Energy waste can take many different forms, such as failing to turn the lights off when leaving a room. Now, with Cactus, this is no longer an issue. Cactus is a power bar which connects to the household WiFi, and allows users to turn devices which are plugged into it on and off using a smartphone. It also has a sensor that turns the lights on when someone enters a room and then turns them off again when they leave. On average, “standby power” accounts for 10% of American energy bills, which can total over $100 a year. With Cactus this can be easily managed. The video posted below was made by the inventors to promote Cactus as a crowd sourcing project, but it also shows the device in action. They have since met their monetary goals and are developing their prototypes. These power strips can currently be ordered for about forty dollars, which is the least expensive of the smart power bars on the current market. Check out the article that creator Giuseppe Crosti wrote for the Huffington post about his journey to make Cactus an energy saving reality, and developer Paul Rolfe’s blog entry about the device!
Altaeros Energy’s Buoyant Airborne Turbine, or BAT, is the beginnings of a new step for Wind Energy. This turbine is not on a tower, but a helium blimp housing a turbine which is tethered to the ground from about 300 meters in the air (making it the worlds highest wind turbine!). The air is not only more powerful as you climb higher into the atmosphere, but the technology is less prone to problem. Without the massive steel tower, and yaw mechanism which rotates the turbine to face the wind as it changes, the maintenance is much less significant. The turbine also is quieter, while producing more energy! Although this technology is only in prototype phase, tests have been positive. Now being tested over Alaska, CEO Ben Glass predicts to provide power at about $0.18 per kilowatt-hour, about half the price of off-grid electricity in Alaska.
It seems like this is a win for energy efficiency and standards of living! Kudos to Altaeros! Find a full article, from The Spirit Science here: Wind Turbines Take to the Skies to Generate a Magnificent Quanta of Energy VIDEO! , as well as from IEEE Spectrum here.
Eco People LTD recently reported Hawaii committing to geothermal energy! Governor Neil Abercrombie signs Bill 2953 which designates the Department of the Hawaiian Home Lands as the only recipient for the royalties from geothermal resources generated on the home lands. This bill is intended to support and encourage the search and use of geothermal energy – something Abercrombie believes to probably be “inexhaustible.” As a clean, dependable and sustainable energy source we firmly agree with the direction Hawaii is taking! Read the full article below, or at http://bit.ly/1pWFbPT.
Here at Eco People we love the idea of Geothermal Energy, a thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. We love it so much because it seems so natural. From hot springs, geothermal energy has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but it is now better known for electricity generation. Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.
Hawaii could see a geothermal energised future as they are currently facing tough times when it comes to their energy. Almost all their energy is imported and with the ever impending reality of climate change, prices for importing such energy would be increased drastically.
The governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie (I don’t think there’s a link) believes the answer lies beneath the earth and is already making plans to embrace the power of geothermal energy!
“I realise that there’s been…
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Going green doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, green should ideally save you green! Read this post from Eco Thrifty Living for a great way to keep the air in your home warm! Check out the rest of the blog for ideas on renovating, tying the knot, and baby care eco-friendly, and pocket pretty!
Innovation, someone once wrote, is in the eye of the beholder. Oh wait, that was me last week. How innovative!
See what I mean?
Someone else – I’m serious this time – once told me that perspective prejudices perception. In other words, the angle at which we look at something heavily influences the way in which we internalize it. This person was Eliot Coleman, a famous American market gardener and author.
I met Coleman about ten years ago, and found him very much of the eco-thrifty persuasion. We got on famously.
It will come as no surprise that the eco-thrifty perspective on innovation is very different from the infinite-growth-without-consequences perspective. The latter, what Australian author Clive Hamilton calls “Growth Fetish,” appears to be the dominant perspective of Wanganui District Council, made evident by the stacks of cash it throws at chasing this outdated paradigm.
Innovative councils across the country…
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The worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40 percent a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.
The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.
Now a team of Stanford researchers has looked at the “energetic cost” of manufacturing batteries and other storage technologies for the electrical grid. At issue is whether renewable energy supplies, such as wind power and solar photovoltaics, produce enough energy to fuel both their own growth and the growth of the necessary energy storage industry.
“Whenever you build a new technology, you have to invest a large amount of energy up front,” said Michael Dale, a research associate at Stanford. “Studies show that wind turbines and solar photovoltaic installations now produce more energy than they consume. The question is, how much additional grid-scale storage can the wind and solar industries afford and still remain net energy providers to the electrical grid?”
Writing in the March 19 online edition of the journal Energy & Environmental Science, Dale and his Stanford colleagues found that, from an energetic perspective, the wind industry can easily afford lots of storage, enough to provide more than three days of uninterrupted power. However, the study also revealed that the solar industry can afford only about 24 hours of energy storage. That’s because it takes more energy to manufacture solar panels than wind turbines.
Read the full story here.
In addition to being one of Canada’s most successful integrated media and entertainment companies, Corus Entertainment has received accolades such as being among the 2013 list of Canada’s Greenest Employers and the 2013 list of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. The company owns 39 radio stations and delivers numerous television services, and it does so in a sustainable way.
Corus Quay, the new Toronto headquarters for Corus Entertainment, has implemented a number of eco-friendly initiatives. The building is accessible by public transportation, and the company encourages sustainable forms of transportation by offering 75 tenant-exclusive bicycle racks. Moreover, Corus Entertainment has taken steps toward water and energy conservation. The company has installed low-flow water fixtures throughout the building and a rooftop cistern that collects rainwater, initiatives that have resulted in Corus Entertainment reducing water consumption by upwards of 30%. A Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) system has been installed throughout the interior of the building, which consists of occupancy sensors that provide light only when someone is present and a daylight harvesting technique that dims the ballasts when natural light is abundant. These system features have reduced the amount of energy required by the lighting system by upwards of 30%. Energy efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment that is programmed based on solar exposure, location, occupancy, and space utilization has also been installed in the building. Also, carbon dioxide sensors have been installed to measure the approximate number of occupants in a particular area at any given time—information that is used to determine the exact amount of ventilated air required in a specific area, thereby reducing the amount of energy required for the HVAC system.
During the Corus Quay construction process, more than 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills by salvaging materials for reuse and recycling. In addition, upwards of 20% of the materials used in the construction of Corus Quay’s interiors were made from recycled content, reducing the amount of energy required in the production of the materials. Upwards of 10% of the materials used were both extracted and manufactured locally. The wood wall treatment in the Orientation and Atrium space is reclaimed hemlock from a 1910 ferry terminal wharf in Toronto Harbour. The use of local goods and materials promotes the growth of local businesses and reduces the energy required to transport materials and products to the construction site.
Corus Quay features green rooftops that help reduce the heat-island effect. It also features a five story biowall in the Atrium. The plants that compose the biowall naturally clean the air and reduce energy consumption, improving air quality in the building.
To visit the Corus Entertainment website, click here.
To learn more about Corus Entertainment’s sustainability initiatives, click here.
Finally the big day had come…I was to drive North to Fort MacMurray for the Christmas Show. I had heard nothing but terrifying reports on the danger of the highway, the wildness of the weather and the unpleasantness of the town in general from everyone whom I had spoken to about my trip, so I was truly braced for the worst. It was almost disappointing to experience an easy and uneventful drive up, with clear skies and clearer roads. Evening fell as I neared town, however, freezing rain began to whip across the single-lane highway, and I started to see what all of the fuss was about. But I didn’t have to navigate the harsh weather long and soon arrived at my B&B, another house that I was renting a room in. As I approached the house, I could see a woman just leaving to get into her truck. I called out to her, saying that I was the B&B guest, was there anyone inside? ‘Nope!’ she shouted cheerfully. ‘You’re on your own!’ and promptly hopped into her truck and drove away. I was dumbfounded. I discovered the door was indeed open, so I went inside. I was greeted by three large dogs barking loudly from the kitchen, and jumping up over the baby-gate that separated them from the living area. ‘Shhh-shhh!’ I said, trying to calm them, but they only got more excited and barked more loudly, and in their enthusiasm, knocked the gate right off its hinges. A bit startled, I quickly ran to fix it, as I could see the dogs seemed slightly sheepish for being so overzealous and had made no attempt to actually exit the kitchen. I fixed the gate and gave them each a pat–they were all beautiful, friendly dogs, one clearly a boxer cross of some kind, with a long snout and a brindle coat that made her resemble a tiger. There was also a golden retriever and a big shaggy Saint Bernard mix, all equally affectionate with loud barks but no bite. I headed upstairs and discovered an open door to a nicely made-up room with a towel on the bed. When I managed to figure out the WiFi, I found an email from the host explaining that she was out and had left the door open, and that I should make myself at home. So I did.
A good night’s sleep later, it was tradeshow time. The show started uncharacteristically late the first day, 1pm, which left me the morning free to visit the Oil Sands Discovery Centre. I was keen to find out how they were presenting the oil sands projects to the public. I walked into the building and was surprised to find they were charging $7 for entry. It only cost $6.50 to visit the Undersea Caverns in the West Edmonton Mall, and they had live stingrays. It looked like the Discovery Centre was a bit of a revenue producer in addition to being a hub for oil sands education.
I wandered through the exhibit reading the placards on display and snapping photos discretely (I wasn’t entirely certain this wouldn’t be frowned upon). I only had a limited time, so I opted out of watching the many videos available, which seemed to be geared toward much younger audiences anyway, featuring a nutty British professor and a talking drop of oil. As I wandered through the exhibit, I was amazed by the loveliness of the displays. As a graphic designer, I couldn’t help but admire the quality of the layouts, the beautiful photography and perfectly-rendered diagrams, the font styles, colours and sizing. It all made for an impressive and exhaustive display–there were no fewer than ten placards describing in great detail every process involved in removing bitumen from the sand and preparing it for transport–centrifuges, inclined plate settlers, deaeration, separation, catalytic conversion, hydrotreating, distillation, coking, the list went on, complimented by glass tubes of oil and other substances that you could spin around to demonstrate the processes visually. But quite abruptly the displays turned to talk of transporting ‘diluted’ bitumen through pipelines to go to market. I searched everywhere for information on what they actually diluted the oil with before sending it through the pipelines. I couldn’t find any placards illustrating this point, despite there being a huge display on the wall explaining ‘Hydrotransport,’ which is merely the process of moving bitumen mixed with water from the mines to the processing plant. I managed to find an interpreter at the front entryway, and asked him where the information on bitumen dilution was posted. He explained that this wasn’t in fact a part of the display, but he was happy enough to fill me in on it. He told me that the majority of the bitumen is cut with 50% naphtha, an oil by-product produced in the process of ‘upgrading’ bitumen, so it was made on site. When I asked him what naphtha was, he explained that it was essentially the same as lighter fluid, highly toxic and highly flammable. But it was abundant and cheap, since it was a by-product of what they were already doing with the oil, so that was their dilutant of choice. I asked him about the dangers of mixing a highly flammable substance with an oil product, and he agreed that there could be potential for combustion, but that this had not yet been proven. Interesting.
Another interpreter showed up at this point, so I decided to question her as well, in case she happened to know where this information might be hiding in the display. She concurred that it wasn’t represented on any of the boards, and confirmed all of the claims made by the first interpreter. I said that it was concerning that this fairly significant bit of information had been left out of the exhaustive info in the showroom–every process had been explained in such excruciating detail except for this one, and it seemed to me like an important point. She assured me that it must have simply been an oversight, and that they often updated the information on display as the technology progressed, so perhaps they would be adding that information to the exhibit soon. Perhaps.
I asked who was funding the Discovery Centre, and I was told that the Alberta Government funded it along with a number of sponsors, including Syncrude and Suncor, who were both running massive oil sands projects just 40 minutes North of town. Strange that these beneficiaries of the oil sands projects would leave out such an important point in their public educational display: the addition of highly toxic, highly flammable chemicals to an already toxic oil substance, that was then being piped through the country’s forests and cities. It’s funny how these small details can sometimes slip through the cracks.
The tradeshow that weekend was extremely uneventful. I didn’t sell Spirit Bear, as there were concerns that it might prove controversial in this oil town, considering my stance on the pipeline. One thing that made me raise my eyebrows at the show was the Syncrude Aquatic Centre. I can’t imagine wanting to swim in a pool named for an oil company with the word ‘crude’ in the title. It brings unpleasant thoughts to mind.
I eventually met my hosts, who turned out to be a lovely couple plus a friendly downstairs roommate, all originally from BC and very earthy people–not what I had expected to encounter in Fort Mac. The first morning my hostess served me vegan power balls and fresh apple slices for breakfast, and made me a delicious vegetarian enchilada for dinner the same night. That was the last I saw of them, though, as they left Saturday morning for a yoga retreat in Mexico that they had organized, leaving me with the downstairs roommate (an acupuncturist) for company, who kept me happily fed with homemade soups and a delicious vegan, flourless pumpkin pie made with ground cashews and coconut oil. Amazing. I didn’t even need to find my organic cafe, and a good thing that I didn’t, the closest thing in Fort Mac was the local Starbucks.
Monday rolled around and it was time for my oil sands adventure. I did a few errands in the morning and had planned to go back to the B&B to pack before driving North, but the radio was sending out a storm warning for the area, with strong winds up near the Suncor plant where I was headed, and snow was falling steadily. I considered not going–I knew most people would have advised me against it, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity. So I headed straight out of town.
The drive up was a little scary. Huge logging and oil trucks sped up the two-lane highway, unfazed by the snow and wind. I drove carefully, trying my best to discern where the line in the centre and the edge of the road had actually disappeared to beneath the muddy snow piling on top of them. As I neared my destination, I began to notice that sensation Neil Young had described when he had compared the oil sands to Hiroshima–a kind of choking feeling when you breathe, a caustic sensation in the throat, and a strong, distinct and incredibly unnatural smell…burning oil. I turned off the heat in the car to minimize airflow from outside. The drive went quickly despite the conditions, and I soon saw signs for oil sands projects. Suncor was the closest one, but luckily I had asked the girl at Starbucks (I did break down and finally go there) which projects you could actually get a good view of. I had heard they were not very accessible, and you really needed to go on a tour in the summertime to get any decent visuals. She told me that at Suncor all I’d be able to see was the parking lot, and that Syncrude was worth the extra ten minutes drive if I wanted a show. So I kept on going right past the Suncor signs until I saw Syncrude’s. And oh, what I saw behind that sign. The day was foggy and snowy, so I had been concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see very much. I was dead wrong.
Smokestacks too numerous to count sat bunched together just off the highway, gated off but clearly in view, spewing dark smoke into the white, smudgy sky. It was slightly surreal. There was a little unmanned kiosk with a stop sign at the entryway to the plant, so I pulled over and jogged up to the barricades that separated the road from the developments. I snapped several shots on my camera phone, my fingers quickly going numb from the cold. It was about -20º. I could see a couple of guards down the road at a checkpoint that was the main entryway to the plant. I decided I’d try to engage with them, see how they responded to me, if I would be allowed to get in any further. What happened made me feel like I was in post-war Eastern Germany. As I rolled up toward the guards, I had to wait in line as they spoke to the person in the car in front of me, so I snapped a quick, blurry photo of them before driving ahead. As I pulled up I sensed that this was not going to go over well, so I quickly put my phone down in the mug-holder next to my right elbow.
‘Hi there!’ I said cheerfully through the window.
‘What are you doing here?’ They asked cheerlessly.
‘Oh, I’m just a tourist,’ I said, putting on my best ‘harmless woman’ impression. The guards were women as well, and they weren’t impressed.
‘You actually aren’t allowed to take pictures around here,’ she explained tersely. ‘You’ll have to wait here.’ My heart started beating a bit faster as she eyed my Android accusingly. Would they confiscate my phone? Force me to delete my pictures? I breathed small sigh of relief knowing that I had already sent one photo of the smokestacks to Mikey before I had approached the guards–I’d at least have one piece of evidence remaining that they couldn’t delete.
The guard was radioing someone else, saying ‘Yes, we have the person here who was taking photos. Yes.’ My God. They had spotted me with my phone and reported it already–they were watching out for things like this!! Not a surprise, with all of the negative press the oil sands had been getting these days, but it was something else to actually experience it. My heart was hammering in my chest. How much trouble was I in?
I wrinkled up my nose and popped my eyes wide open. ‘I heard you could go on tours up here, but only in the Summertime. They told me at the Discovery Centre that this was one of the sights to see up here, they said I should just drive up. I didn’t realize it would be a problem!’
The guard seemed to buy my story and innocent act, and radioed back, ‘It’s just a tourist. Yes.’ Phew. She was still looking at my phone, so I wasn’t sure if I was out of harm’s way just yet.
‘Gee, sorry to cause trouble. I guess I’d better turn around.’ The woman leaned into the car, her face friendly and conspiratorial now. ‘Yes, you can just pull around here. Just don’t take any more pictures, okay?’
‘Sure!’ I exclaimed cheerfully, ‘No problem!’ Wow, I nearly got busted. If I had spoken to them they way I’d spoken to the interpreters in the Discovery Centre, I’m sure I would have been detained. It felt like I was at a checkpoint in a war zone there for a minute. I felt like I’d really dodged a bullet.
I swung my car around and drove down the opposite road, which led towards the highway, but took a detour at the parking lot. I was out of their sight now, and I wasn’t quite finished with my recon. I pulled into a parking lot meant for busses that brought in the workers, and snapped a few more photos surreptitiously from the car. My heart was racing the whole time. If I got spotted taking more photos after I’d been told not to, I had no idea what might happen. I jumped at the sound of a honking horn, and realized a bus had crept up behind me wanting my space. I quickly pulled out and drove in a little closer to the fence and took a few more shots, and then I sped away (as fast as one can speed in falling snow). My paranoia was in full bloom. How much surveillance did they have, if they’d picked up on me taking those photos so quickly? I wanted to get away before there was any further trouble.
I returned to the highway and drove back to the Suncor project. I decided to check it out since I was there anyway, and Suncor hadn’t yet targeted me as a potential threat. It was true what the girl at Starbucks had told me, there was really nothing to see, just a big parking lot and some fenced-in buildings. Suncor had cleverly kept its development well away from the highway, and had positioned its smokestacks far from the prying eyes of visitors. I could see no evidence in the deep fog of any real industrial activities, save for the whisper of a few smoke stacks off in the distance that meshed in with the white, low-hanging clouds.
But I was satisfied. I had seen the true face of the Tar Sands, even if I hadn’t been able to witness the scarred land, or the enormous tailings ponds. I had seen much more than I had expected, and the reactions of the guards confirmed their insecurity to me–they had a lot to hide.
With a light heart I zipped back to the B&B, packed up my things and headed to the airport. Fort Mac had revealed some of her secrets to me, and I was very pleased indeed.
On my flight home later that night, I found myself sitting alongside a worker from the Syncrude plant. What are the chances? We had a great discussion, and I gave him the link to my blog. I hope he reads it and finds it educational if nothing else.
Please share this blog with others, so all Canadians can learn more about the large industrial projects happening in this country.
A nationwide survey has found that renewable energy is the British public’s top investment choice after property but is the number one alternative for 18 to 24-year-olds.
The findings show the country’s investment preferences reflect fast growing public support for clean power.
The ‘Great British Money Survey’ was carried out by One Poll to gather insight into the spending and investment habits of 2,000 people across the United Kingdom. It was commissioned by Abundance Generation, the FCA regulated crowd funding platform.
When asked about their preferred investment areas, 43% chose property; 33% renewable energy; 23% traditional energy (oil, coal, gas); 19% manufacturing; 15% consumer goods; 14% hospitality; 12% transport and 3% ‘other’.
The survey also showed that Briton’s place most importance on financial return, risk, transparency, environmental and ethical impact when deciding their investments.
Read the full story here.
IKEA is the world’s largest home furnishings retailer, with over 340 stores in 40 countries, including 38 in the U.S. That’s one big reach. IKEA would like its reach to be powered with renewable energy.
IKEA Canada recently announced its purchase of a 46 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Alberta. The 20 turbine wind farm will be the largest owned by a Canadian retailer. It is expected to generate 161 gigawatt hours (GWh) every year, more than double the total energy consumption of IKEA Canada. That amount of energy is equivalent to 60 percent of IKEA Group electricity use in North America, or eight percent of IKEA group electricity use worldwide or 13,500 average Canadian households’ electricity use. The project is currently under construction by the global wind and solar company, Mainstream Renewable Power, and expected to be fully operational in fall 2014.
IKEA Group committed to own 157 wind turbines globally, 110 of those turbines in Europe, and has installed over 500,000 solar panels on its buildings in nine countries. The company has invested in wind farms in seven other markets, including Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. IKEA has allocated $1.8 billion to invest in renewable energy through 2015. IKEA Group’s goal is to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020.
Read the full story here.