As I mentioned in a previous post I am currently enrolled in a renewable energy program offered online through Lakeland College, an Albertan post-secondary institute. I am just wrapping up my first two courses, and let me tell you – what an incredible amount of information I’ve had filtered through my brain these last couple of months!
One of the methods of learning we participate in includes writing posts for our online discussions page on a variety of topics, and responding to the posts of others with our own opinions, ideas, etc. Normally nobody comments on my posts because they’re pretty straightforward and entirely lacking in controversy! I’m excited, though, because our last topic – on the particular challenges Canadians are confronting when trying to integrate renewable streams of energy – has a few responses on it from other students!
I’m including my post here in case you are interested in what my thoughts are at this point in my education on this particular issue. Keep in mind I am not a scientist, an engineer, or even an individual conversant with technology – this is just a melange of opinions on a topic I’m just starting to delve deeper in to.
It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada but because she’s something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of. - Emily Carr
Regardless of exactly where in Canada you were brough into life, chances are you feel a particular kinship with that particular corner of the country you initially called home. I have never met a Newfoundlander who was glad to be away from the rocky, windblown land they came from; nor a British Columbian who was entirely at peace in another province, away from the glorious green forests and untouched niches of pristine beauty found only in B.C. We are all rooted in the varied soils of our country, and that gives us an inherent passion for unearthing new and novel ways of building Canada into something wonderful. I feel that the best way to ensure a safe and environmentally sound world for our children’s children is to increase the use of renewable resources; I believe integrating renewable energy into our everyday lives will not only stave off further destruction of our natural environment, but could potentially (optimistically) undo the damage we have already done.
Renewable energy in its current incarnation is flawed. In the assignments for the two initial courses of Lakeland College’s Renewable Energy program, I have learned of so much potential and so much innovation when it comes to using renewable energy to heat our homes and power our machines. What I have also learned is that no matter what aspect of renewable technology we are discussing, everything seems to boil down (no pun intended) to efficiency, or the lack thereof. Yes, Canada is composed of varied landscapes that each offers its own particular challenges when planning for the use of renewables; but the lack of efficiency in renewable technology is a global issue. I believe that if overall efficiencies improved substantially, we would see an immediate surge in the use of renewable technologies.
A crucial aspect of efficiency that is especially important to Canadians is the amount of reliable energy we require to heat our homes in those coldest months of the year, the months of snow and ice that far outnumber those of sunshine and blooming buds. Not only do we require enough heat to keep our homes and the infrastructure within them from succumbing to freezing temperatures, we require even more heat due to the amounts that are lost every second due to lack of appropriate insulation, lackluster building quality, or even simply homeowner ignorance. North Americans are decried for the amounts of resources we waste every day – I think it is time we change that, starting with making simple decisions like choosing energy-efficient windows, using digital thermostats that monitor the home’s temperature needs down to the nth degree, and using higher-efficiency insulators when possible.
The next essential component of transforming our civilization from oil-dependent to ecologically self-sufficient is to change the standards for new home builds. A common theme in our reading has been that retrofitting a home to be powered by eco-friendly energies is far too expensive for the average homeowner to undertake without large subsidies from already financially strapped (or so they say) governments. Nobody is as skilled as a contractor is at finding the least-expensive way of getting a job done; why not make the installation of renewable energy technology in the building of new homes the rule? This would give an entirely new industry incentive to participate in green energy innovations, while removing the cost of retrofitting entirely.
Next, while our mountains are impossibly large, so are our fields. As has been noted by other students, we in Canada have the privilege of space – a much sought after commodity in other parts of the world. Here in the prairies we have the room for wind farms populated with enough horizontal-axis turbines to produce amounts of power substantial enough to lessen significantly our oil-and-gas-related dependence. On the flipside of that, unfortunately, is that our prairie provinces are land-locked; but for our coastal provinces, wave power is a promising venture. I am not a supporter of damming projects, despite the proposed environmental benefits. I feel that the damage done to the ecospheres affected by damming far outweighs the benefits that damming offers. Wave power, on the other hand, does not interfere with the biosphere in the same harmful ways; the creation of efficient wave technologies could supply coastal provinces with abundant energy, harness-able for communities hundreds of kilometres from the shoreline.
As for solar energy, our beloved country is not well positioned to take advantage of the sun’s bounty. We do not get much opportunity for sunshine, especially here in Alberta, and we never seem to keep Mr. Sun around for very long periods. Still, I am – maybe a bit naively – optimistic when it comes to this particular topic. I think there are ideas out there in the solar industry that, if properly developed, could make it possible for those of us in the northern hemisphere (and especially those of us above the 60th parallel) to not only collect, but to also store, enough solar power to ease our need for other energy sources year-round. Maybe someone from this very program will be the one to uncover a genius way to collect the sun’s rays when they are plentiful and store them for those days when there is barely enough natural light to see a foot in front of our faces.
Ultimately, I think that when it comes to Canada, geographically we are blessed more than hindered. I believe that we have the space and the resources to change our energy future; and, most importantly, I believe that we have the heart. All we need is the technology – but don’t look at me for that just yet… I’m still learning!