August 22, 2012
Could the IKEA concept of “offering a wide range of well designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them” be expanded to include solar and wind energy?
With IKEA plugging into solar power for almost all of its U.S. buildings, could IKEA-brand solar panels for your home be far behind? Of, course some assembly would be required. And there would be an Allen wrench.
July 27, 2012
Fourth in a series on the ‘Now or Never” report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV).
Priority 4 is easy for everyone to be part of because it encourages consumers to conserve and use energy efficiently.
So I’m going keep it simple.
Energy conservation plays a big role in our every day life, or at least it should. As stated in the ENEV report ‘Canadians are amongst the largest per capita energy consumers in the world.’ Obviously, this is not an achievement we should be trying to aspire to. This makes it extra important for Canadians to be vigilant about energy conservation. Energy conservation in itself can be considered a source of energy, and making sure to take simple everyday steps towards using less will go a long way to doing your part in helping build our sustainable energy future.
I’m also going to take it easy on you for today’s lesson as the past three days have been pretty intense. Energy conservation and efficiency is an issue that we as consumers have a lot of control over. I’ll just end by saying don’t take that control for granted, and make sure that you are doing your best to be informed and – better yet – active about energy conservation.
June 12, 2012
The University of Calgary’s Solar Decathlon design team is celebrating their Emerald Award win.
The Emerald Awards are given out by the Alberta Emerald Foundation to showcase environmental leadership in Alberta. At the awards ceremony in Calgary last week, the team received an Emerald Award in the Education category for their TRTL (Technological Residence, Traditional Living) home plus a trophy and a $5,000 cash prize.
The team, which competed in the U.S Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon (Washington, DC.) was made up of a number of different UofC faculties and over 100 students. They partnered with Native communities of Treaty 7 and major sponsor Cenovus to take on the challenge of developing sustainable housing and addressing the needs of First Nations communities. UofC was the only Canadian entry in the competition and ended up placing tenth in an international field of 19 competitors. The house was also the most popular. It logged the highest number of visitors during the competition.
The house, which was designed and built by the students now is located on the UoC campus. And the experience gained, with the $5,000 cash prize will drive the design of the next solar house for the 2013 Solar Decathlon competition.
For the new competition UofC will collaborate with SAIT and Mount Royal University. They will again go up against an international field as well as a new Canadian competitor from Queen’s University, Carleton University and Algonquin College.
February 6, 2012
Does seeing lead to believing lead to action? It’s an ambitious start.
January 3, 2012
This Red Dot award winner might be the answer for some consumers, but probably not for me.
May 13, 2011
Recently, use of the term “geothermal energy” has become somewhat confusing. For the longest time, geothermal energy implied deep-seated, super hot (+180˚C) water, brought to the surface to provide heat for space heating or electricity generation. It is the energy behind geysers and hot springs. Think Old Faithful and Banff Hot Springs.
But with the advent of heat pumps, shallower, much cooler water could be used for space heating. Purists insisted on calling the new technology “earth energy”, or “geo exchange” or “ground-source energy”. The debate intensified to just short of rioting in the streets, but new subdivisions, advertised as economical and environmentally friendly due to “geothermal heating”, sprang up across the country. And people oblivious to the debate began to see geothermal only as a method of home heating that involved heat pumps and a bit of tubing.
So which side is right? Etymologically speaking, they both are. The term geothermal is derived from two Greek words: geo, meaning earth; and thermos, meaning heat. Earth heat. There is no reference to either temperature or depth.
Practically speaking, there is a big difference. In most parts of Canada, deep geothermal requires wells more than five kilometres deep, and that is prohibitively expensive for someone who just wants to heat their home. And shallow geothermal can’t deliver the heat required to create steam to drive turbines, so it won’t be used by utilities.
Regardless of what you consider is the real geothermal, both are among the cleanest sources of energy, and, over the long term, economical.
May 9, 2011
Energy doesn’t get much more underground than geothermal power, which unlocks the heat trapped below the surface of the earth. But when it comes to Canada, geothermal energy is still “underground” in more than a few ways — just ask GeothermalBOT.
At the moment, GeothermalBOT mainly has to keep himself warm using the heat pumps that use the differences in temperature between the ground and the air to cool or heat homes. They’re small and localized, and the only game in town for a BOT that wants to keep nice and toasty. In fact, there aren’t currently any large geothermal power plants in Canada. But that doesn’t mean that GeothermalBOT will be stuck in Canada’s energy underground for the rest of his days.
In fact, Canada has considerable geothermal potential, with near-surface resources found across the country in areas as far apart as British Columbia and Saskatchewan. There has even been talk of developing these resources — just look to the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) — though so far Canada still has no geothermal plants. Around the world, though, it’s a slightly different story.
To find areas where geothermal power has already heated up, GeothermalBOT would need to take a look at Iceland, where geothermal plants produce almost a quarter of the country’s total electricity. Because of the area’s high concentration of volcanoes and other heat sources near to the surface of the earth, the country has a natural wealth of geothermal energy that it’s used since 1908, when a farmer piped in water to heat his home. Other countries that use geothermal energy include the US, the Philippines and Indonesia.
But GeothermalBOT’s not likely to be heading to Reykjavik any time soon. For now, he’s fine being part of Canada’s energy underground, because a nice hot water tank is still a fine place to spend your time.
April 18, 2011
This week just got a little brighter with the introduction of SolarBOT, an energy dynamo who can soak up the rays and heat up the town. Add in his ability to generate electricity and you’ve got a BOT who can take it easy and stay powerful at the same time.
One of the most familiar uses of solar energy comes with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Disturbed around the country on rooftops, ground-mounted installations and anywhere that sunlight can reach them, these panels can provide power to locations and devices that wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach the grid. Certain locations provide more sunlight for these panels, making areas including southern Ontario, Quebec and the prairies the best places in Canada for SolarBOT to kick back and absorb.
But SolarBOT does more than just keep power flowing, he also keeps Canadians warm. Active solar thermal systems use mirrors or metal plates to focus the sun’s energy, transferring the heat to air or water. And once that air or water has been heated, it can be distributed throughout a house, keeping it toasty warm.
And not all solar heating is active either. Passive solar heating simply involves constructing a home so that the sunlight naturally finds its way into the home and its heat is trapped by insulation. After all, what’s a nice sunbeam if you can’t relax?
In Canada, the solar industry is represented by the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), which provides public information on solar power and industry information for companies in the business of harnessing the sun’s energy. Governments have also stepped into the business of promoting solar power, with Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program and its guaranteed prices for solar power being the most prominent example.
Around the world, solar power has been able to provide emission-free energy in a variety of locations, including large facilities like the 40-megawatt solar farm in Sarnia, Ontario. Globally, facilities like the US’s Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) are providing megawatts of installed capacity, from North America to Europe and beyond. So even if SolarBOT occasionally likes to kick back, he’s always a powerful BOT.
April 15, 2011
There are two basic types of wind turbines defined by the orientation if the axis or drive haft that turns the generator – horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT) and vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT).
Horizontal axis wind turbines are the oldest, most efficient and therefore, the most common of the two types. They consist of two or more vertical blades (three is the most common) attached to a hub which is in turn attached to the horizontal drive shaft and the generator. This whole assembly sits on top of a tower. The blades face into the wind on the windward side of the tower to avoid any disturbance the tower may create. The tower is designed to elevate the blades into the strongest and most consistent wind. Currently, the longest blades are 82 metres long (269 feet) and the tallest towers reach 180 metres or 590 feet.
There are many different vertical axis wind turbine designs, ranging from the Darrius “egg beater” configuration to bladed turbines. Like HAWTs, vanes or blades turn a shaft connected to a generator , although in this case the shaft is vertical and the generator on the ground. There is no tower, and VAWTs are generally much shorter than HAWTs, The prime advantage of VAWT configuration is that it faces always faces into the wind, and is therefore better suited to areas where the wind is continually changing direction. Because of their more compact design, VAWTs are commonly used for microgeneration by home, cottage and small business owners and farmers to provide power for their own use or to sell back to grid.
A new development combines a VAWT with solar cells to provide electricity from wind power and solar power at the same time.
April 6, 2011
Graphic: International Atomic Energy Agency
Earthquakes have the Richter Scale; nuclear mishaps have the INES – International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.
The purpose of INES is to provide a means of “communicating to the public in a consistent way the safety significance of nuclear and radiological events.” There are seven levels to the scale which are applied to three “areas of impact”:
- People and the Environment considers the radiation doses to people close to the location of the event and the widespread, unplanned release of radioactive material from an installation.
- Radiological Barriers and Control covers events without any direct impact on people or the environment and only applies inside major facilities. It covers unplanned high radiation levels and spread of significant quantities of radioactive materials confined within the installation.
- Defence-in-Depth also covers events without any direct impact on people or the environment, but for which the range of measures put in place to prevent accidents did not function as intended.
The seven levels are defined such that each level is ten times more severe than the previous level. Unlike the Richter Scale, where intensity of an earthquake is determined by a mathematical formula, the INES is based on a series of definitions. For example, under People and the Environment, Level 2 is defined as “exposure of a member of the public in excess of 10 millisieverts or exposure of a worker in excess of the statutory annual limits.” Level 3 is defined as “exposure in excess of 10 times the statutory annual limit for workers and non-lethal deterministic health effects from radiation (e.g. burns).”
Similarly, a Level 6 event is defined as a significant release of radioactive material likely to require implementation of planned countermeasures, whereas a Level 7 event is defined as a major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.
Fukushima Dai-ichi is currently considered a Level 6 event while Chernobyl is considered a Level 7 event.
While this may seem somewhat subjective, there is a very comprehensive, 218-page INES Users Manual developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Nuclear Energy Agency. The manual removes a lot of ambiguity. Media reporting on a nuclear accident should consult the manual.