'Promising' P.E.I. hydroelectric project featured in new book about King Charles III
Aslan Renewables will use small turbines to power up P.E.I.'s decommissioned dams
Prince Edward Island's Andrew Murray will be part of the birthday celebrations for King Charles III, which include the launch of a new book featuring the monarch's vision for his reign and related stories from around the Commonwealth.
It amounts to a very public debut for a project that has been in development for three years in Murray's home province of P.E.I., breathing new life into former dams to generate green energy.
The book, called King Charles III: The Leadership and Vision of a Modern Monarch, features stories from around the world. One of the pages is dedicated to Aslan Renewables, the company Murray launched a few years ago in Stratford, P.E.I.
The 36-year-old tech entrepreneur said receiving a message from the Royal Family's publishing house was quite a surprise.
"It was a really unique day, obviously, a fantastic honour for the company and the project, something that we weren't expecting at all," Murray said.
"They were looking for companies and projects within the Commonwealth that really reflected the King's mission, his vision as a monarch, and what we're doing here on P.E.I. really aligned with those values."
Recycling old dams
The concept came to Murray during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he and his father would go on trips to explore the Island landscape as a diversion, away from crowded places. One of the destinations was the scenic and historic MacLures Pond dam in Murray River.
"What we found at sites like MacLures and many, many other sites across the Island was that we had a similar configuration of box dam," he said.
"What we've done is develop a modern system to actually bring these retired dam sites back online. Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, these would have been the sites of water mills, old water wheels, that powered industry in our small communities — and today we aim to bring them back to life."
Murray said governments around the world retired the box dams half a century ago as they moved toward larger-scale power generation.
He said there are 170 potential sites across P.E.I. alone, and tens of thousands across Canada.
Murray said Aslan has signed a power purchase agreement with the P.E.I. government, and the power generated by the dam turbines will be fed into the Maritime Electric grid.
The pilot project will include three dams and could supply more than 350 megawatt hours per year.
"A site like MacLures, or the Morell watershed, each one of these sites can power about 15 to 20 homes year-round on a renewable footprint," Murray said.
Obviously, [it's] a fantastic honour for the company and the project, something that we weren't expecting at all.— Andrew Murray, Aslan Renewables
"When we start to repeat that project across the entire nation, it scales incredibly well.
"We want that same approach to be applied in other provinces, even other countries."
Easy to replicate
Murray said one of the biggest challenges was creating a turbine unit that would be easy to both produce and use.
"We wanted to make sure that it was something that fit our local ecology, that was not disruptive to fish populations," he said. "But also we wanted to make sure that the configuration could be easily repeated."
Murray said Aslan Renewables is hoping to take the concept global, as a way to provide an easy, low cost way to generate power for small communities.
"The light scale of each one of these installations allows for us to think about shipping them overseas, especially into the communities where they're going to have the most impact," he said.
"When we're generating energy for 15 to 20 homes here in Canada, it may not seem like a lot. But if we apply that same model to rural communities or developing nations, places like Southeast Asia or the Bahamas, the impact there could be tremendous."
Murray said each of the sites will have four to six turbines. The units are not submerged, making them easy to work with.
Murray has been talking to UPEI's Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering about projects using the Aslan technology.
Assistant professor Kuljeet Grewal said the cost of the new dam technology is currently more per kilowatt hour than wind or solar. That's based on the installation cost of $65,000 to $70,000 per dam, to generate 120 MWh of energy annually per site.
But he said the average life span of solar and wind turbines are 20 to 25 years, compared to 45 years for hydroelectric projects, so the average cost per unit of producing electricity becomes more comparable over time.
"It seems promising," Grewal said. "But the biggest advantage is it's a stable form of electricity in comparison with wind and solar. Because of weather variability, wind and solar are highly unpredictable sources of energy, but this technology is a more stable form of electricity that is much easier to handle at grid."
I was talking to Andrew last year and he mentioned his vision of having something similar to IKEA furniture, so that they can send out those turbines and people can install those turbines.— Kuljeet Grewal, UPEI Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering
Grewal said the small size of the units is also important.
"I was talking to Andrew last year and he mentioned his vision of having something similar to IKEA furniture so that they can send out those turbines and people can install those turbines, " he said.
That is a very important consideration for remote communities especially, said Grewal.
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"If you consider Northern Canada, where people are relying on diesel for their power requirements, this sort of project can be really beneficial."
Murray said they are starting with rivers first, as a smaller pilot project, but the company does plan to use the same approach for inshore tidal projects down the road.