November 13, 2009
Solar power is difficult to do on a large, nation-wide scale. Doesn’t that make it a perfect thing to do in your own home?
Simple Solar Heating Ltd. thinks so. Based in Okotoks, Alberta, this company makes use of solar thermal technology, which traps heat and uses photovoltaic technology to convert it to electricity. Currently, they focus on producing domestic hot water.
They believe that if one quarter of the houses in Alberta installed these panels, it would equal the power generated by a nuclear plant – at half of the cost. In sunny Alberta, this would constitute a reliable source of energy.
Solar thermal panels, once installed, require little or no maintenance, and can heat water for showers, laundry, and dishes. Even better, it can cut energy bills down by as much as 75 per cent. Even better, Simple Solar is just one of many solar companies to consider.
In BC, SolTrak modular roofing by MSR Innovations builds photovoltaic panels right into the roof. Their idea is simple. If a homeowner needs a new roof, and wants to save on utility bills, why not combine those needs (as well as the cost) and do it all at once?
There are also government rebates available to homeowners interested in solar power. Consider the Eco Energy Program, good for a maximum of $1,250, and a Home Retrofit incentive for up to $1,350 of relief.
If it’s cleaner, better for the environment, and cheaper in the long run – where are your panels?
October 7, 2009
The Pope is looking to the sky and a “higher power.”
That may not sound unusual, but the power is high because it comes from the sky. Confused yet? We’re referring to solar power, of course. What did you think?
In a recent encyclical about the economy, the Pope had a friendly reminder for the people of the world; “the environment is God’s gift to everyone and must not be squandered.” The Pope voiced concerns about certain states hoarding non-renewable energy resources, “a grave obstacle to development in poor countries.”
The Pope has spoken about energy before, but this time he went on to say “it should be added that at present it is possible to achieve improved energy efficiency while at the same time encouraging research into alternative forms of energy.”
That’s not empty rhetoric. The Vatican has already installed solar panels on Nervi Hall and more recently, Paul VI Hall. The next step: to build Europe’s largest solar power plant, which will generate enough energy for all 40,000 Vatican City residents.
After becoming the first solar-powered nation in the world, the Vatican plans on eventually exporting excess solar energy to Italy. Additionally, the Vatican’s cafeteria will be hooked up to solar heating and cooling units. They’re even considering an electric Popemobile.
The project has a large price tag; $660 million to build the power plant. But as His Holiness might argue: God put the sun there for a reason.
August 17, 2009
Did you know your garbage is valuable?
Metro Vancouver is starting to see the worth in waste. The municipality is looking to build six new waste-to-energy plants in the Lower Mainland in an effort to find a solution to its lack of landfill space.
Some residents may trash talk the idea of having a facility in their area, but it’s hard to throw away the idea when incinerated garbage can be turned into electricity and steam energy.
A ton of garbage produces the same amount of energy as a barrel of oil, so burying the one million tons of garbage generated each year by Greater Vancouver residents in a landfill is the same as burying one million barrels of oil.
And not burning all that garbage means that profits are going up in smoke.
Burnaby has had a waste-to-energy plant for more than 20 years, where approximately 280 000 tons of garbage are turned into 900,000 tons of steam a year.
All the energy from that refuse is not refused by BC Hydro which purchases it, along with a nearby paper recycling facility to reduce its use of fossil fuels. This of course doesn’t mean that residents should produce more garbage.
On the contrary, the Region will continue to encourage recycling. Simply by composting organic matter, the amount of garbage can be reduced by 40 percent.
Metro Vancouver is proving that seeing garbage as a resource would definitely not be a waste of time.
August 13, 2009
First cow farts, now chicken dung.
A whole host of interesting and until now—unwanted agricultural and animal waste products are now being touted as the new superheroes of environmental protection.
In fact, manure could soon heat and power farms using a thermochemical method known as “pyrolysis.”
Engineers at the Plains Soil, Water and Plant Research Center in South Carolina want to develop new waste treatment methods and strategies that could be used by almost any farm – large or small– to meet all their energy needs.
Pyrolysis involves cooking biomass such as woodchips, corn husks, peanut shells and chicken droppings under intense heat, transforming them into three products: an oil that can be used for heating, a slow-release fertilizer called biochar and a gas that the researchers hope will one day be recycled to power the machine.
Biochar could help save millions of trees and could become one of the keys to unlocking large-scale food and energy production.
And there is no shortage of…er…source material. The average chicken eats almost 4 kilograms of feed. With 2,800 chicken farmers in Canada and more that 23, 000 in the United States, that’s a lot of poo-tential.
July 27, 2009
The Atlantic coast is a windy, windy place, no doubt about that.
Luckily, wind is a useful resource, and moves are being made to harness that wind and turn a profit. But, there are obstacles galore.
A $1 billion wind farm in Summerside, P.E.I. was delayed by the sudden economic downturn, as investors backed out at the last minute. Originally going forward in stages, phases one and two are now being combined. Four turbines are expected to be installed by November.
Additionally, the project has run into a strong case of NIMBY. Local residents aren’t completely sold on the project. In 2006, the first two windmills were installed on this farm. They were met with some protest. More seems likely to come.
The provincial government, led by Energy Minister Richard Brown, is trying to turn them around on the idea. He insists the money generated from projects like this will be good for the provincial economy. Given the current economic climate, “good for the economy” may translate into “necessary.”
The province receives a percentage of the revenue generated by wind power. They also get a piece of the action from lands rentals where the windmills are located, and a 16 per cent corporate income tax rate.
Wind power figures to play a prominent role in PEI’s future economic well being. 18 per cent of PEI’s electrical energy is already generated by wind. Provincially-owned wind farms already are in place on either end of the island province.
Many European firms have their eyes on P.E.I. as an excellent location for their windmills.
There’s gold in the winds?
May 22, 2009
It seems people are willing to try almost anything to find other power sources, including hamster, lemon, and now dog power. In taking a step forward in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, we’ve taken a bold step backward and tapped into an age-old source: our lovable canine companions (with a slight twist).
Now, behold readers: the dog-powered scooter. Urban mushing has arrived!
A form of alternative to renewable fuels, the power of the dog can be harnessed to help get around. Finally, you can let your dog take you for a walk.
How does it work? So glad you asked. The harness lets the dog push the scooter, rather than pull as with a sled or on a leash. Since the animal is behind the front wheel, steering and braking control are in the hands of you, the rider. The outrigger keeps the dog in one place and the right-side location keeps man’s best friend away from other pedestrians on the sidewalk and away from traffic.
Have more than one dog? No problem: The scooter can be customized for up to three dogs at a time. Imagine that – three dog-power.
Not a fan of scooters? No problem, there is also a dog-powered trike, bike, and skateboard.
Worried about your dog’s safety? Don’t be. The thrust or push needed by the dog to keep the scooter at speed on flat pavement with a 170 lb person is only about 5 pounds. Dogs will set the pace and by taking some simple safety precautions, you and your dogs could soon be mushing all over town.
Unleash the power of the dog at a scooter store near you.
May 20, 2009
Dirty. Filthy. Mucky.
Whether literally or figuratively, those aren’t words you’d use to describe something nice, pleasant, appealing, or beneficial. Even gardeners sometimes refer to good soil as “clean,” which they don’t mean ironically.
What if the word “dirt” started to mean something else? Enter designer Marieke Staps, a designer from Tilburg in the Netherlands. Staps’ remarkable projects include the flower lamp, (it opens when you turn it on), and handmade garden wallpaper.
Detecting a common theme yet?
Staps has unveiled two appliances that run on – you guessed it – dirt. The Soil Clock and Soil Lamp both run on electricity, but have no plug, and require no batteries. But they do require dirt.
Both work with what’s called “earth battery.” It’s actually a very simple concept – copper and zinc cells act as electrodes. These in turn use soil as their electrolyte, which conducts the energy between them. Does that provide a lot of energy? No, not a lot – but enough.
Both the lamp and clock require as little effort as they do energy. You place them in some dirt. You water said dirt occasionally. That is all. What? That’s all. This is the very definition of sustainable, if not exactly “green.”
Indeed, these soil invention are giving new mean to dirty energy.
December 22, 2008
They exploded, slithered, twittered, munched away and got eaten. Our best picks for energy in the animal kingdom this year.
As a group of University of Calgary researchers discovered, bats are susceptible to sudden drops in pressure created by windmills blades and can succumb to a condition know as barotrauma.
Checkmate SeaEnergy created an alternative energy technology that puts the “ee!” back in “green.” Called the Anaconda, the device is a long, rubber tube that will slither through ocean waves to generate electricity. JLo and Ice Cube would be proud.
FuelFrog lets you track and share mileage, the cost of gasoline and your efforts to be more fuel efficient. A little bit of public shame can be a good thing.
Research from Penn State suggests that grazing muskoxen may be sending us closer and closer to an overheated planet. Climate models are tricky.
Kangaroos produce fewer greenhouse gases that cows. They are plentiful and their padded feet don’t erode the soil like cloven hooves do. An Aussie argument in favour of marsupials as a climate change solution.
May 19, 2008
Triumph International (Japan) is a lingerie maker known for taking that metaphor literally with its line of concept underwear. Having previously tackled issues such as encouraging voter turnout and reducing the use of disposable chopsticks, the marketing team at Triumph recently announced its support for solar power.
Their, yes, solar bra sheds light on the use of alternative energy in our everyday lives. With a photovoltaic panel, the bra generates enough electricity to charge a mobile phone or MP3 player.
Unfortunately, these undies aren’t for sale—they’re just for show. And it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that these delicates need to see the light of day to produce power. So, even if you could buy them, covering them with clothing would render them useless.
The use of renewable resources in Japan, where Triumph focuses its themed underwear line, isn’t exactly a shocking revelation. Instead, the company is tapping into the growing popularity of consumer participation in combating climate change. Their latest green undergarment dovetails nicely with the Japanese government’s campaign to cut one kilogram of carbon dioxide emissions per person every day and goal to have approximately 70 per cent of newly constructed houses to be equipped with solar panels by 2020.
While Triumph might be seeking to lift and separate its own reputation from the rest of the current wave of green announcements with their latest public relations centrepiece, they are reflecting a growing consumer desire to take action to support the environment. And that is certainly getting them out in front of some international attention.