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Apr 01
2010

ecoENERGY Retrofit Program Stops Abruptly

Posted by Geoff Jones in Energy

Geoff Jones

Out of the blue, with no forewarning, the ecoENERGY Retrofit program announced that it is no longer accepting pre-retrofit applications as of March 31, 2010.   Where did that come from?

So what does this mean?

If you have already booked or had your pre-retrofit audit you can still qualify for grants providing you make the updates to your home and have your follow-up audit by March 31, 2011.  However, for anyone who was planning to have a pre-retrofit audit it seems the federal government has closed the door on you as of yesterday.  Thanks for the heads up!

Mar 26
2010

Earth Hour 2010

Posted by Geoff Jones in General , Energy

Geoff Jones

Tomorrow (March 27, 2010) is Earth Hour day, a chance for people around the world to make a statement of support regarding the importance of the health of our planet.  Every hour, people all aroudn the world are taking steps to reduce their impact on the environment and our resources. Whether you walk or ride your bike to work, lower the temperature in your house at night,  or hang your laundry out to dry, each little step makes a difference.   Share your story, inspire others and leave a comment about what you're doing to change your impact on our environment.

 [video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FclcMfzjwug]

Below is some more informtion about Earth Hour as provided by the Earth Hour website (http://www.earthhour.org/):

Aug 12
2009

Count Me In Ontario Challenge

Posted by Geoff Jones in General , Energy

Geoff Jones

It's on ...!

The Count Me In! Community Challenge, taking place between now and August 14, the anniversary of the North American blackout in 2003, is now underway.

The Count Me In! Community Challenge is comprised of two challenges:

  • The highest percentage drop in electricity consumption on August 14, and
  • The highest per capita participation in the Count Me In! pledge drive between now and August 14.

Results will be announced at the AMO Annual Conference in Ottawa in August.

Aug 04
2009

Wind Turbine Power Generation Basics

Posted by Geoff Jones in Wind , Energy

Geoff Jones

If you read the papers or keep on top of alternative energy news I’m sure that you have seen at least one article, if not many, in the past months about wind farms and/or wind turbine technology being installed in residential applications or in large scale power generation projects.  Either way, wind turbines are rapidly being installed in many parts of the world to generate clean electricity.  Let’s take a look at the basic principles of Wind Turbines and how they work.

Overview

Wind Turbines make use of the kinetic energy contained within the wind itself to turn a propeller of some kind (there are many different styles) which then turns a generator to create electricity.  Electricity created by a wind turbine is typically Direct Current (DC) electricity and is either used to charge batteries and then converted, via an inverter, into Alternating Current (AC) electricity for operation of appliances within a home or business or it is sent directly to an inverter to generate AC electricity for immediate use with no backup storage.

Jul 02
2009

Green Roof Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in General , Energy

Geoff Jones
With continued growth and interest in green building technologies, green roofs have been gaining more interest and exposure as a result of the benefits they can provide. A green roof is essentially the roof of a building/structure that has vegetation covering a portion or the entire roof surface. Green roofs can be designed as a part of new buildings or retrofit to existing buildings as well. The vegetation type can vary significantly depending on the design of the green roof, the structural integrity of the existing roof and the varying product options selected. Vegetation may even include some types of edible crops. That's pretty cool.

Types of Green Roofs

There are 2 primary types of green roofs; 1) Extensive and 2) Intensive. An extensive green roof generally has a more shallow growing depth and is therefore suitable for smaller vegetation and/or plants/shrubs. Extensive green roofs, due to their more shallow soil, are lighter than intensive roofs, may require less maintenance and are generally cheaper. Intensive green roofs have more soil depth and therefore can accommodate larger plants, shrubs and even trees. Intensive roofs, due to the deeper soil and larger plant life, require a much higher structural loading capability than an extensive roof does and may require periodic maintenance and trimming. Green roofs offer several benefits ranging from aesthetic, environmental and practical benefits.

Urban Heat Island Effect

One of the benefits of green roofs is in helping to reduce the impacts of something known as Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect. The UHI effect basically identifies that the temperature in developed urban areas can be warmer than the surround rural areas due to the lack of vegetation, and resulting evapotranspiration, as well as the increased amount of concrete and asphalt that absorb the suns energy and release it as heat. There are many other factors and details associated with Heat Island Effect but I just wanted to touch on the very basics. According to the EPA "the annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8-5.4°F (1-3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality."

By installing green roofs on buildings instead of asphalt roofs the heat island effect can be reduced as the vegetation absorbs the suns energy and reduces the heat that would normally be radiated from traditional roof surface. Green roofs also promote evapotranspiration in which plants release moisture into the air which helps to cool the surrounding area.

May 19
2009

Solar Domestic Hot Water System Savings

Posted by Geoff Jones in Solar , Energy

Geoff Jones

There are many reasons that people choose to install Solar Domestic Hot Water systems today, one of them being the environmental benefits, but many people still wonder how much it will save them on their utility bills once it's up and running.  Although there is no magic way to come up with an exact number for everyone due to varying factors in each home let's take a quick look.  Based on some statistics available today we should be able to get a rough idea of the potential savings. 

 

According to statistics from Natural Resources Canada, on average, water heating represents about 20% of the energy use within a typical home. A lot of marketing material and articles in North America claim that water heating typically represents 20-30% and it will vary from home to home based on the technologies in your home as well as your water use patterns.

May 16
2009

Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff Program

Posted by Geoff Jones in Energy

Geoff Jones

As a result of the Green Energy Act, released in Ontario on Feb. 23, 2009, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has developed a new program call the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff program (FIT or REFIT).  The FIT program replaces the previous program known as the Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP).  Since inception, on Nov. 22, 2006, the RESOP program has exceeded all expectations with over 1,400MW of contracted projects so far. 

 

The purpose of the FIT program is basically the same as the initial RESOP program and is to "encourage and promote greater adoption and use of renewable energy sources including wind, waterpower, Renewable Biomass, Bio-gas, Bio-fuel, landfill gas and solar for electricity generating projects that can be connected to a Host Facility, a Distribution System or the IESO-Controlled Grid, in Ontario." The FIT program is for solar PV renewable generating projects with a maximum capacity of 10MW, for waterpower projects with a maximum capacity of 50MW and unlimited capacity for projects using other renewable fuels as identified above.

May 12
2009

Drain Water Heat Recovery (DWHR) Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in Energy

Geoff Jones

 

A Drain Water Heat Recovery system (DWHR) is an energy conservation technology that is designed to reduce the energy required for hot water heating.  First let's take a quick look at how a typical hot water heater works.  A tank based water heater receives cold water from your well or municipal supply and heats it up to a preset setting (let's say 50C for discussion as temperature settings may vary but are generally in this area).  The tank based water heater maintains water at that temperature all the time.   If the water cools too much (due to standby losses), or as hot water is used and fresh cool water enters the system the water heater uses energy (electricity, gas, propane etc.) to keep the water in the tank at the desired temperature.  Cold water that enters the tank is typically somewhere around 10C.  So the water heater has to heat that water from 10C up to 50C (a 40C temperature rise). 

 

May 09
2009

What is a Tankless Hot Water Heater?

Posted by Geoff Jones in Energy

Geoff Jones

To understand what an on-demand or tankless hot water heater is valuable to understand the basics of a tank based hot water heater for comparison.

 

The key difference between the 2 types of systems is that a tankless heater, as the name would imply, doesn't have an actual hot water storage tank.  When hot water is needed within the home an "instantaneous", or "tankless" hot water heater will heat the water "on-demand" as it is needed.  To do this tankless hot water heaters have very high BTU (British Thermal Unit) ratings (~150,000-2000,000 BTU) and use a lot of energy at the instant it is needed to heat the water very quickly.  A tank based water heater, by comparison, uses energy constantly to keep water in the tank at a specific temperature (or within a range) whether you are using hot water or not.  The instantaneous energy required to heat the water in a tank based unit, from a BTU standpoint, is much less (~40,000BTU) than that of a tankless unit. 

May 07
2009

Solar Domestic Hot Water (SDHW) System Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in Solar , Energy

Geoff Jones

The general principle of how a thermal Solar Domestic Hot Water System works is relatively simple.  Energy from the sun is typically collected via glazed flat panels (solar) which transfer the sun's energy, in the form of heat to a mixture of distilled water and food-grade propylene glycol.  The mixture of propylene glycol with water is necessary to allow for year round application as it resists freezing. As the glycol fluid is heated by the sun's energy this heat is then transferred from the glycol mixture to heat the water in the solar hot water storage tank via a heat exchanger.  As hot water is used within the home the solar storage tank provides hot water to your existing main hot water heater instead of this water coming from your standard municipal cold water supply at temperatures around 10C.  The water in the solar storage tank has been pre-heated and may be hot enough that your hot water tank will not need to do any additional heating.  Even if the water from the solar hot water storage tank is not as hot as your main hot water heater setting, it may still be much warmer than the water temperature from your city/well water supply.  As a result, your hot water heater requires less energy to heat the water within the tank to the desired temperature and it can do it quicker.

Typically, SDHW systems are 2 tank solutions; 1) the solar hot water storage tank and 2) your existing main hot water tank. There are some single tank SDHW solutions that use solar to heat the water and have a backup electric heater for times where there is insufficient solar energy to heat the water to temperature, or maintain the desired temperature.  SDHW systems can also be used as a pre-heat for on-demand, or instantaneous, hot water heaters.

Mar 05
2009

Geothermal Power Plant Explained

Posted by Geoff Jones in Geothermal , Energy

Geoff Jones

As we have already discussed that geothermal energy can be used for heating/cooling as is often seen in Geothermal Heating systems for residential applications, but, geothermal energy can also be used to generate electricity in large scale electric power plants.   We could explain how this works in words but this great video, created by Cal Energy, explains the operation of a Geothermal Power Plant very well.

Enjoy!

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjpp2MQffnw 425x425]

Jan 11
2007

Hydroelectric Power, A Quick Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in Energy

Geoff Jones

About Hydroelectric Energy

Hydroelectric energy is a renewable energy source dependent upon the hydrological cycle of water, which involves evaporation, precipitation and the flow of water due to gravity. Hydro Electricity is not a new technology but is used as a primary source of electricity in many countries in the world such as Canada, the United States, Brazil, China, Russia and Norway.  Based on information and statistics from 2003 there is over 700,000 MW of electric capacity generated by hydroelectric facilities around the world.   Hopefully that number has continued to increase over the past years as this technology is well established, proven and very environmentally friendly.

Understanding Hydroelectric Facilities

The main components of a hydroelectric facility are the dam, the powerhouse that contains the mechanical and electrical equipment, and the waterways. Water from a lake or river is controlled by a dam. Water is released from the dam to turn turbines and the turbines drive generators that produce electricity.  The purpose of the dam is to create height for the water to fall and to provide storage. However, the dam must also be provided with a spillway that will allow high water flows or flood waters to pass without over-topping the dam or reducing its safety. Flood waters can come from heavy rain or rapid snow melt on the upstream part of the basin. 

Small-Scale Hydroelectric Facilities

Small-scale hydroelectric facilities can be developed to provide electricity for a few houses or for small commercial applications. In more rugged regions of the country, small-scale facilities can be built at relatively low costs.

Benefits of Hydroelectric Energy 

  • Hydroelectric energy is a renewable energy source
  • Hydroelectric energy environmentally friendly.  
  • It is non-polluting and no heat or noxious gases are released as the process involves harnessing the power of flowing water to turn the turbines
  • Hydroelectric energy has no fuel cost and with its low operating and maintenance costs, it is potentially close to inflation proof
  • Hydroelectric energy technology is a proven reliable technology
  • Hydroelectric stations have a long life and many existing stations have been in operation for more than half a century and are still operating efficiently
  • Hydropower station efficiencies of over 90% are achieved making it the most efficient of energy conversion technologies
  • Hydropower offers a means of responding within seconds to changes in load demand (providing you are not at maximum capacity already)
 
Dec 14
2006

Geothermal Power, A Quick Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in Geothermal , Energy

Geoff Jones

About Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is basically the generation of electricity or heating/cooling systems that make use of temperatures in the earth itself.  The Earth's core lies approximately 6000 km below the surface and reaches temperatures that near 5000ºC (9000ºF). These extreme temperatures are sufficient to heat the rock that surrounds the core (the mantle) causing it to melt. Melted rock in the mantle is known as magma, as often pictured spewing from an active volcano.  Liquid magma has a lower density than the solid rock around it, so it tends to move upwards towards the earth's surface. The majority of the time magma stays below the earth's surface and heats up the surrounding rock and any pockets of water that come in contact with it. Geothermal systems typically take advantage of water tables that are heated by the magma.  

There are two types of energy that can be obtained from the earth: earth energy and geothermal energy.   It is important to note, however, that in many cases Geothermal Energy is the term that is generically used for either type of energy and little or no distinction is drawn between Earth and Geothermal Energy.  From my investigations the best distinction between earth energy and geothermal energy is the difference between making use of water that is heated by temperatures in the earth (geothermal) vs. using the temperature of the earth or water, to heat/cool water in a closed system using a heat pump (earth energy).

Nov 28
2006

Wind Power, A Quick Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in Wind , Energy

Geoff Jones

Wind Energy

The principle of Wind energy is pretty simple and very similar to hydroelectricity at a high level.  OK, water and wind obviously have some differences but they also have some similarities in this comparison.  Both technologies make use of kinetic energy to generate electricity.  In the case of Wind power it is the kinetic energy of moving air, and for Hydro it is the kinetic energy in moving water that provides the force necessary to generate electricity. Wind energy is a pollution-free and infinitely sustainable form of energy (providing you always have wind).  Wind energy doesn’t produce any greenhouse gas emissions at all, and doesn’t produce any byproducts like radioactive or toxic waste.

There are a number of different names for Wind based energy systems.  Most commonly they are referred to as "wind turbine generators", "wind pumps", or "wind turbines".

Nov 28
2006

LED vs. Incandescent Christmas Lights

Posted by Geoff Jones in Energy

Geoff Jones

LED vs. Incandescent Christmas Lights 

It's the time of year again when the neighborhood starts to light up with anticipation and excitement for the Christmas season.  We have a yearly tradition which involves driving around the neighborhood looking for the craziest Christmas lights display we can find.  You would be amazed at how many houses get the honor of being considered for the Crazy House award.  We love the Christmas season and kids just love Christmas lights (big kids too).  So it's no wonder you might be thinking to yourself this year, should I go out and spend a pile of money on LED lights or just use the strings and strings of lights I have in the garage, or basement, or wherever you hid them for the other 11 months of the year.  Well, you’re not alone.  We are all asking the same question. 

I answered this question for myself this year.  Prior to writing this article I made the decision that I am willing to make the transition and toss all the old Christmas lights and spend some serious coin for LED replacements.  I probably only need about 500 lights for the front porch, and our Christmas tree combined.  I'm sure, based on the crazy houses in my neighborhood, that there are some people who would be looking at thousands of lights, if not tens of thousands if they wanted to make the transition.  500 lights is probably going to cost me somewhere around $120-$150 CDN.  Now, there are cheaper ways to do it but I personally refuse to buy the circus lights (no offence to those who love the red, yellow, green, blue etc. colours).   I'm a little bit of a Christmas traditionalist and will only put up white lights.   

Nov 28
2006

Bioenergy, A Quick Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in Energy

Geoff Jones

About Bioenergy

 

Bioenergy is produced by the release of chemical energy contained within fuels made from biomass. What is Biomass, you might ask.  It is actually the result of solar energy that is stored by the photosynthetic activity of plants. As we know, plants remove CO(carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere and combine it with water to produce biomass. Some common sources of Biomass include; agricultural waste, forest wast, municipal waste, food processing waste etc.

Nov 22
2006

Passive Solar Energy

Posted by Geoff Jones in Solar , Energy

Geoff Jones

What is Passive Solar Energy

Passive solar energy is the concept of taking into consideration the effects of natural solar energy during building design to take advantage of daylight, space heating and/or space cooling.  It is called passive solar energy as it does not require special materials, technologies, or systems to convert the solar energy into electricity to then be used for heating, cooling or lighting.   The most common building component used in passive solar energy is windows. Over a year, most windows loose more energy than they gain. Advanced windows can actually be net energy suppliers, with better net annual energy performance than the most tightly insulated wall.For some hints and tips on effective use of energy efficient windows visit the Efficient Windows Collaborative organization.

Passive Solar Cooling   

Passive solar space cooling is used in warm climates around the world.  The key concept of solar cooling is to locate windows in the upper floor of a building so that this space is solar-heated during the warm season.  When the building requires cooling the windows are opened to allow fresh air in and hot air to escape.  By focusing the incoming air on lower levels of the building, or through air ducts in the ground, thus providing further cooling (using geothermal principles) cooler air is brought into the lower levels of the building, and hotter air escapes from the upper level.  Natural convection, or forced air can be used to increase the flow of the cooler air to upper levels of the building.

Passive Solar Daylight   

The basic concept of Passive Solar Daylight is very simple.  If you have sufficient natural light in your home during the day you don’t need to turn on lights, thus reducing the electricity used.Tips on taking advantage of passive solar daylighting can be found at the following link: US DOE Building Technologies Program.

Nov 22
2006

Types of Solar Collectors

Posted by Geoff Jones in Solar , Energy

Geoff Jones

Solar Collectors

Not only are there many different ways that solar energy can be applied, but there are also many different methods for collecting the solar energy from incident radiation.  Below is a listing of some of the more popular types of solar collectors.  

  • Glazed flat-plate solar collectors
  • Unglazed flat-plate solar collectors
  • Unglazed perforated plate collectors
  • Back-pass solar collectors
  • Concentrating solar collectors
  • Air based solar collectors
  • Batch solar collectors
  • Solar cookers
  • Liquid-based solar collectors
  • Parabolic dish systems
  • Parabolic trough systems
  • Power tower systems
  • Stationary concentrating solar collectors
  • Vacuum tube solar collectors

More information about collectors can be found at the  U.S. Department of Energy – Solar Energy Technologies Program: Solar Heating.                

Nov 21
2006

Solar Power, A Quick Overview

Posted by Geoff Jones in Solar , Energy

Geoff Jones

Solar Power, A Quick Overview

Solar power is the transformation of the energy provided by sunlight into electricity.  The resulting electricity is known as Photovoltaic Energy.  Photovoltaic Energy is created through the conversion of sunlight via a photovoltaic (PV) cell, often referred to as a solar cell.  You have probably seen one on a calculator you've used in the past.

Sunlight is composed of photons, or particles of energy. The amount of energy in a photon corresponds to the different wavelengths of the solar spectrum.  Available solar energy is often expressed in units of energy per time per unit area, such as watts per square metre  (W/m2). The amount of energy available from the sun outside the Earth’s atmosphere is approximately 1367 W/m2; that’s nearly the same as a high power hair drier for every square meter of sunlight!  Some of the solar energy is absorbed as it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.  As a result, on a clear day the amount of solar energy available at the Earth’s surface in the direction of the sun is typically 1000 W/m2.  At any particular time, the available solar energy is primarily dependent upon how high the sun is in the sky and current cloud conditions.  On a monthly or annual basis, the amount of solar energy available also depends upon the location.  Furthermore, usable solar energy is depends upon available solar energy, other weather conditions, the technology used, and the application.  When photons strike a photovoltaic cell, they are either reflected, absorbed or pass right through the cell. Photons that are absorbed by the cell are able to provide energy to generate electricity. When enough sunlight (energy) is absorbed by the material (a semiconductor), electrons are excited and "freed" from the material's atoms.  The exciting of electrons, resulting in a bouncing back and forth, creates friction and therefore heat. The solar cell takes a percentage of these electrons and directs them to flow in a path. This flow of electrons is, by definition, electricity.

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