| Posted: Saturday, Jul 07, 2012 06:00 am
Airport taps the sun
A St. Albert company has helped build one of the biggest solar hot-water systems in Alberta.
The Edmonton International Airport will hold a media tour of the many green features of its new terminal building later this month. The $670-million expansion to the airport currently houses its U.S. flights and will soon host a new control tower and hotel.
The terminal includes a host of eco-friendly features, according to airport spokesperson Chris Chodan, including recycled building materials, toilets flushed with rainwater and a two-storey tall Living Wall of vegetation.
On the roof are 64 solar hot water collectors installed by St. Albert’s Threshold Energies Corp. The collectors, which collectively cover 190 square metres (a little less than half of a basketball court), provide about 40 per cent of the terminal’s hot water needs.
It’s one of the biggest systems in Alberta, says Leigh Bond, president of Threshold, and certainly the biggest in Edmonton. “It’s big.” It cost about $316,000, and should pay for itself in about 14 years.
The system has been operational since October, Bond says, but the airport wanted to wait until this summer to unveil it.
It works by having sunlight heat an antifreeze-like substance in each panel that in turn warms drinking water, Bond explains. The heated water goes into a pair of 1,900-gallon (7,200 litre) tanks that supply hot water to the terminal’s bathrooms and restaurants.
The system saves the airport about six homes worth of natural gas a year, Bond says, and prevents about 33 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the process –equivalent to seven cars removed from the road.
It also proves that solar hot water systems work in the winter, Bond continues. “The maintenance guys were just amazed that there was 120 F [49 C] water in a 1,900 gallon tank when it was 30 below outside.”
Visit www.flyeia.com/expansion2012 for more details.
Weed war back on
St. Albert’s weed warriors will be back in action next week after taking a year off to regroup.
City staffers are holding their third annual Weed Warrior event July 13 at the old canoe club pond in Riel Park. The event, which was skipped last year due to staff’s focus on the city’s 150th anniversary, is meant to teach people about invasive plants in St. Albert.
This particular spot has a wide variety of alien invaders, says city environmental co-ordinator Kalen Pilkington, including Canada thistle, oxeye daisy, common tansy and burdock. “We’re targeting these plants right now because they haven’t gone to seed yet.”
St. Albert is home to about 12 species listed under the Weed Control Act, according to the city. The city is legally obliged to control or destroy these plants to keep them from spreading.
“Invasive weeds are really dangerous to native species,” Pilkington notes, as they spread rapidly and can crowd them out. The canoe club region is known to harbour purple loosestrife, for example — a tall, purple-flowered weed that the province has on its “destroy on sight” list due to its tendency to assimilate entire shores.
The best way to get rid of invasive weeds, especially in an ecologically sensitive area like the Sturgeon, is to pull them by hand, Pilkington notes. “One of the problems with invasive species is that often their root systems are quite extensive, so a little bit of digging might have to be done.”
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday. Residents should bring long pants and thick gloves to guard against spiky weeds and meet at the Big Lake Environment Support Society’s shelter on the trail. Call 780-459-1735 for details.
Thor likes (hates?) us
St. Albert was a bit of a smite-fest last year, according to a local power line company, recording the second highest number of lightning strikes in the company’s service area.
Lightning struck St. Albert some 3,306 times in 2011, according to FortisAlberta spokesperson Kevin Haslbeck, giving us about 5.4 bolts per square kilometre. That makes the city the second most smite-prone region in Fortis’s service region (which covers about 60 per cent of Alberta’s power network) behind Thorsby, which had 7.1.
Lightning bolts release radio pulses when they strike, according to provincial fire weather meteorologist Paul Kruger, and the province uses a network of 11 detectors to count and locate them. (Fortis used this network for its calculations.)
“The foothills are where we have the most unstable air in the province,” he explains, and they produce most of the province’s thunderstorms. Winds blow those storms northeast to St. Albert, giving us our dose of smiting.
St. Albert is at the edge of a triangular-shaped zone known for lightning strikes, he continues, one that includes High River, Hinton and Edmonton. Swan Hills is probably the tops provincially for lightning strikes, he adds.
Lightning strikes can cause severe injuries, Haslbeck says, so residents should take care when they hear thunder.
Residents should take shelter if they can count 30 seconds or less between lightning and thunder, Haslbeck says. “If you see the lightning coming, the safest place to be is inside,” he adds, whether that’s in a house or car. Both will conduct electricity around you in the event of a strike. Stay away from metal or tall objects like trees during a storm, and don’t use plugged-in appliances.
Visit www.fortisalberta.com for other safety tips.