| Posted: Saturday, Mar 23, 2013 06:00 am
Lights out for Earth Hour
St. Albert homes will go dark Saturday night for Earth Hour as part of a global effort to convince people to act on climate change.
The sixth-annual Earth Hour will take place this March 23 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. People across Canada and the world will shut off all non-essential lights for this hour to show their support for action to stop dangerous climate change.
City staff will shut off all non-essential lights in public buildings during this time, says St. Albert environmental co-ordinator Kalen Pilkington. FortisAlberta will also track changes to St. Albert’s electricity use during Earth Hour.
Climate researchers have determined that the world has warmed by about 0.74 C in the last century due in most part to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In order to prevent the worst effects of warming (which include widespread collapse of coral reefs, mass extinctions, and flooding), researchers suggest this warming must be held to two degrees or less. Doing so would mean having global greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2020 and fall significantly thereafter.
We won’t do that just by turning off the lights for an hour, says Josh Laughren, director of climate and energy with the WWF, but going lights-out should push our leaders to action on emissions.
“The issue’s becoming more urgent, not less,” he says, and we have just 20 to 30 years to make the necessary changes. “That means starting now.”
Earth Hour isn’t so much about the energy saved as the thoughts it provokes, Laughren says.
“Is my house well insulated? Am I wasting energy?”
By taking action during the rest of the year (car-pooling more, for example), residents can help stave off climate change.
And it’s also about turning off the TV and getting together as a family, he continued.
“That’s one of the best opportunities Earth Hour affords: the time to reconnect with what matters with us,” he said.
About 39 per cent of Canadians (around 13 million) took part in last year’s Earth Hour, the WWF reports.
Hot sun sorrows
Cheap natural gas prices have cast a cloud over the solar hot-water industry, says a local advocate.
Luke Thibault of St. Albert’s Threshold Energies Corp. will be part of a forum on solar hot-water systems Wednesday at Grant MacEwan University organized by the Solar Energy Society of Alberta.
Solar thermal installers are fairly dispersed in Alberta, says Rob Harlan, executive director of the society. This event is meant to draw them together and give people a chance to learn more about the technology.
Solar thermal panels use the sun’s energy to heat water and air, Harlan says, and can provide 60 to 70 per cent of a home’s hot water needs.
“Alberta has a world famous solar thermal installation in Okotoks,” he notes – the Drake Landing project, where 52 homes get 97 per cent of their heat from the sun – and Wednesday’s forum will feature the first public look at a new performance analysis of that installation.
Thibault says he’ll be discussing solar thermal technology in Alberta, with a particular focus on the large system his company recently installed at the Edmonton International Airport.
Solar hot-water systems are particularly good for commercial sites such as car washes that need hot water year-round, Thibault says.
“It’s a way to harness essentially free energy,” he said.
But low natural gas prices mean the industry hasn’t expanded as quickly as some had hoped, he continues. It costs about $400 a year to heat your home’s water with natural gas right now, which means you’d have to wait about 20 years before the typical $10,000 solar thermal system would pay off.
“The economics of it is hurting the installation end of things,” Thibault said.
The talk starts at 7 p.m. on March 27 in Grant MacEwan’s CN Theatre (Room 5-142). Visit solaralberta.ca for details.