Research Report 2008

Use what you have to change what you use

Can 500 people use more than one million litres of diesel fuel a year? They can if it’s the only source they have to generate electricity. Port Hope Simpson, in Labrador, is an example of a small, isolated community that relies on gas generators to heat and power homes and businesses. Recognizing the precarious future of non-renewable energy resources and global fuel prices, Dr. Tariq Iqbal of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science saw an opportunity.

Combat a worldwide problem by starting with a grassroots solution.

Dr. Iqbal found renewable energy systems based on the powers of sun, wind and water… resources Labrador has in abundance. He is developing hybrid energy systems for the people of Port Hope Simpson, Cartwright and Battle Harbour using technologies such as wind turbines, hydrogen electrolyzers and photovoltaic panels. These new systems could reduce diesel consumption by 57 per cent.

What is the potential for harnessing local rivers, the sun, wind and biofuels, and what are the challenges of connecting them all together in one seamless energy source? Dr. Iqbal received funding from the Memorial’s Harris Centre to research a new hybrid energy system for Port Hope Simpson (pop. 535) and Cartwright (pop. of 628) that will see a reduction in the reliance on diesel-generated power. “Port Hope Simpson consumes nearly 1 million litres of diesel fuel every year while Cartwright’s diesel generators consume more than 1.2 million litres of fuel every year,” says Dr. Iqbal when talking about his motivation for selecting these communities for his research. “Electricity generation by this method is very expensive due to the ever increasing cost of the fuel and the impact of high fuel cost is very significant on remote communities.”

“Oil and gas are worldwide commodities and their prices cannot be controlled regionally. I believe worldwide fossil fuel production cannot be increased or kept constant therefore increasing world demand is leading to higher prices. The only mitigation strategy is switch to renewable energy.”

The release of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador first ever Energy Plan, Focusing Our Energy, outlined the province’s plans for developing the “abundance of natural resource wealth” found in the province including wind and other energy sources. The plan is the province’s vision to help “achieve self-reliance and prosperity, as well as develop sustainable green energy solutions for the 21st century.”

Dr. Iqbal hopes the province is committed to the development of wind and other renewable energy sources like small hydro. He would like to see more wind projects like St. Lawrence and Fermeuse being approved by the government in the near future.

He completed a similar study for Battle Harbour last year also with funding from the Harris Centre that showed that a hybrid system could reduce diesel consumption from 30,000 litres a year to 13,000 litre a year during the tourism season from June to September, resulting in a 57 per cent decrease. The designed hybrid system consisted of a wind turbine, photovoltaic panels, battery bank, inverters and existing generator. Consideration was also given to the incorporation of a wind-diesel/hydrogen electrolyzer and fuel cell-based systems as an alternate package. A year-long on-site data collection was undertaken, and a hybrid system was designed based on this data. A detailed feasibility study was also completed.

“There are times the system only uses 1/6th of the diesel normally used,” he said. “In the newly designed systems only 36 per cent of the energy comes from diesel, 50 per cent from wind and the remainder from a micro hydro unit. Initial capital cost of the new hybrid system would be about $134,000 and it would attract more tourists to Battle Harbour,” Dr. Iqbal explained.

Copyright © 2008 Memorial University of Newfoundland