Battle of the Mad Scientists- Damon Cummings vs Paul Morrison Who Ya Got? Poll- Analysis and Poll At Bottom

In regards to the post-

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Read the two mad scientists analysis and vote in the poll below as to who has it more right.

It’s Paul Morrison and his Rubber Duck vs Damon Cummings In A Brainiac Deathmatch

Paul Morrison Analysis-

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.

Damon Cummings Analysis-

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.

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.

Vote Here-

Vote here-

22 thoughts on “Battle of the Mad Scientists- Damon Cummings vs Paul Morrison Who Ya Got? Poll- Analysis and Poll At Bottom

  1. As far as I can see, there is no difference between Paul’s analysis of peak solar power produced and mine. We are both talking about 10 Kw. He is emphasizing that they are feeding the grid with solar when the neighborhood is running air conditioners. Well, maybe, but I suspect the refrigeration compressors at the wharf run then as well. From my own experience with power for lobster tank pumps, I fear they alone would pretty well use up the 10 Kw.


    1. That is not to say that the project should not be done or is a waste of money. My point, like Joey’s, is that there is no way the panels can fully supply the needs of the business. However as Paul points out, every little bit helps.


    2. And I am also using numbers that are peak output which as everyone knows who has visited Maine, it isn’t the sunshine capital. But half at 5 kwh with some 10 kwh, is not just a few lightbulbs. Someone in my lab just had this installation done on his farm and the numbers are impressive. After the initial installation there is really nothing to do but watch your electric bill get smaller.

      A lobster dock is likely the last place for innovation for efficient use of electricity but we are all burning or should be burning a lot less juice then we used to because all appliances are getting more efficient. Who knows what the average house will be using in kwh ten years from now? But I bet it is a bit less than now. So why not try solar?

      I think of these installations like the lobster dock as test sites. With practice we can get better. With the solar panels that are on the drawing boards right now we can make panels that are 5 times more powerful. We have to invest in them and produce them before the installation price can drop. Or we sit around whining and the Chinese will yet again walk away with the technology.

      But no, Congress might go ahead with discretionary spending cuts marked to begin on January 1 that will equal a 25% cut of this type of research and investment. Another future economic engine flushed down the toilet.


  2. These panels are located in Maine, not the tropics. For the 4 months (Oct 21-Feb 21) that the sun is lowest, you’re going to be lucky to get 1/2 the maximum output for about 4 hours per day (10 AM-2 PM). That is, if it’s sunny. Also, you’re going to need to keep the snow cleared off them during the winter months. Not worth the effort in northern climates in my opinion.


    1. A solar panel is installed at the same angle as the latitude of the installation. Bangor being at 45 latitude would mean that the panels would be tilted to 45 degrees. It is unlikely much snow would build up at that angle although the panels still get quite a bit of light through bright white snow.


      1. Unlikely that snow would build up on glass panels at 45 degree angle? Tell that to the folks that have to get up 10 minutes earlier after a snowfall in the winter to clear the snow off the windshield, rear window and oft times the side windows.


  3. Woah there Nelly, even if I brought a gun to this knife fight I would lose. Damon got his PhD in Ocean Engineering from MIT in 1968. This is the sort of thing he studied:

    Go to page 19. I don’t even know what those squiggly marks are. I think it is some kind of math because there are numbers in there.

    Unfair contest except I can vote another time from my iPhone. 😉


  4. Well, my field is hydrodynamics, not solar panels, but in fact I have no argument with either Paul or even with Rubber Duck. Our take on the engineering is the same. I chose to address the claim that the panels could supply all the power the facility needed. That feat is just plain not possible with the solar panels used. On the other hand any contribution helps as Paul and Rubber Duck point out and every year the efficiency and cost per kilowatt comes down as a result of investment and research. What the 44 panels accomplish is about the peak power for a residence with serious air conditioning and appliance loads. That certainly is significant, but not enough to run a lobster wharf with pumps and refrigeration and machinery.
    The squiggly lines in my doctoral thesis are integral signs, which I apologize for drawing so poorly in 1968 that neither Paul nor the Duck could read them. That was the dark ages and I did the text with typesetting software we developed for the Boston Globe by teletype connection to a mainframe 7094 as I recall. However I had to write in equations by hand back then because of the limited characters available on the teletype machine.


  5. I disagree with this part of Paul’s analysis because I don’t believe it can generate enough power to run the heavy loads on those pumps and compressors.-
    “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.”

    I do agree that if the costs are paid back in 5 years and there are no mechanical failures that would be fantastic but if you heard the sound that the clam shells make when they hit our roof from the seagulls dropping them from high altitudes to break them open, you might be replacing quite a few clam busted panels.


    1. I agree with Joey C on this, there aren’t enough panels there to fully power the business.

      But I also agree that there is some benefit just the same.

      Here is a chart that shows horsepower to kw conversions:

      horse power = kilowatts
      10 = 7.355
      20 = 14.710
      30 = 22.065
      40 = 29.420
      50 = 36.775
      100 = 73.550
      500 = 367.749
      1000 = 735.499
      5000 = 3677.494

      kW = hp
      1.0 = 1.360
      2.0 = 2.719
      3.0 = 4.079
      4.0 = 5.438
      5.0 = 6.798
      6.0 = 8.158
      7.0 = 9.517
      8.0 = 10.877
      9.0 = 12.237

      You can’t evaluate this using the nameplate rating of the service or fuses – a 20amp fuse or 200 amp service supplying lights that are turned off are passing zero load, you really have to study the actual equipment that’s running.

      Joe said that he had 5 water circ pumps running, between 2.5 and 5 hp each (nameplate). The actual electrical load will vary with a number of conditions, such as water flow and head, but you can see from the second section of the table that 8.0 hp of load will consume more than the 10.5 kw of possible output from the panels.

      One of the mad scientists commented that having solar panels could help avoid building power plants, but that’s not true – the power has to be provided (the air conditioners will be expected to run) even during the night or during cloudy days. That’s one of the problems with some of the “renewable” sources, like solar or wind, – they are “interruptable” by nature, which is out of our control. So quick starting plants, like the one proposed to replace Salem Harbor, need to be available to step in when needed.

      One more thought – go to, and click on “iso-express” in the upper right. You will see information about pricing and power system conditions. One disturbing thing – during recent days the share of natural gas holding up the grid has been floating around 70-75% – far too much for any one fuel. We need more diversity, otherwise a disruption to the gas supply (which happens frequently during the winter, when the supplies to power plants are restricted to keep industrial and heating gas users fed) could cause huge problems.

      Just another 2 cents


      1. My interjecting that this could help so much that an extra power plant would not be needed is in the very long term and taking all resources into account. In New England power plants like the quick start in Salem need to be built to cover the peak usage. Peak usage in New England is on the hot sunny days when AC usage peaks. What is up in the sky at exactly the same time? When it gets cloudy solar efficiency drops but so does peak usage at exactly the same time. Solar panels on local rooftops across New England could feed back into the grid filling in when the kwh are the most needed.

        The kicker that the brainiacs at MIT are figuring out is next generation battery technology. Feeding the grid is fine but watts are lost in transport. Why not store and use locally? New battery technology as well as the new solar panel technology which is on the drawing board at MIT in combo would kick ass. (The Solyndra technology that China stole is old tech like what is going on this roof.) What we need to do is to continue to pay for research and development of the new stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my, the glass in those panels is tempered and crack resistant, but a serious Homie attack could overwhelm the defenses. Sometimes they drop rocks!
    I wonder if where they are a tidal mill would not be more cost effective.


  7. Thank you Paul and Damon for your analysis of solar power produced–so interesting and informative–and thank you Joey for providing the forum. As both Paul and Damon pointed out, every little bit helps and I hope it works to Jim Merryman’s advantage! I would love to install solar panels on my roof, which faces south, and now I know who to call for advice!


  8. I am reading this at Bailey Island, ME–part of Harpswell. We rented a house here for the week and leave tomorrow so will check this out before we head back to Cape Ann!


  9. Just wondering. Don’t know if this relates but will the huge wind turbine that’s being installed help with our electricity bills? Also wondering if birds will be caught in it.


    1. The turbines going to the Gloucester Engineering site will help pay the city government electric bills, thereby presumably reducing our real estate taxes if the council does not vote to use the reduction in expenses to fund a school in Dogtown or something.
      There is some danger in general of birds being hit by wind turbine blades. However I have a sneaking suspicion that these turbines are so large in diameter that their rpm will be low enough for bird evasive tactics to be effective. The tip speed will still be high, but the blade will be very obvious compared to a small diameter high rpm installation. I do not know, but that would be my guess.


  10. For the rest of us, it is always nice to see another picture of Mr. Winch. By the way, don’t forget to plug in your new forklift you’ll need to get to take advantage of the banked load power.


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