The Goal of the White Mountain Energy Project is to improve energy
quality and reliability, increase safety, reduce costs, and test
innovative technologies at WMRS field stations. The first phase
of this project will be to assess the energy situation at the upper
field station at Barcroft (and secondarily, Crooked Creek). The
current energy situation at Barcroft is problematic for several
Electricity bills are very large, totaling approximately $15,000
in 2002. Much of the electricity is used to heat buildings, an
expensive and inefficient use of electricity.
The power distribution system from the buried power lines run
independently to four distribution points. Running backup power
from the main station out to these points is not currently supported.
Certain users of the station require 3-phase current. This is
not currently available.
The electrical service is unreliable and difficult to repair,
causing serious safety concerns in winter. Power surges and voltage
changes damage electronic equipment.
To carry out this project, WMRS has teamed up with Professor Scott
Samuelsen and graduate students (Jim Meacham, Jim Maclay, Patrick
Couch and Ryan Gaylord) in the Advanced Power and Energy Program
(APEP) at UC Irvine.
The project team has monitored power consumption at Barcroft
and Crooked creek, analyzed energy needs via monitoring and simulation,
researched energy alternatives, and set up a photovoltaics test
bed on the Barcroft Pace Lab roof. Some of their recommendations
are shown above.
The team has also developed a phased strategy for implementation
which allows for incremental improvements depending upon funding
and time constraints.
In April 2005, WMRS submitted a proposal to the Field Stations
and Marine Laboratories (FSML) Improvement Program of the National
Science Foundation (NSF) for funding the core systems of the WMEP,
including a hydronic heating system, backup microturbine generators,
and a solar photovoltaic system.
Soon, WMRS and APEP will apply for funds to upgrade the renewable
energy systems capacity (e.g. wind and solar), and to install
a monitoring and controls test bed for testing new energy generation
technologies and control systems at high elevation.
Simulations indicate that WMEP will create many
benefits for Barcroft operations:
Triple redundancy for space heating, providing an important
safety margin for winter operations.
Triple redundancy for electrical service, with a battery-backed
system for core electrical functions such as lighting, propane
heating and communications.
Capability to keep station open all winter using stored propane
and environmental energy sources
Capability of going off-grid completely when buried line fails
Modular design facilitates later upgrades in capacity and energy
source, including experimental sources such as fuel cells, hydrogen
Capacity to add wind turbines, solar PV and solar hydronic
modules to provide clean, renewable energy generation. As these
capabilities are added the propane costs and electric bills will
The new energy sources will provide high quality “clean”
Reduction in overall energy costs of 20% or more, potentially
reaching 90% savings
The new system will provide a platform for energy systems research,
education and public interpretation.
Reliability and efficiency increase as each component is added
– synergy causes the whole to be greater than the sum of
the individual components. The key to this synergy is the parallel
operation of thermal water storage, battery electric storage,
and programmable control systems. When connected to the commercial
power grid, the ability to reverse-meter power also results in
Example of power monitoring data from 2004. This kind of detailed
record is used for simulating power demand scenarios under different
In October 2004, we simulated winter heating demand by turning
electric heaters on and off. For example, the simulation began at
8 am and ramped up to full capacity at around 9:30.
The APEP team has developed a quantitative dynamic simulation model
which illustrates the costs and benefits of integrating distributed
energy resources into the system.
The simulations show that the proposed system can readily convert
to a permanent off-grid system. This is important as our grid connection
is aging, and replacement would be prohibitively expensive.
Microturbine Generators are low-maintenance, low emissions,
and co-generate hot water for high overall efficiency Below: Capstone
Model C-30 (photo: Capstone Turbine Corporation)
Amorphous Silicon Photovoltaic Panel mounted on roof
of Pace Lab in April 2005. This test panel survived the winter and
remained snow-free since October 2004, showing the utility of using
flexible panels on the Pace Lab roof. WMEP calls for nearly complete
coverage of the south-facing roof.
The APEP team is investigating wind as an energy source
for Barcroft, but certain issues need to be resolved before this
type of energy can be captured. WMEP calls for installation of a
demonstration “Turby” unit to be sited at the Pace lab.
This schematic shows a model hydronic heating system
like the one that will be installed at Barcroft. The hot water storage
is planned to be much larger (4-6,000 gallons) and solar hydronic
panels will be added as funds become available. At the heart of
the system are two propane-powered “Munchkin” boilers
that are highly efficient at all demand levels.