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Guest Series: Jim Dickenson JEA Executive Director

Metro Jacksonville consistently offers the opportunity for our readers to absorb the editorials, personal accounts, and vocal opinions of some of the key players in the decision making process of our community. This week, Jim Dickenson reflects on his time as the CEO of Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA).

Published June 29, 2012 in Opinion      15 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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I doubt few people anticipated the impact Jacksonville’s utility would have on the community when it was established almost 119 years ago. JEA is now the seventh largest city owned electric utility in the country, and the largest city-owned electric utility and the second largest water and sewer utility in Florida. We serve close to 420,000 electric, 305,000 water and 230,000 sewer customers in Northeast Florida.

As a not-for-profit, community-owned utility, JEA is not owned by investors. JEA was created by the City of Jacksonville to serve those who live here and in the surrounding communities. The sole purpose of our business is to ensure the electric, water and sewer demands of our customers are met, both today and for generations to come. Our goal is to provide reliable services at a good value to our customers while ensuring our areas’ precious natural resources are protected.

We are locally owned and locally controlled. JEA is governed by a seven-member board of directors appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Board terms last four years and are strictly volunteer. The Mayor can reappoint a member to a second four-year term.  Our Board of Directors then appoints a CEO who selects a top tier of management referred to as the Executive Management Team (EMT).

I have seen so much change in the 39 years I’ve been with JEA. I started fresh out of Clemson as a young engineer in 1973 – just in time for the oil embargo. Jacksonville Electric Authority, as we were known then, could only produce electricity using oil. Rates skyrocketed as did customers’ bills.

Since then, we have worked hard to diversify our options for generating electricity. We can now take advantage of multiple fuel types and prices and pass those savings on to our customers – of which I am one. We produce electricity from coal, petroleum coke, oil, natural gas, solar, landfill gas and biogas. Fuel to generate electricity makes up nearly 40 percent of the total cost so it is imperative that we use the most economical fuel source for our customers. I am thrilled we are able to lower the fuel rate this year because of the dramatic decrease in natural gas prices.

In addition to electricity, we have water and sewer. We took over this service from the City of Jacksonville in 1997 and have invested almost $3 billion into improving it since then. We have taken it from one of the worst performing systems in the country to one of the best. Our current challenges include complying with ever increasing government regulations and ensuring that the wonderful source of our water, the Floridan aquifer, remains productive for years to come.

In February, I announced to the board I would not renew my contract for another term. It was important to me to accomplish what I set out to do when I took over as CEO in 2004 – ensure that JEA was fiscally sound and always poised to continue the essential services we provide to Northeast Florida. Through the efforts of many dedicated employees, JEA is on the right path to continue its strong legacy of serving this community. I am humbled to say I have been a part of it.

Editorial by Jim Dickenson







15 Comments

Garden guy

June 29, 2012, 06:50:01 AM
r yourI'd like to now when jea is going to start a no interest finance program for city citizens to get off of your dirty energy and help  put solar on as many homes in jax as possible? I think thats the least you all could do after years and years of rate  hikes while jea employees get raises and bonuses. Thank you for your cooperation

BrooklynSouth

June 29, 2012, 09:50:34 AM
Thanks for giving us insight into the organization of JEA and thanks for your service! It makes me glad to hear about people serving in government (or quasi-government) who are proud of the work they did to improve life for everyone.

wsansewjs

June 29, 2012, 10:54:28 AM
r yourI'd like to now when jea is going to start a no interest finance program for city citizens to get off of your dirty energy and help  put solar on as many homes in jax as possible? I think thats the least you all could do after years and years of rate  hikes while jea employees get raises and bonuses. Thank you for your cooperation

Yes, I understand your pain and frustration with JEA, however JEA has dramatically turned around and changed in the past 20 years with Mr. Dickenson's last 12 years at the helm. JEA is a heavily service-oriented utility at the mercy of the gas / oil price changes.

JEA did something that it has never done before in its own history, branching off a new section that provides a strong community support through sponsorships and charities that support science, math, engineering, technology, and entrepreneurship in our own backyard.

Overall, JEA did its job well, but it has little quirks there and there, so there is no need to be all fear-mongling and negative about it.

-Josh

ronchamblin

June 29, 2012, 11:39:26 AM
Beautiful, and positive picture Jim.  Let’s see if anyone successfully bashes it somehow.  Seems like a pretty simple scenario….. produce the needed electricity at the best cost to the Jacksonville customers.  What are the variables?  You’ve touched on the importance of being able to use a variety of fuels, which helps on the costs.  You’ve even touched upon the idea of solar.  And of course there is always the simple objective of seeking the most efficient way to do the thousands of tasks involved in any business. 

The solar option is a great way to go.  I wonder how feasible it will be in the coming decade or two to engage the solar technology so that the costs can be further moderated or lowered?

I’ve thought occasionally about placing turbine generators at various places in the deep channel of the St. Johns.  During the sixties I worked with a crew of divers near the Main Street Bridge.  We were placing cement bags around various pipes and cables which were exposed to the high currents in the lowest part of the channel.  We had two divers below, and the cement bags on a barge.  The barge fellows would hook the bags to a cable, and drop them to the divers, who would then place them around the pipes or cables.   I remember the high current during the tides.  We had to work only during the times when the tide was changing, and even then we would wear lead belts to keep us from being dragged downstream. 

In any case, the current is quite strong, and could easily rotate some well designed, geared turbine generators to produce electricity.  The feasibility of the project might not pass the test once the cost of installation and maintenance is known.  Perhaps a diameter of four to six feet would be the optimum size for the turbine/generators.  The plus side is that the generators would produce electricity 24 hours per day, except during the time of tide reversals.  The system could easily  be designed to produce electricity in either direction of rotation. 

One problem would be avoiding the existing pipes and cables already at the bottom of the channel.  Another would be to place some kind of baffles to protect the units from any submerged logs running down the river.  One of these submerged logs is what killed one of our divers while doing a project in the Midwest.  The channel might have to be deepened to account for the space taken up by the turbines.   

I wonder where the greatest water velocity lies in a channel of that type?  Perhaps it is not right at the bottom, but several feet from the bottom, right in the middle of the channel.
 
Possible to do?  Yes.  Feasible to do?  Perhaps.   


BrooklynSouth

June 29, 2012, 12:57:35 PM
I’ve thought occasionally about placing turbine generators at various places in the deep channel of the St. Johns.  During the sixties I worked with a crew of divers near the Main Street Bridge.  We were placing cement bags around various pipes and cables which were exposed to the high currents in the lowest part of the channel.  We had two divers below, and the cement bags on a barge.  The barge fellows would hook the bags to a cable, and drop them to the divers, who would then place them around the pipes or cables.   I remember the high current during the tides.  We had to work only during the times when the tide was changing, and even then we would wear lead belts to keep us from being dragged downstream. 

In any case, the current is quite strong, and could easily rotate some well designed, geared turbine generators to produce electricity.  The feasibility of the project might not pass the test once the cost of installation and maintenance is known.  Perhaps a diameter of four to six feet would be the optimum size for the turbine/generators.  The plus side is that the generators would produce electricity 24 hours per day, except during the time of tide reversals.  The system could easily  be designed to produce electricity in either direction of rotation. 

I live on the river, and I can tell you that even from the surface you can tell that it is always moving and moving fast. Yesterday I saw a sailboat float by the YMCA building going backwards at about 10 mph while the crew was scrambling to get the anchor up and the motor on. I stood on the riverwalk with morbid hope they would crash into the FEC train bridge, but they were able to turn the boat around and head for the drawbridge channel.  ;)

Tidal power! Fascinating idea!

ronchamblin

June 29, 2012, 05:14:43 PM
The highest velocity in the St. Johns River in the Jax area occurs right at the Main Street bridge because this is the narrowest point on the river.  All of the tidal waters moving in the wide parts of the river must travel through the venturi at the Main Street bridge …. but at a much higher velocity.  In other words, at the three mile wide part of the river, the channel might see a water speed of up to 5 mph in the channel.  I haven’t done the calculations but this might translate to 15 to 20 mph at the venturi at the Main Street bridge.  This means that there is an enormous amount of energy at the venturi point, waiting to be harnessed for electricity production……. and this, without any oil, coal, or gas, except to lubricate the turbine/generator bearings.

Although the tide stops only briefly four times during a 24 hour day for tide reversal, it looks like there are four 3-hour long periods of high velocity during the 24 hour day.  The velocity curve would be sinusoidal, so for the most part the water is always moving one way or the other.

Mr. Dickenson, for a free month of electricity for my three buildings, amounting to about $5,500, I would be willing to submit some conceptual drawings of a possible layout, along with some feasibility numbers on this potential windfall in electricity production.  Who knows, we might discover that four 4 to 6 foot diameter turbine/generaters could produce enough electricity for the entire city core.  This event would be bad news for the oil, gas, coal interests, as they depend on the huge sales of their products for bonuses etc.  But hey……. gotta make a living somehow.
   

wsansewjs

June 29, 2012, 05:19:56 PM
The highest velocity in the St. Johns River in the Jax area occurs right at the Main Street bridge because this is the narrowest point on the river.  All of the tidal waters moving in the wide parts of the river must travel through the venturi at the Main Street bridge …. but at a much higher velocity.  In other words, at the three mile wide part of the river, the channel might see a water speed of up to 5 mph in the channel.  I haven’t done the calculations but this might translate to 15 to 20 mph at the venturi at the Main Street bridge.  This means that there is an enormous amount of energy at the venturi point, waiting to be harnessed for electricity production……. and this, without any oil, coal, or gas, except to lubricate the turbine/generator bearings.

Although the tide stops only briefly four times during a 24 hour day for tide reversal, it looks like there are four 3-hour long periods of high velocity during the 24 hour day.  The velocity curve would be sinusoidal, so for the most part the water is always moving one way or the other.

Mr. Dickenson, for a free month of electricity for my three buildings, amounting to about $5,500, I would be willing to submit some conceptual drawings of a possible layout, along with some feasibility numbers on this potential windfall in electricity production.  Who knows, we might discover that four 4 to 6 foot diameter turbine/generaters could produce enough electricity for the entire city core.  This event would be bad news for the oil, gas, coal interests, as they depend on the huge sales of their products for bonuses etc.  But hey……. gotta make a living somehow.
 

Mr. Chamblin,

I hate to burst your bubbles, but JEA cannot give anyone free electricity. JEA actually HAVE to pay for their own electricity. By the way, I LOVED all of your stores. They were a source of my inspiration growing up as a kid thanks to my sister.

-Josh

ronchamblin

June 29, 2012, 05:27:30 PM
Thanks Josh.  Of course, the idea of free electricity is interesting, but impossible.  But I'm interested in decreasing the cost of it.  The use of the turbine/generators for electricity production would only eliminate the cost of oil, gas, or coal.  Engineering studies would determine if the cost of building, installing, and maintaining these river units would make for a feasible operation for the production of electricity.

Would be a fun project however.   

darctones

June 29, 2012, 06:42:09 PM
The St. Johns River is a very slow moving river, the max daily stream velocity is a little more than 3 FPS, or about 2 MPH.  The river has a large drainage basin, however the it only drops 30 FT over 310 miles, or about 0.002%.  This is not nearly enough to be feasible for hydroelectric.

(http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?cb_00060=on&cb_00055=on&format=gif_stats&begin_date=2012-03-01&end_date=2012-06-29&site_no=02246500)

Solar is a viable option, however it's not very useful for power companies.  Energy at that quantity cannot be stored, so they need to be able to generate more or less power quickly to match demand.  Unfortunately, we cannot control the sun.  In addition, all power companies are required to maintain a percentage of the historical peak usage over the current demand (to avoid power outages).

The way for our community to use more solar should be as a reduction in demand.  If we install solar units on our homes, we will buy less electricity from the grid.  As the historical peak decreases, JEA will need less capacity available.  We will save energy and money.

Jacksonville's most reliable supply side renewable fuel is biogas and landfill gas.  Within the next year, JEA's oldest treatment plant will be able to generate all of it's electricity on-site!  This project has won several international awards for it's innovative design.

ronchamblin

June 29, 2012, 08:55:16 PM
Good data darctones.  Looks like the instruments used were located at a point to give us good data.  Given that the Main Street location is about 15% or so less in width as compared to the Acosta Bridge area might allow for a small increase in velocity, but only perhaps to 3.2 fps or so.

When we were doing the sand bagging project at the Main Street bridge in the 1960’s, we could work only about two hours during the time the tide was changing direction because we could not stay put with the current.  It certainly seemed like a greater velocity than 1 or 2 mph.  I would like to see a gauge near the bottom of the channel at the Main Street bridge.   

I agree that the lower velocity of only 2 mph means that even though it would probably turn the relatively small turbines, it would not be enough to generate enough electricity to make it feasible.  Just for curiosity, I would like to find some data on turbine/generator units designed and tested for use on river systems like the St. Johns, that is, with tidal velocities with a max of only 2 mph.

But yes.....  I think you are correct in stating that the low velocity will not allow for a feasible system.  Oh well, back to the drawing board.         

RiversideLoki

June 29, 2012, 09:05:33 PM
Velocity isn't the main factor in generation of electricity with tidal turbines, Volume of water is. The volume of water at that point in the river is pretty significant, even if it isn't moving that fast, it has more than enough energy in it to turn a turbine. Try and swim staying put at that point in the river during a tide shift. I dare ya!

The main hurdle is the hazard that tidal turbines that aren't designed right would pose to wildlife and boaters. They would have to be large-blade slow moving turbines and that makes them very large.

Tidal is a great idea, but that portion of the river just seems to small to accommodate them.

ronchamblin

June 29, 2012, 09:26:08 PM
I was thinking, RLoki, that any turbine would be located near the bottom, and therefore where only fish would be, and not manatees (I presume).  The smaller fish would probably just pass through the turbine.  And the turbine would have protective baffles on each end to avoid contact with submerged logs and large fish.   

I agree that the high volume, along with the steady velocity, although slow, might surprise us as to the amount of rotational force it would apply to a turbine/generator.  I will try to find some data on some existing units.

There would probably be a gearbox so that the generator would turn faster than the turbine. 

darctones

June 30, 2012, 12:57:46 AM
You're on the right path.  It's not so much the volume of water, but the flow or volume of water over time.  The two are related, given the area and velocity you can determine flow and visa versa.  A good website is here (http://www.mpoweruk.com/hydro_power.htm).

There are several other problems outside the lack of potential energy and environmental concerns.  For example, the upper soil layers in our area are largely sedimentary sand (in some places several hundred feet thick).  This is one of the primary problems with hydroelectric facilities (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE771AdF5dM).

Also, these small river turbines are not very efficient and unfortunately simply changing the gear ratio will not improve it.  Actually, by adding a gearbox you will create more energy loss due to friction and further reduce efficiency.

Ironically, the velocities are lower at the bottom of the river because of friction from the river bed.  Here is a decent image illustrating this point (http://www.paic.lv/images/projekti_1_2.gif).

The St. Johns River is simply not a good candidate for hydroelectric production.  Our best bet is to reduce energy usage through better insulation and to reduce peak power demand with residential solar panels.

Here is another related site (http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Hydro/FlowOfRiver/FlowOfRiver.htm) and keep in mind that the average US home uses 1000kWh per month.

ronchamblin

June 30, 2012, 04:03:56 AM
You're on the right path.  It's not so much the volume of water, but the flow or volume of water over time.  The two are related, given the area and velocity you can determine flow and visa versa.  A good website is here (http://www.mpoweruk.com/hydro_power.htm).
.....................

The St. Johns River is simply not a good candidate for hydroelectric production.  Our best bet is to reduce energy usage through better insulation and to reduce peak power demand with residential solar panels.


What a site darctones.  Electropaedia is phenomenal, taming us dreamers of free or easy power.  I recommend the site for anyone desiring to contemplate the world of energy production and storage technologies. 

In any case, Euler’s Turbine equation of many years ago shows that one of the most important limiting factors in our river environment is “Q”, the fluid flow rate.  This low number will limit the power production to a figure too low for a practical turbine/generator installation in the river.

And your point above about solar and insulation is well taken.  Looks like the solar option is one of the best to utilize and develop, along with increasing the efficiency of all structures using electricity to prevent energy loses.

Actually, all of my buildings have flat roofs, which one would think suitable for solar panel installation.  I have some panels of about two sq. ft., using them for gate operation. 

If my flat roofs did not require constant maintenance, I would entertain the idea of placing solar panels on them.    But imagine the problems with roof maintenance if one had to work around all the panels. 

The key would be to design roof systems from the start to have the solar panels ..... roofs that would not have the maintenance problems the typical flat roofs of today have. 

Garden guy

June 30, 2012, 06:48:21 AM
While I'm sure hes doing a great job to many and what he does do is appreciated but unless hes got a plan or ideas on how to step away from the nasty coal thats brought into our city daily and step towards clean renewable energy. If theres no plans we are leaving our precious world worse off because of our action and in actions. Great energy leader?
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