and informed to protect yourself and your family.

Fraudsters pressure their targets in giving out personal information or payments. They pretend to be an employee or third party representative from a company like NB Power.

Here are three quick steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:

 

1)       Trust your gut feeling. Are you receiving a call that doesn’t sound right? An offer too good to be true? Hang up the phone. If you doubt you’re speaking with an NB Power employee, report it to the Canada Anti Fraud Centre 

2)       Be careful when opening links. Fraudsters pretend to send emails that look like utility bills and ask you to open a link to view your bill. This is known as a phishing scam. Without your noticing, this link can download viruses and malicious software to your computer and steal personal information from your files.

3)       Don’t give out your credit card information. NB Power has policies in place to protect your information, and we will never ask for your financial information or payments by credit card over the phone or in person at your door.

If you receive suspicious phone calls from people claiming to be from NB Power, please hang up the phone and contact us immediately. You should also report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud centre by calling 1 888 495-8501 or by going to www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

 

Sometimes scam artists claiming to be from NB Power threaten to immediately disconnect your electricity service. Before an account becomes eligible for disconnection for non-payment, we make many attempts to reach an agreement that is suitable for you and us.

If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation, you can avoid disconnection for non-payment if all of the following criteria are met. You must:

 

1)       contact NB Power to discuss your account, and

2)       continue to make mutually-agreed upon payments on your outstanding balance, and

3)       be willing to work with NB Power to understand your energy consumption.

We understand there are many reasons why you may not be able to pay your bill on time. If this is the case, we can discuss options to make this process easier for you. Visit our website to learn more.

Anyone can become a fraud victim. Stay alert and inform your family and friends about the dangers of fraud.

Why we want you to use less electricity

February 29 2016, 08:55 AM

Why we want you to use less electricity

This might sound like a strange idea – a power company wanting you to use less of the product they sell.

You might be skeptical and think this isn’t good for business. But NB Power wants you to use less.

Here’s our President and CEO, Gaëtan Thomas to help explain how it’s going to help the company and our customers over the long run.

Gaëtan Thomas - President and CEO

Regardless of where you live in North America, we all use electricity in similar ways – especially in the mornings before work and the period around suppertime. They’re called “peak” times.

As New Brunswickers, we use nearly 3x as much electricity on a cold winter day as we do on a nice sunny day in June. That’s due in large part because 60% of New Brunswick homes heat with electric heating systems.

That means NB Power needs to have additional generating stations available to supply customer needs in the winter. These are called peaking plants and they sit idle much of the rest of the year. Their power is expensive and largely comes from fossil-fuels. Because our costs are reflected in our rates, meeting these peaks increases all of our monthly bills and impacts the environment of our province. 

What if we could still provide the comfort and heat you desire on those cold winter days but without needing all that “extra” generation? What if we could all save money by doing so?

That’s our goal right now, and the way to do that is for all of us as energy consumers to better understand how we use electricity and then to develop smart habits that will help us both reduce our energy use and shift it to off-peak, or less expensive and greener, times of the day. 

This change isn’t going to happen overnight and so we’re going through a managed transition right now that will ensure we protect the electrical system in New Brunswick and keep rates low and stable over time

The benefits to all of us will be tremendous. We’ll have a greener grid, emit less greenhouse gases and avoid nearly $1 Billion dollars in costs that will be passed on to you as savings  through rate stability over time, helping to keep our rates among the lowest in Canada.

We are making progress toward these goals, and that will only accelerate with the help of our energy efficiency programs and through the roll out of new smart products and programs  over the next few years.

Saving power doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the things you enjoy. There are simple steps you can take to change your energy habits like turning off the lights when you leave a room, setting a programmable thermostat to come before you wake up and waiting to do laundry or dishes until later in the evening.

Making simple behaviour changes like these are not only a great place to start, but can help save on your bill, without sacrificing your comfort. Working together in this way, we can have a huge impact on the future of electricity and the environment in our province.

Gaëtan.

 

Learn more about what we’re doing to solve the peak problem in New Brunswick in this video.

Do you want to use less electricity? Tell us how you will help reduce energy demand in NB in the comments below!

What is peak power?

January 19 2016, 09:21 AM

What is peak power?

Have you seen the video we made of New Brunswick kids talking about electricity and peak power?  If you missed it, watch it here.

So what is peak exactly?

Put simply, it’s the highest one-hour load requirement on our power grid during a 24-hour period.

New Brunswick faces peak electricity issues during the historically coldest months of the year – January and February.

On these mornings, New Brunswickers turn up their heat, use hot water, turn on lights and use their appliances all at the same time, usually between 6 and 9 a.m. on weekdays. The colder it is outside, the more electricity we use to keep our homes and businesses warm. The same thing happens in the evening when everyone gets home from school and work between 4 and 8 pm.

This activity causes a peak in energy use and means that NB Power must rely on fossil fuel generation to meet the demand or buy the electricity on the open market at higher rates. 

For example, a cold January day might create a peak system demand of 3,000 Megawatts of energy. Compare that to a summer morning when New Brunswickers use only half that and it's easy to see the impact on our system.

As New Brunswickers we’re all invested in the future of our province. By making small changes to our behaviour, we can collectively smooth out the peaks. That means a smaller environmental footprint and low, stable rates for New Brunswickers.

What can you do?

  • Lower the temperature in unoccupied rooms, you’ll save electricity and money.
  • Take shorter showers, or shower before bed.
  • If your dishwasher or clothes washer has a time-delay function, use it to delay start times or manually start them after 8 a.m. or 8 p.m.

 

What are some of the things you’d do to help Beat the Peak this winter?

Going Net Zero: When a Home Gives As Much As It Takes

December 18 2015, 09:16 AM

Going Net Zero

New Brunswick homeowners are starting to get excited by the idea of producing some, or all, of their home’s energy needs. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are being explored as options become increasingly accessible. Solar panels are popping up on rooftops, and small wind turbines on commercial and residential properties are turning up throughout New Brunswick, as more New Brunswickers are talking about renewables. And why not? It is exciting to lighten one’s energy footprint, by making your home more energy efficient and by generating enough energy onsite. When your home can produce as much energy on-site as it uses, on an annual basis, this is what’s called a net zero home.

So how does it work?

Net zero homes use a renewable energy system like solar panels or wind turbines to produce as much energy as they use on a yearly basis. Net zero homes, unlike ‘off-grid’ homes, are still connected to ‘the grid’ – the province’s electricity distribution system- and are net metered with NB Power for the times when the panels don’t produce enough energy to meet current demand.

Alternatively, with NB Power’s net metering program, credits will accumulate for the homeowners when a surplus of power is generated and put back on the grid. This means that your monthly bill will reflect the difference between the total amount of your electricity consumption and the electricity your system produces over the billing period. That is the “net amount” of electricity.  

One great benefit to being a net zero home is that the home’s renewable energy system can be sized to meet the average daily energy usage, rather than its peak demand. (Think of the difference in energy demand during a cold snap in the middle of winter, versus an early spring or late fall day!) Many net zero homeowners also take pride in and enjoy the fact that any surplus energy produced from their energy system goes back on the grid and supplies their neighbours’ homes with renewable energy.

The first step before even considering a renewable energy source is making sure your home or building is as energy efficient as possible. It is more cost effective to save energy through maximizing building efficiency than installing renewable energy sources; but both will help the environment and lower your power bill. If you’re interested in making upgrades to your home, make sure to look into NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings program here.

NB Power’s Net Metering program partners with customers to facilitate small-scale, environmentally sustainable generation for homes that are still connected to ‘the grid’ and deals with a mix of homes and business, and small scale renewable generation technologies.

What do you envision for your home? Do you plan to invest in renewables or make your home more energy efficient in the future? Tell us below!

 

 

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