Posts Tagged With: energy

Solar Roadways…

Check out this amazing video from a small company in the U.S.  What a novel idea with so many applications.  Apparently they are in full test mode with a parking lot at the moment and hope to have other projects up and running shortly.  The basic premise is using a new type of solar panel to build roadways (and/or any other area which is exposed to sun and currently made of concrete/asphalt).  There are many applications around the world and I hope this company really succeeds.  Maybe local government will see this and do a test or trial with it.

Enjoy your Labour Day weekend!

Categories: Commentary, General interest | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Crude Impact

I just finished watching a documentary titled Crude Impact.  The main theme was our continued use of fossil fuels and the approaching ‘deadline’ of peak oil which is basically the time at which global production of fossil fuels begins to decline and can’t increase (due to reserves being depleted).  For the most part, the movie was quite good; it had a bit of the scare tactics of non-mainstream documentaries (quiet, serious narration etc.) but the content was useful and interesting.  Sometimes it’s easy to just think that the problem is too big or that one person can’t make a difference but what I took from the documentary is that it is precisely the individual who does make the difference.

Some of the minor key changes we can make are to shop locally and sustainably, for things we really need, not those which society dictates we acquire.  I learned that food production is one of the number one consumers of fossil fuels; gas for farm machinery, petroleum products for fertilizers and pesticides, fuel for transportation and distribution and so on.  This morning, I ate a few grapes for breakfast without even thinking about where they came from and how much it actually cost in terms of energy (and subsequent pollution etc.) to get them to my fridge.  They probably came from Chile or California.  Think that it doesn’t make much of a difference?  It takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of energy available in the average ‘home-cooked meal’.  We can reduce this massively by shopping at local bakeries, farm markets and other sources.  Not only does it reduce energy consumption, we get healthier products and help to sustain local economies.

Take a few minutes to watch the movie; I think you can get it either from the actual site or from the library as well.  If nothing else, it will make you a little more aware of the energy in your life!

Categories: Commentary, General interest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wood as fuel

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who was bemoaning our use of a wood stove as our primary heating source.  He quoted all the usual arguments – pollution, environmentally unfriendly, dirty, inefficient to name a few.  I thought it interesting that he didn’t seem to mind the electric base-board heat in his house.  Here are a few facts and thoughts on wood as fuel.

  • Burning wood releases the same amount of pollution into the atmosphere as wood left to rot on the forest floor.  There is no difference.  The manner in which it is released is different – combustion versus decomposition – but the net effect is the same.  Although carbon makes up about half the weight of firewood and is released as carbon dioxide when the wood is burned, it is part of a natural cycle. A tree absorbs carbon dioxide from the air as it grows and incorporates this carbon in its structure. When the tree falls and decays in the forest, or is processed into firewood and burned, the carbon is released again to the atmosphere. This cycle can be repeated forever without increasing atmospheric carbon. Heating with wood, therefore, does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. Moreover, when wood energy displaces the use of fossil fuels, the result is a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The firewood we gather is from our property so we expend very little in the way of energy (gas for the car or paying a delivery vehicle) to harvest the wood. We haven’t started yet but this summer I plan to start a re-forestation project on our property.  We have enough wood here for probably 20 years or more but it doesn’t hurt to start new trees early.
  • Depending on the source, generating a unit of electricity can actually require three units of energy.  For instance, most electrical energy in North America comes from coal-fired plants.  It requires three units of coal buring to generate one unit of electrical energy which is obviously not a good ratio.  Consider the pollution effect of the coal being mined and subsequently burned and this ratio increases further.
  • Natural gas, oil and other fossil fuel derivatives release carbon from its “stored” state but have no mechanism to re-absorb this released carbon.
  • Wood is natural and renewable.

Ultimately our goal is to build a new house which is completely off-grid and produces 100% of it’s own energy through solar, wind and geothermal sources.  The technology to make this happen is here – we as a society just need to use it.  Until then, we’ll enjoy our woodstove and the wonderfully ‘warm’ warmth it produces.

Categories: Commentary, General interest | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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