VIDEO–Island Country Fest entrepreneur is running silent green

LITTLE CURRENT—Local entrepreneur Craig Timmermans is perhaps best known on Manitoulin Island as co-owner of 100.7 The Island country music station and the driving force behind Country Fest, the annual Manitoulin Island country music festival, but lately the self-confessed inveterate tinkerer and early technology adopter has been delving into the world of green energy generation.

The Expositor caught up with Mr. Timmermans as he was firing up his latest project, a bio-diesel-powered microFit generator located in a garage beside his radio station offices in Little Current.

Mr. Timmermans admits there was more to his fascination with green energy and generation than an esoteric fascination with the genre. Like many Northerners, the radio station operator has a dread of going to pick up his hydro bill every month. “It runs over $900 a month,” he said. “I really needed to find a way to deal with those costs.”

The answer came to him in the form of a vintage diesel engine Mr. Timmermans rebuilt to provide an emergency backup power supply for his radio station. Mr. Timmermans modified the engine to run on biodiesel and built a reclamation system to clean and prepare restaurant grease to run the engine. That system was to form the heart of a green electricity power generation plant.

The entrepreneur was awaiting the arrival of an electical inspector to provide the final okay to hook the system up the grid when he provided a tour of the facility.

Approaching the garage, Mr. Timmermans handed The Expositor a set of noise cancelling earmuffs, although the amount of sound apparent while standing beside the building seemed to suggest their use would be superfluous. “Trust me, you’ll want them,” he laughed.

Once inside with the generators fired up to full steam, the inventor was quickly proven right, as the engines roared when their full-throated retro glory was unleashed. Another similar engine sat on a workstand nearby, while a third modern engine acts as a companion to the running diesel. “I run them alternately to give them a rest,” he said. “I don’t want to run them 24/7.” Counterintuitively, the older engine runs quieter than the new one, he said.

A series of heat exchangers to ensure the bio-fuel runs smoothly is an invention inspired by an idea suggested by his Kelly. Mr. Timmermans constructed the system. “Go figure,” Ms. Timmermans shrugged with a grin, adding with a chuckle, “I am actually starting to understand him when he talks about this stuff too.”

A series of electrical panel cuts allows the engines to be isolated and cut out of the grid upon demand and to convert the power to DC current so it can be properly synced to match the phase used by the hydro lines.

“It makes more economic sense to sell the power to Hydro (One) to offset our energy bills than to use the power directly ourselves,” noted Mr. Timmermans. The system also produces more power than the radio station requires in any event.

Stepping outside the building into the crisp clear winter air another counterintuitive element to the system becomes apparent. There is not a hint of the scent of French fries or even diesel fuel.

“Biodiesel runs much cleaner than traditional diesel fuel does,” noted Mr. Timmermans. “It is a lot better for the environment.”

The entrepreneur said he was hoping to enter into a partnership with the North east Town to install a collection station at the town’s landfill. “The more we can keep from going into the landfill the better for all of us,” he said. “It would be a win-win solution for everybody.”

Mr. Timmermans plans to add the second diesel generator into the system to allow for greater scalability. “I would like to have them both powering the same generator,” he said. “Then, if we need more power, we could just fire up the second system.”

Mr. Timmermans said that he is convinced that there are amazing changes coming to the energy market in the near future. “Smart appliances will soon be available that can wait until energy costs drop during the day to start washing your clothes,” he said. “Europe is way ahead of us in some places. They even have subsidies for buying an electric car that the energy company can use to store power when you are not using it.”