On the Cutting Edge of Hydropower

Madison Farms

Madison Farms Implementing Innovative Hydropower Technology
BY CLAIRE FRANELL

Madison Farms in Echo began using a regenerative drive module this spring to generate electricity during the process of aquifer storage and recovery.

Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) is the process of injecting potable water into an aquifer for long-term storage. Kent Madison patented the 3R Valve through which the water is injected.

Madison compared the injection process to putting red dye down a straw into a glass of ice water.

“The little red bubble would build at the bottom of the straw,” Madison said. “It displaces the water that’s in there and pushes the native water back out of the way, so you end up with this bubble of your injected water that’s all surrounded by the native water.”

The displaced water becomes a sort of dam stacked above the natural groundwater level. In the case of Madison Farms, this “dam” is 450 feet high.

“It’s energy potential because you’ve got water stacked up 450 feet above the static level of the aquifer. If you allow that water’s energy potential to go through the pump bowls backwards, the pump itself will spin in reverse,” Madison said.

He explained that when certain pump motors used for aquifer injection spin fast enough in reverse, they become generators. “The problem is you can’t spin them fast enough because a pump’s bowls are designed to be efficient to pump water out of the ground and not efficient when water flows back through them,” said Madison.

To overcome this problem, Madison Farms uses a variable frequency drive (VFD), which runs in the same direction as the pump bowls, but slower than the water’s force would naturally cause the bowls to run.

“The VFD creates an electronic brake just like on a Prius,” Madison said. “When you let your foot off the gas on a Prius and the thing starts to go into regenerative mode, the electric motors on the Prius become a generator, and they charge the batteries as the Prius slows down.”

Madison says that if the Umatilla Basin decides to use ASR in efforts to rebuild the area’s aquifers, regenerative drive technology would be a cost-effective option.

“Now you’re generating electricity while you’re shoving water down the well,” he said. “Literally, you’re turning your meter backwards and you’re sending power back onto the grid in the process.” He said that regenerative drive technology reduces the energy cost of ASR by about 40 percent.

Madison Farms prototyped the regenerative drive technology for the Oregon Energy Trust. Right now, Madison and Pendleton Public Works Director Bob Patterson are the only ones in Oregon using this type of system.

Madison Farms currently has the only regenerative drive ASR project for agricultural use. The Tualatin Water District plans to implement regenerative drive technology this fall.

“I haven’t heard anyone else doing it as of yet,” said Madison.

To learn more about regenerative drive technology, visit the hydro generation page at 3rvalve.com.

Echo farmer designs, patents two-way water valve.

By Dean Brickey
of the East Oregonian

ECHO — When he was told he couldn’t pump from his well, farmer Kent Madison set out to inject water back into it.

Now, more than a decade later, Madison has designed and patented a two-way valve for just that purpose.  He’s also sold one of to the city of Tigard, which plans to use the valve to help recharge one of its wells.

Madison, a third-generation farmer, began considering recharging the ground with potable water in the early 1990s after the Oregon Water Resources Department ordered him to quit using a 750-foot deep well at Madison Farms.  With junior water rights on Butter Creek, Madison was told he could no longer use his well in the critical groundwater area.

He also learned his plan to pump water into the well was illegal in Oregon, so he and former state Rep.  Chuck Norris set out to change the law.  Norris’s legislation to allow recharging the aquifer passed, and Madison helped write the administrative rules that allow the state to issue limited licenses for experimental purposes.

Madison said Salem obtained the first license.  Pendleton has license No. 6, issued in March 2003.  It’s using equipment developed before Madison’s aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) valve was manufactured.

“Pendleton will give consideration to purchase of Madison’s valve in the future as our ASR program expands,” said Bob Patterson, Pendleton public works director.  “But that looks to be in the distant future at this time.  Our current down-hole valve is working well for us.”

Madison’s license is No. 7.  He’s using the first ASR valve he designed in his own well.  His neighbor, Mike McCarty, has license No. 8.  McCarty bought Madison’s second valve.  It’s been built and is awaiting installation.

“It kinda acts like a booster pump when there’s not enough pressure, and a relief valve when there’s too much,” Madison said, describing how his valve works in a water system that has more than one source and storage that fills and empties throughout the day.

In April, Madison registered with the Oregon Corporation Division as 3R Valve, a limited liability company.  His three Rs are “recharge, regulate and recover,” which his stainless steel valve allows.

Madison said his second R — regulate — is what makes his valve different from the other two marketed, which he found on the Internet.

“I didn’t like the technology,” he said.  “I didn’t like the way they operated.  I saw flaws.”

Madison’s 3R valve employs a series of holes drilled in the hollow, stainless steel cylinder and a hard plastic, hydraulic sleeve inside that slides to either cover the holes or open all or part of them.  The valve is opened to allow water to be injected into the ground; it is closed when the pump operates to draw water out.

An indicator on the control panel tells the operator the valve’s position.

He sold his third valve in April to a contractor who’s working on an ASR well for Tigard.  Gordon’s Electric employees have wired the control panel for it, and workers at Eastern Oregon Machine are manufacturing the valve.  It should be ready to ship by mid-November, Madison said.

Brian Rager, Tigard’s assistant public works director, said he expects the contractor, Schneider Equipment Inc. of St. Paul, to install the 3R valve next month.

“This will be our second ASR well,” Rager said.  “The first one does not have a down-hole control valve.  Our consultants tell us we’ll be able to control the flow into the well as well as out.  We hope that it will eliminate any issues such as air entrapment.”

Rager said Tigard has problems with air being trapped in the first ASR well because the water falls into it rather than being injected under pressure.

Tigard’s average water usage is 6-7 million gallons per day, Rager said, with a peak summer usage of up to 14 mgd.

“We’re hoping to be able to inject more than 100 million gallons this winter,” he said.

Stan Schneider of Schneider Equipment declined to say how much his company paid for the 3R valve.  He said it was less expensive than the other two available, but he’s taking a higher risk with Madison’s valve because it doesn’t have a track record.

Larry Eaton of Groundwater Solutions Inc. in Portland, a hydrogeology firm working for Tigard, agreed, but said his firm included Madison’s valve as one of three the city could use.

“The 3R valve looks, in principal, like a very good valve from a design standpoint,” Eaton said.

Madison is hoping Tigard’s experience with his valve will lead to a growing interest in ASR technology.  He’s already received queries from Chandler, Ariz., and Las Vegas.  And he hopes growing interest will spawn a new industry in Umatilla County, mass manufacturing of his 3R valves.

“We’re excited about the industry,” Madison said.  “I think it’s got a huge, worldwide market.  We hope it’s one of the things that’s going to diversify our operation — so farming can become my hobby.”

Echo inventor begins testing new valve in new way

By Dean Brickey
of the East Oregonian

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Paul Wattenburger, senior engineer with IRZ Consulting, listens to Kent Madison as he shows his new valve Wednesday, west of Echo. Staff photo by E.J. Harris.

ECHO — Kent Madison applied new technology in an innovative way Wednesday when he began injecting treated groundwater into the earth.

The owner of Madison Farms believes he’s the first to us aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) in agriculture. Using a valve he designed and had built in Hermiston, Madison began injecting water into the ground at 400 gallons per minute.

“It’s going as expected, which is real well. It’s staying right around my well,” Madison said. “It goes down and pushes the native groundwater away from my well. It creates a bubble inside the native groundwater.”

Pendleton is among a handful of cities that uses ASR, storing treated water during low-demand times for use during high-demand times. Tigard also has begun the practice and purchased one of Madison’s patented valves to control water flow.

“It’s working like a champ,” Madison said of the Tigard project.

Paul Wattenburger, senior engineer at IRZ Consulting in Hermiston, said Madison is “really thinking outside of the box.”

Wattenburger helped Madison file an Oregon Water Resources Department application for the agriculture project. The engineer created technical drawings of Madison’s valve and his system. He also helped Madison with design specifications.

“One of the things he had questions about was ‘head loss,’ ” Wattenburger said. That means the reduction in pressure as water flows though the valve.

Wattenburger said using the process for agricultural purposes is more expensive than for cities, where the cost can be spread among thousands of users. He said the ultimate value to Madison may be in selling his valve.

“He’s developed a very unique approach,” Wattenburger said. “Recharge valves are complicated and none of the ones out there have worked really well.”

Madison 3R (Recharge, Regulate and Recover) valve has “great performance characteristics and life,” Wattenburger said, but time will tell if it works.

“If it continues to perform as it does right out of the box years down the road, and doesn’t have to be pulled out and fixed, then he is way ahead of the game …,” he said.

Madison doesn’t like to talk about his investment, other than saying it was “extremely expensive” to develop the valve. He also helped write legislation allowing ASR technology.

While he admits the project has cost him “hundreds of thousands,” he says the “next guy could do it for a third the cost of what it cost me.”

Madison’s 700-foot-deep, 12-inch-diameter well is cased to the basalt layer, about 250 feet down. He believes it’s the only agriculture ASR well in the world and says that’s confirmed by “the ASR people that I know of.”

He has a limited state license to operate the ASR project. If his tests succeed, the state will issue a license.

“The test requires 60 days or 214 acre feet, which ever occurs first,” Madison said.

His well can produce 400 gallons per minute, so the state wants Madison to inject that much for a sustained period. If his test succeeds, and he’s licensed, he could inject more water later.

A probe in the ground measures the temperature and water level every five minutes and records it. A computer reads the data, and will shut off the pump when 214 acre feet has been stored.

Madison expects success and plans to put groundwater, which is abundant this time of year back into the ground. His test involves adding chlorine to flood water from Butter Creek and injecting it.

“If I don’t pump it today, it goes on beyond me,” he said. “As the shallow alluvial area dries up this summer, which it historically does … then I can turn my deep well back on and pull that water out that I put in earlier.”