Discussing: Energy Options

By Melinda Bane

(WINDSOR, ON) – It seems that Windsor’s new pool palace could have solar panels when completed. While I am not certain that we really need a facility such as this in these troubled times, I am excited at the idea of this new development. I think that every new construction should follow suit. I firmly believe that using ambient energy truly is the way of the future. Certainly not by itself, but if used properly in conjunction with current technologies, it could eventually lower or even eliminate the cost of energy to the Canadian consumer. No, really…I’m not crazy. Ok, maybe I am, but this is not the reason. The problem lies in fact that current ambient energy technologies such as solar and wind (I don’t call them “green” for a reason) are considered by many to be woefully inefficient. This is true to a great extent because the Government is going about harnessing it the wrong way.

Unfortunately, the Government is thinking too big…and yet, too small. The equipment is too big and the current application of the technology is too small. Let me explain. One only needs to take an afternoon drive around Essex County or up the 401 to see the immense wind turbines rising up like crude, barren trees, marring the landscape. Or the vast arrays of solar collectors claiming the fields where we should be growing our food.

I believe, and others would agree, that these huge eyesores are an inefficient means of collecting ambient energy. Here’s why. We are dealing with the unpredictable forces of nature here. The wind does not blow only where the turbine stands and quite often not even strong enough to move the heavy blades. The wind blows everywhere at different times. The sun does not shine only where the arrays lie. Like the wind, the sun is everywhere as well but not always strong enough to make those arrays worthwhile. Now, if the Government would invest in residential sized equipment, we might see some progress in the field.

Imagine, if you will, if nearly every roof across the country was topped (tastefully, of course) with solar panels and an array of wind turbines. There’s no reason that they couldn’t be made to be both efficient AND pleasing to the eye. The turbines need not be large, they could be similar in size and structure to the weathercocks of olde. You know those flat tin roosters with the fan that farmers once used to tell where the wind was coming from? Those things that would spin madly at the slightest breeze? And did you know that solar collectors work even on cloudy days? Take your solar calculator outside and find out. The purpose of this would not be to replace our current system, but to take some pressure off an aging energy infrastructure.

One of the problems is that the industrial turbines and arrays must still pump the energy they collect though the lines to our homes. It takes energy to move the energy. That cost negates any benefit that might be had and adds pressure to the current grid. Residential equipment would bypass the grid altogether as the power that is being collected is being used right where it was collected. Even the most miniscule amount of energy collected on cloudy days with little breeze would be put to use. If you think about it, all those little bits of energy collected from everywhere would add up to a significant amount that our current sources would not have to provide and deliver. If every home and business relied just a little bit less on the grid, we could repair, replace or get rid of what we need to with little inconvenience to the public. It’s quite possible that no one would ever be completely without power ever again. Remember that blackout a few years back?

Now, it is the Government that needs to take up the mantle of creating the new manufacturing sector to build these products. Here’s why. Other than greedy, not-for-the-people corporations, only THEY have the capital to build or refit factories and to invest in the mass production required to bring purchase costs down within range of the average homeowner. These products could be sold internationally as well. Think of the jobs it would create. The profits could go directly into reducing energy costs for Canadians and not to some faceless corporation that might outsource the many thousands of newly created jobs or gouge the consumer in the name of profit. Many of these new jobs would very likely be jobs for Windsorites as well. We certainly have enough empty or underused factories ready for a refit and enough unemployed/underemployed to fill them.

And here, in Windsor/Essex, we would be just as happy to see the giant, useless turbines and arrays come down as we were angry when they went up.

So tell me, dear People, what are your thoughts on the matter? You can leave a comment below, e-mail me at melindabane@hotmail.com or find me on face book. I look forward to your insights.

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