Friday, August 19, 2011

New Coal 500MW Coal Plant in Alberta

The AUC has recently approved a new 500 MW coal plant at the H.R. Milner plant for Maxim Power.  That is bad enough as it is, but when you add on the fact that the AUC specifically fast tracked the approval process in order guarantee exemption from new Federal  coal plant emissions regulations.  The new federal regulations will exempt any new power plant from the emissions standards as long as it is commissioned before July 2015. 

Its fine that we need power and that some of it will have to come from dirty sources for now, however at least make them follow the regulations.  Lets not give Maxim Power free reign to be exempt from protecting regulations for the average joe.  These regulations ensure that everyone has at least some form of protection against dirty air.  These regulations are at least a step in the right direction, and Alberta cannot even force a company to adhere to them.  What for?  For a lousy few bucks, what about the millions of dollars of money that will have to be spent on medical care for those living and breathing the poor air quality. 

This new regulation will not even apply to Ontario, you want to know why?  Ontario is shutting down all of their coal plants.  So what does Alberta do?  We do business as usual and pander to the dirty industry billionaires seeking billions more. This is very disappointing news, please get the word out.  Its time that we start moving forward and start investing in renewable energies and the health of Albertans.

An element of fun in Transit Design

One of the downfalls with public transit can come with the fact that most transit agencies are government owned.  We all know that governments are burdened with the regulations and responsibility to spend their tax payers and thus voters dollars wisely.  On top of all of this there is a vocal portion of our society that decries any or all tax dollars not spent on the bare minimum of road maintenance or snow clearing, public art and infrastructure for sustainable modes of transportation are not worthy investments.  Transit therefore is most designed with a purely utilitarian purpose.

All humans need some form of fun or dynamics to help us trudge through our day.  Our city planners should be given a bit more free reign to think outside the box for transit solutions. Our transit systems could be vastly improved we would dedicate a little bit more energy towards designing systems that incorporate a bit of fun but still meet all of the necessary safety and regulatory needs.

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This sort of thinking has already taken root at a station in the Netherlands.  This station has a slide built to the side of access stairwells.  This is a great idea as who doesn't secretly wish to relive our days as a child.  Not only that but it allows you to get to the trains faster, this is much faster than taking the stairs.

When I was in Mexico, musicians were allowed to board the buses and play a quick ditty on their guitar.  Music is always a great way lift someones spirits, and more provisions should be made to allow musicians on public transit.  You could enforce rules that would only allow a musician to play for a short period of time in non-peak hours.

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Transit stations should also be designed with creative or interactive features, such as this piano stairwell in Stockholm.  These stairs work as a real piano, and they found that people would actually prefer to take the stairs as opposed to the escalator right next to it. 

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A great way to enliven our transit systems to allocate more space for art, such as these legs at Southgate station in Edmonton.  City planners should not only make accommodations for official public art but for grass root public art spaces as well.  This could be a wall that a different artist is allowed to adorn each month.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Business Case for a Cargo Bike

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Over at Treehugger  they have an article about a brewery in Colorado that uses a cargo bike to transport their kegs to client.  This is a fantastic idea that many businesses overlook.  North americans vastly underestimate the value of a bicycle.  After an initial albiet small capital investment, there are very little operating costs to run a bicycle.  Bicycles require very little maintenance, and no fuel and can last forever if properly maintained. 

In this case Equinox Brewing had to source a specific design for their bicycle to prevent turbulence to the brothy goodiness contained in the keg.  This is another idea often overlooked by prospective businesses, most people would never think to retrofit a bike to serve a second purpose.  As you can see it can be done, and you can significantly lower business costs.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Water Savings From A Rain Barrel

The water that comes out of your tap required extensive quantities of energy and your tax dollars to clean, and pump.  The water that exits your taps is safe to drink, and should not be used for anything else. 

An inexpensive way to save water is to install a rain barrel under the rain spout from your roof.  I have touched on this before, however I wanted to provide you with some numbers of how much water you could actually save.  The roof of my house is 14m x 10m,  this produces an area of 140m².  Calgary's average rainfall in April is 51.4 mm.  This means that 51.4 mm of rain would fall on the entire area of your roof and down your rainspout.  This means that an April rainfall of 51.4mm would produce 7m³ of rain.  This is equal to 7,000L of water, this is enough water to water a 6 m by 6 m vegetable garden for month.  Or half of your entire backyard lawn.

This amount of water would have cost $7 in your underpriced Canadian system.  A typical rain barrel will run you $80.  However you can find repurposed plastic drums/rain barrels for $40.  Or a plastic 50 gal garbage can costs $20.