Son of Five Rivers Blog

For the advancement of Entrepreneurship, Sustainability & the Ecology of Everyday Life

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I’ve been blogging for several months now and I’m glad to have recieved the feedback I have.  I’ve enjoyed the experince and for that reason I’ve decided to take blogging to another level.  I’ll be self hosting my blog and that means you’ll see a lot more creativity in the design, functionality and layout of the new blog.

Check it out:


January 22, 2010 Posted by | 1, A Thought, Ads, Agriculture, Art, Blogging, Books, Brochure, Business, Business Cards, Business Development, Business Model, Carbon Credits, Clean Energy, Co-op, Community Economic Development (CED), Computer Networking, Construction, Creativity, Data Recovery, Definitions, Earth, Economics, Education, Electric Cars, Email, Entrepreneurship, Family, Finance, Geothermal, Government, Grants, Great Ideas, Green Roofs, Human Resources, Information Technology (I.T.), Inspiration, Investment, LEED, Life, Marketing, Micro Credit, Not for Profit, Open Source, Packaging, PDA's, Philanthropy, Photography, Politics, Power Piont, Products, Project Management, Quotes, Sales, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Services, Social Enterprise, Social Media, Solar, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development, Taxes, Venture Capital, Videos, War, Waste, Water, Website | Leave a comment

Portable Work Station

These LEED (Leader in Energy & Environmental Design) and Built Green Building Certifications are the in thing when it comes to new development.   This means that those who ware developing news sustainable and homes and commercial units are bring more work with them to the job site.   That’s why I think this is great product and a great idea.


Is It Transportable? From Louis Vuitton to the Finley Plan Station, we are intrigued by transportable designs. They usually take up a lot less space, and are well suited to a more mobile lifestyle. They often display clever use of materials and hardware, and ingenious design ideas. And, like the Finley Plan Station, they don't always cost the earth. More: Less is More: Fold Away Wall Desks Room in a Box: You Can Take it With You Credit: Finley Products

August 28, 2009 Posted by | Construction, Creativity, Geothermal, Great Ideas, Green Roofs, LEED, Packaging, Products | Leave a comment

Lights without Light Pollution

I consider my self an amateur astronomer,  so I was pleseantly surprised when I read this in a newsletter from my local electricty supplier, BC Hydro.  (and Yes I’m susbscribed to the online newsletters of my Gas & Electricty suppliers, doesn’t it just make sense?)  Enjoy the article & some pictures I found:

Light Polution

Light Polution STreet Lights

Astronomers big on Power Smart’s battle against light pollution

Rob Klovance

Detail of a photo of the Pelican Nebula taken by John McDonald through a telescope at Astronomy Hill near Victoria in 2007. (W.J. McDonald photo)

It took a trip to Saltspring Island for amateur astronomer John McDonald’s grandkids from Vancouver to see the milky way for the first time. But for McDonald, it’s the story of a group of visiting Tokyo schoolkids that hammers home the allure of the elusive dark sky.

“These kids were staying at a fairly dark place up island,” says McDonald, a retiree who lives in Victoria. “Someone took them out at night to show them the milky way… and they couldn’t’ get them to go back in.

“These kids had never seen a star except the sun.”

McDonald and other B.C. star-gazers couldn’t be happier to hear that BC Hydro Power Smart has launched a campaign to fight light pollution that includes rebates on flat lens streetlight products. To them, the need is significant and the timing is perfect – the United Nations has declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy, an initiative that coincides with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the telescope.

It’s not just about dark skies

And if you’re thinking that an astronomer’s battle against light pollution is just a tad self-serving, think again. Before we start talking about the stars, McDonald has already dealt with a laundry list of light pollution costs – wasted energy, wasted money, dangerous glare for drivers and detrimental effects on wildlife, including birds and fish.

“I think most of us are very keenly aware of the fact we’re using up energy, and that there’s a cost to it,” says McDonald, fresh off a trip to Costa Rica in which he shot a mind-blowing time-lapse video of the sky throughout the night. “And the amount of energy that is wasted in lighting up the bottoms of clouds and sending light off into space to do nothing is a considerable expense. It’s billions of dollars in North America.”

Our ‘addiction’  to light

Most of us think that the brighter the outdoor lighting, the better. McDonald thinks that attitude is a byproduct of growing up in an age here in B.C. where “hydro power has been basically a free service”. He speaks of us being addicted to light while largely ignoring the costs of that addiction.

In 1996, at the request of the US Congress, the National Institute of Justice conducted a landmark assessment of crime and violence in the United States. The study found little research to support the idea of “brighter-is-safer”, and even suggested that in some circumstances poorly designed illumination might actually increase personal vulnerability.

“There’s nothing worse than having somebody with motion security lighting,” says another astronomer, Paul Greenhalgh of Abbotsford. “To me it’s not security at all, it’s illumination. The day that a streetlight walks into court and testifies that this guy did what he did – that he stole that car – is the day I’ll eat my telescope.”

A billion bucks in wasted energy

Inefficient and excessive night lighting causes significant loss of energy globally. In North America, the energy wasted in illuminating the sky is estimated at a billion dollars. Good, clean outdoor lighting improves visibility, safety, and a sense of security, while minimizing energy use, operating costs, and ugly, dazzling glare.

There are three types of light pollution:

  • Light trespass, which occurs when light crosses property lines. Poor outdoor lighting shines onto neighbours’ properties and into bedroom windows, reducing privacy, hindering sleep, and giving the area an unattractive look.
  • Glare, which comes from an overly bright source of light compared to background lighting levels. Glare  is light that beams directly from a lamp into your eye. It serves no purpose and hampers the vision of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. If you can see the bright lamp from a distance, it’s a bad light. With a good light, you see lit ground instead of the dazzling lamp.
  • Sky glow, which spills upward from urbanized areas and blocks the view of the stars

If we were to think of lamps as taps and leaking light rays as drops of water, we would never tolerate it. But, we seldom think about the impact of light pollution.

Reducing light pollution has a variety of benefits, including energy savings and helping eliminate light exposure that disrupts sleep cycles, causes fatigue and strains the immune system.

What we can do to helpIllustration shows full cutoff streetlamp

Greenhalgh’s Fraser Valley Astronomers Society has successfully lobbied the City of Abbotsford to apply a new policy to streetlighting. All new streetlamps in the city will be fitted with full cutoff lighting, which all but eliminates light not central to the task of lighting the street. And all existing lamps will be retrofitted with full cutoffs as part of their ongoing maintainence cycle.

Power Smart is out to remind people that we all have the power to help reduce light pollution and save energy and money, both with the lighting choices we make at home and the choices we make at our businesses.

Here’s a short list of things we can do:

  • Assess your requirements. Ask yourself if the lighting is really needed. If so, determine what area has to be lit, how much illumination is needed, and when is the lighting required.
  • Adopt “part-night lighting” by turning off non-essential lights after midnight. You save energy and money.
  • Install timers or motion sensors to turn your security lighting on only when needed. You save energy and money.
  • Adjust your security and outdoor lights so that they do not trespass into your neighbours’ house. Casting light onto adjacent areas is a waste of energy
  • Direct light where it is needed. Use lights that shield the lamp and direct the light down rather than out and away.
  • Avoid glare. A luminaire that emits a concentrated beam of light offers better visibility than one that shines light in all directions. In certain cases, glare can compromise safety.
  • Choose the most efficient lamps. Certain types of lamps consume less energy than others with the same light output. Choose lamps with a high lamp efficacy such as CFLs.
  • Choose the right luminaire. Light directed towards the sky does not improve night vision.
  • Choose luminaires that have a flat lens and a shield that completely shades the upper surface of the lamp or are classified as cut off and full cutoff by IESNA (Illumination Engineering Society of North America). The lamps sit back further in these luminaires causing the light to be cast down rather than out to the side. Therefore light cannot escape above 90 degrees horizontal plane. You can even install the lights under balconies and eaves.

How BC Hydro is fighting light pollution

BC Hydro is doing its part to reduce light pollution and help its customers save energy and money. Some of BC Hydro’s initiatives that help customers reduce light pollution and save energy include:

  • In-store instant discounts on ENERGY STAR light fixtures and ENERGY STAR Specialty CFL lamps. These lamps use up to 75% less energy than regular incandescent lamps.
    Mail in rebates for the purchase of ENERGY STAR CFL lamps.
  • Funding for studies to determine how municipalities can use adaptive street lighting to reduce street lighting levels without impacting safety. This will help municipalities dim their street lights by up to 50% during low traffic periods.
  • Incentives for business customers to install lighting controls such as timers and occupancy sensors to turn of lights when lighting is not required.
  • Incentives for municipalities and businesses to install ornamental streetlights with high efficiency lamps with flat lenses. The fully-shielded flat-lens lamps do an equally good job of illuminating the road by directing the light to where it is needed without sending light up into the sky or out into your eyes. The ground and roadway will be well illuminated. And, because no light is wasted, a lower wattage lamp can be used to illuminate the desired area.
  • Technical and financial assistance to customers who plan to reduce their lighting energy consumption by re-designing their lighting and de-lamping to reduce over illumination.
  • Lighting design tools and financial incentives for developers and builders of new buildings.
  • Funding for energy managers who target energy efficiency measures at customers’ facilities.
  • Training and development opportunities on energy conservation for businesses and their employees.

Source: BC Hydro

Other Cool Links:

Our Vanishing Night (National Geographic article)

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Vancouver)

International Astronomy Day, HR MacMillan Space Centre, Vancouver

The Sky Tonight (Diagram of constellations in current evening sky, Vancouver)

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Art, Business, Business Development, Clean Energy, Community Economic Development (CED), Construction, Creativity, Earth, Education, Family, Geothermal, Government, Great Ideas, Green Roofs, Human Resources, Inspiration, LEED, Life, Philanthropy, Products, Solar, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“World on Fire” – Geothermal

Geothermal power is a clean and renewable source of energy that reduces dependency on fossil fuels and foreign energy sources.


What is Geothermal Energy?

In its simplest terms, geothermal means earth-heat. It is related to the thermal energy of Earth’s interior. On a large scale, the intensity of this thermal energy increases with depth, that is, the temperature of the Earth increases as we travel closer to its centre. A global average for Earth’s geothermal gradient (temperature increase with depth) is approximately 30°C/km. For example, if we merely removed the outer 3 km of Earth’s outer surface, it would be a sphere 5000°C at the core, and nearly hot enough to boil water on its surface. Earth contains an incredibly vast amount of thermal energy.

Where Does Geothermal Energy Come From?

Geothermal energy has two primary sources, primordial heat, and radioactive decay. Primordial heat is what resulted from the creation of Earth 4.5 billion years ago, when the energy and mass from colliding cosmic matter made Earth a large, hot piece of space debris. As Earth’s outside cooled, it then acted as an insulator for the heat in the middle, which is why Earth is still cool and hospitable on the outside, and hot-rock and metal at its core.


© 2000 Geothermal Education Office

Some of the elements that were part of Earth’s original composition were radioactive. As those radioactive elements continue to decay below us (very slowly), they generate additional thermal energy and heat the Earth’s interior.

Of course, some of the heat still seeps through the ‘insulation’, the evidence of this is volcanic features like those in Hawaii, New Zealand, Japan and Italy.

How Can We Use Geothermal Energy?

A vast majority of the world’s power production involves the use of hot water. Sources like nuclear, coal and natural gas harness different processes (i.e. radioactive decay, combustion) to heat water into steam, which is run through a turbine to generate electricity. Geothermal energy uses the escaping heat from Earth’s core as a means to heat water and produce electricity. By drilling deep into the Earth’s interior, we find temperatures suitably high to produce electricity.

Sometimes when we drill deep, there is hot water where the rock is porous (has space for fluids). In this case, we can extract the water from depth and through specialized equipment, use it to produce electricity (explained further on). If there is no water, but the rocks are very hot where we drill, it is possible to inject water to create an enhanced geothermal system (EGS) and hot water where it did not exist before. By using Earth’s thermal energy to heat water instead of processes with harmful by-products like coal and nuclear, geothermal energy can produce clean, reliable electricity as long as heat continues to seep from Earth’s interior (as it has for 4.5 billion years). Further, it is sustainable power because once we have extracted the thermal energy from the water or steam, it can be continuously re-injected deep underground to obtain more geothermal heat.

Aside from producing power, we also use hot, geothermal water for heating pools (i.e hot springs), district heating, agriculture and laundries, to name a few. This is called direct-use geothermal because the heat is used directly from the water to serve a function.

How is Electricity Produced from Geothermal Heat?

There are two commonly used processes when creating electricity from geothermal sources. The first, flash geothermal, is generally associated with higher temperature geothermal sources ( >180°C). Because the pressure of the subsurface environment is much greater that at Earth’s surface, water can exist as a liquid at very high temperatures. The high temperature, high pressure water is brought to surface, where it is enters a low pressure chamber and ‘flashes’ into steam. The pressure created by this steam is channelled through a turbine, which spins to generate electrical power. Once the steam has exited the turbine, it is either released into the atmosphere as water vapour, or it cools back into liquid water and is injected back underground.


© 2000 Geothermal Education Office

The second common method, binary geothermal, is common with lower temperature geothermal resources. It operates on the same principle that when a liquid is heated into a vapour, the resulting pressure can drive a turbine. However, because the temperatures are often too low to ‘flash’ water in a binary system, we must transfer the heat of water to a separate liquid with a lower boiling temperature. The separate liquid is called a ‘working fluid’. When the got geothermal water is brought to surface from deep underground, it is run through a ‘heat exchanger’ which transfers the heat from the geothermal water to the liquid working fluid. Because the working fluid boils at a low temperature, it vaporizes readily with less geothermal heat, and this vaporization produces enough pressure to drive a turbine. What makes a binary system unique is that it operates as a 2 closed-loops (hence, binary); neither the geothermal water nor the working fluid are exposed to the surface environment. All the water that is brought to surface is re-injected, and after vaporizing, the working fluid is cooled to its liquid state, so it may repeat the process. There are no-emissions in the binary geothermal cycle.


© 2000 Geothermal Education Office

Why Aren’t We Using Geothermal Power Now?

Many countries including the United States, Mexico, Japan, Iceland and The Philippines are already taking advantage of their geothermal resources for electricity production. It is true that anywhere in world, at some depth below your feet exists enough geothermal heat to use for geothermal power. However, to reach that depth we must drill, and drilling costs increase exponentially with depth. At our present level of drilling technology, we are able to harness the highest quality geothermal resources, which are those located closest to Earth’s surface


Ring of Fire

The distribution of the highest quality geothermal resources is generally limited to locations with a high level of tectonic activity, where the Earth’s tectonic plates are interacting. You may have heard of the ‘Ring of Fire’ which circles the pacific ocean; a lot of tectonic activity occurs along this ring, and the geologic conditions of this activity permit large amounts of heat to rise to Earth’s surface (which occasionally results in volcanism). Therefore, there are a limited amount of countries that can use geothermal power extensively given the current level of technology. However, research continues into how we can reduce the expense of drilling and improve the efficiency of geothermal power plants, both which will allow more areas to take advantage of this outstanding resource.

In spite of their proven geothermal resources, some countries lag behind others in geothermal power production for political reasons. In their infancy, most renewable energy markets require government support, through policy and funding, to reach critical-mass and compete competitively on price. For nearly 25 years, geothermal science has not been funded by the Canadian Federal Government. Our limited data proves that Western Canada has extensive geothermal potential. Technology has improved considerably since the government last looked at geothermal power.

What is missing?

You and Me!
Spread your new awareness with your friends, family and colleagues that care about a sustainable energy future.  In Canada there is CanGEA! Every new member brings one voice closer to geothermal power.

July 11, 2009 Posted by | Construction, Earth, Education, Geothermal, Government, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development, Videos | , , , , | Leave a comment