Something Sounds Fishy To Me- “Harpswell commercial wharf becomes first to get all its energy from ‘green’ sources, owner says”

Read the story here-

Harpswell commercial wharf becomes first to get all its energy from ‘green’ sources, owner says

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Brandon Bernard, left, and Joe Maisonave carry one of 44 photovoltaic solar collection panels toward its place in a solar array on the roof of Reversing Falls Lobster Wharf in Harpswell recently. Each panel weighs about 44 pounds and can harness 240 watts of energy.

OK, let me first state that if this is true, that they could get all their energy to run their commercial lobster dock from these solar panels that would be fantastic.  The clean air, fantastic.  Less reliance on big oil, fantastic.

HOWEVER-

I’m not as sharp as I was when I was in college and  practicing my math skills on a daily basis but from what they are saying in the article-

“44 panels which can harness 240 watts of energy each.” 

That means you can power a bunch of lighting fixtures, right?  Assuming in an industrial space you are using 100 watt bulbs.  More than likely in huge industrial spaces I’m thinking your bulbs use more than 100 watt bulbs so maybe you could light the joint with 44 big lights?  44 panels times 240 watt lighting fixtures.  But someone once told me you could have every light in your house on but as soon as you turn on the toaster oven it uses way more energy than a bunch of lightbulbs.

Take our dock for example-

I have a seriously hard time believing that the juice that our 5 lobster tank recirculating pumps at 2.5 hp to 5 hp and are sucking water in large pipes 20 feet up from low tide up to the tanks and run 24/7 is equivalent to a bunch of lightbulbs even if you were lighting up a monstrous building. 

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In my very conservative estimation the recirculating pumps use about 1000 times more energy here at our dock than whatever piddly money our lighting expenses are.  Then we have refrigeration and huge refrigeration compressors for our bait cooler where the pallets of bait are stored. 

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Guaranteed that the energy those compressors pull are far greater than what 44 panels that can harness 240 watts of power when the sun is shining and not when it’s dark outside and our recirculating pumps are still pumping and our bait cooler compressors are still cooling. 

Oh but wait, then there’s the winches.  If you’ve seen the huge motors that turn the winch heads you know those bad boys are sucking down a huge amount of electricity to be able to lift three crates of lobsters at a time at close to 400lbs or tuna that can get to 1000 lbs, or three totes of bait at close to 450lbs.   These motors run those a good part of the afternoon and early morning.

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So to me, the numbers in no way add up.  No way, no how.

But the media looooves to grab onto these stories because the green folks will always accept whatever the headline is as fact and run with it.  Once the things are half paid for with government (read taxpayer) subsidies and installed, they’re not going anywhere.

I have a very hard time accepting that this commercial lobster dock is going to power their entire operation from solar power even though they will market themselves that way and all the green lemmings will trip over themselves to go buy  lobsters there for $2-3 more a pound because they are using green technology that they as taxpayers footed half the bill for.

Hey if I’m wrong with the numbers and they can somehow squeeze 100 times more than 240 watts of power out of 40 panels and indeed run their lobster company with some type of new math, then congratulations!

The point for me is not if this was or wasn’t a good financial investment for the guys up in Harpswell.  I wish them the best, I really do.  What bugs the hell out of me though is the media’s acceptance of all these green technology wild claims because they know people eat that stuff up as it makes for a  feel good story regardless if the numbers add up or not.

Smells fishy to me though.

14 comments

  • Perhaps it is too soon after installation, but it would be great to hear from Jim Merryman of Reversing Falls Lobster Wharf his take on his $25,000.00 investment

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  • Kathleen Henneberry

    Thanks, Joey. This was a great education for me! I especially love the photos and colorful descriptions of how your dock works, to say nothing of how the “green” math works…and how politics and the media works; all in one blog entry. Bravo!

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  • The 44 pound weight of the panels roughly checks with the 240 watts optimistically.
    44 * 240 = 10560 watts = 10.5 Kw
    Given reasonable efficiency estimates of electric motors that is around 10 horsepower total.
    A residence might have 100 amp service at 220 volts which is 22 Kw.
    I think they must have a lot more than 44 panels. I bet the pumps and compressors run in the dark as well.. They must have a huge battery bank.
    I suspect they just run their office and perhaps some lighting off the panels.

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  • By the way a kitchen toaster is about 1000 watts, 1 Kw, all by itself (about 10 amps at 110 volts) so they can run about ten toasters :).
    A 20 amp fuse at 110 volts is 2200 watts or 2.2 Kw so their 10.5 k
    Kw would blow five 20 amp fuses. That is a residential, not industrial, load.

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  • 240 watt panels times 44 equal 10,560 watts or 10 kilowatts. For every hour the sun shines 10 kilowatts of power (kwh) is fed back into the power grid. That is a lot of power. If they switched to some LED lighting, efficient refrigeration and made sure their winches had no shorts, that amount of power could cancel out their entire electric bill and more. I would not be surprised that next summer the electric company is sending them cash instead of the other way around.

    The fact that the power is produced at the peak time the power company needs it (sunny days when people are running their AC on max) means if more solar panels go up then an extra power plant might not need to be built to cover those peak usage times. One less power plant, a little less coal burned, a little less emphysema, seems a logical course of action to me.

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  • No need to guess here … using the link at http://gisatnrel.nrel.gov/PVWatts_Viewer/index.html , choosing 01930 for location, using the PVWATTS calculator at http://1.usa.gov/SVdENt , and entering the kW DC ratting of the 44 panels (10.560 kW) shows that you can expect to generate 5,898 kWh (kilo-watt hours) over 12 months (the calculator will show the breakdown by month). Just compare this with your last year’s electric bill to see if you’ll generate more, less, or the same solar PV electricity than was metered when you were just sucking electricity off National Grid.

    Also, with a grid-tied system there is no battery or storage … what you don’t use goes back into the grid (and you’re selling it National grid).

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    • Actually, if you put 10.560 kW into the calculator (for a 44 panel system) , the annual generated AC energy can be expected to be 11796 kWh … my example above was for a 22 panel system rated at 5.280 kW.

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  • To all of you who are skeptical out there…It’s true…we can run all operations of the wharf with the solar panels that been installed. Everything we currently use was taken into consideration when Revision Energy designed the system. After an energy audit we determined which appliances could be upgraded to be more energy efficient and how to more efficiently use the ones we have. For example our freezer/bait cooler is being upgraded and currently runs on a timer. Our lights will have sensors as soon as the electrician is available to install them. The pumps we use to circulate the water are NOTHING like the ones you have shown in your photos. As far as bait winches go…we use a small 1 ton Coffing Hoist. We are not a huge company…and we are a lobster company…which means we’re not sitting around the office all day with every light and the the ONE computer on unnecessarily. It means we are outside moving lobsters, bait, and boats. When the sun is shining, we have more than enough KW to power the wharf and all of its operations and the meters starts going backwards. Every bit of energy we don’t use at the moment goes directly into the grid and registers on our bill as a credit. We do NOT get any cash back for KW not used. Maine does not have that system in place.
    Another thing…we did not install panels for the media to have a story. We needed to cut costs. We have a green philosophy and wanted to extend that philosophy into our business plan. Yes, our customers need to know that are taking steps to be as environmentally responsible as we can in order to sustain our business, the lobster industry and meet the ever growing needs of our customers. The more customers know about sustainable practices and environmentally responsible businesses, the choosier they become. When choosing a lobster company, we want them to choose us…why? Do our lobsters taste any different than the ones from the guy down the road? No, of course not…but they’ll leave a better taste in your mouth knowing the lobsterman you bought them from is taking steps to achieve green certification.

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    • Thanks for the information Jim, that makes my day that there are people who are starting to think this out, update their old electrical, go solar, and save money. It may be just psychological but I bet your lobsters do taste better raised by the sun.

      You will have to come back a year from now and update us how it is all working. Let’s see, we have nay saying seagulls that should be breaking your panels and you’ll be breaking your back shoveling the snow off those panels. (That may have been from the other thread.) But if you can do this with Maine seagulls and Maine snow it should be easy to go solar in Gloucester. I want to eat some of these sun raised lobsters here.

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  • You should be using the closest location to Harpswell, ME if you want to get an accurate reading. The closest available station is Portland, ME where it shows that the yearly kWh is 13,513. It even breaks it down with a low of 776 kWh in November, and a high of 1290 kWh in July. That equals approximately 26 kWh per day in November, and 42 kWh per day in July.

    So yes Joey, they do pull 100 times more energy than you were running your equation off. 240 watts (as you said) x 100 = 24,000 watts/hour = 24 kWh. They are slated to pull in 2 kWh OVER that in the leanest of solar months, and close to DOUBLE that in July!

    Sounds like a hell of an investment to me if you can pony up the 25 G’s!

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    • Wait, unless you mean an average of 24,000 watts every hour, at least during the work day? Sooooo, that would be a total of 288 kWh between sunrise and sundown?

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