All the parts (round-to-square adapter, nozzle, cassette and cassette housing, generator and all the control panels) were delivered to the site in May 2016. With a team from Natel here, we were able to get all the parts assembled and operating by the end of the month.
That allowed us to put the unit into operation and conduct a series of operational tests. Unfortunately, we in Maine experienced a serious drought, starting about then, and as a result were only able to run short tests without drawing down the pond levels.
The good news was that we had plenty of down time to make a series of modifications to the turbine parts and operations, including shipping the cassette and its housing back to Alameda for Natel to make some modifications in their plant. We also could install the downstream eel passage without having to deal with heavy water flows.
The turbine became fully operational by the end of October, but still no water. Again, that allowed us to further refine the control mechanisms and to get into the cold weather to explore the various issues of operating the hydropower in below-zero conditions. Working with Natel our project manager, Jim Rorden, and our electrician, Davey Small, devised a series of protection mechanisms to manage all conditions (including the grid going down for an extensive period as a result of a winter storm).
The drought conditions continued until just the last couple of weeks when we have finally gotten some decent rain and snowfall in Freedom. We are anticipating beginning routine operations shortly, with only one or two technical issues still to be worked out, including final user-friendly software that will allow us to monitor and manage the unit’s performance electronically. At this point the team from Natel is still managing the unit remotely from Alameda as they monitor performance.
The Mill continues to be a vibrant community asset.
The Mill School currently operates in the second floor of the renovated mill building. Fully enrolled for its fourth year, the school continues to provide an exciting, innovative educational program for children ages 6 to 14.
The Lost Kitchen has just wound up its third year. This restaurant has experienced great success, with lots of critical acclaim and now operates from April through December on a one-seating, “prix fixe” menu, four nights a week. They will open for reservations on April 1 for 2017 and last year booked up for the entire year by the end of that first week of April. Also, Erin French has produced a cookbook, published by Random House, entitled “The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine”. It will be released on May 2, 2017.