Recently, I had the pleasure of joining 34 other volunteer Energy Ambassadors for the Battle River Watershed ‘Finding Common Ground 2.0’ two-day tour.
Visiting eight sites in the Watershed, the tour included industrial, government, business and homeowner efforts.
Nineteen guides and speakers, plus eight student EcoVision Ambassadors presented informative and thought-provoking discussions about energy production and efficiency, emission and footprint reduction.
At the Paintearth coal mine we learned the coal mining for power production, started in 1956, will soon complete the phase-out.
Reclamation of its 6,226 hectare footprint will be completed with pea and willow planting, and biosoil amendments.
The coal is being replaced by a 10” natural gas line for the Atco power plant near Forestburg.
We trooped up 113 steps to the fifth story to see the massive former coal burning boilers converted to natural gas.
This will reduce emissions by two thirds.
Travelling to Halkirk, we entered an actual wind turbine tower at the Capital Power site.
The 83 wind turbines, 80m tall with 44m blades, generate enough power to support 50,000 homes (same amount as the Atco generating station).
The 25,000-acre footprint is jointly used for agriculture.
A passive solar geodesic dome greenhouse with aquaponics was the highlight of the presentation by eight student EcoVision Ambassadors at the Lacombe Composite High School.
As part of the environmental teachings of the curriculum and extracurricular clubs, students grow food in the greenhouse, the outdoor raised beds and an indoor food tower.
The Louis Bull Solar Initiative, located at Maskwacis, provides alternative energy with solar installations on public buildings: the adult training centre, fire hall/security centre, Head Start children’s project and the Maskwacis Health Services, with plans for the transfer station, daycare centre and more.
Solar energy has saved money and maintenance costs for the community.
It has provided career development and jobs for community members and cultural integration.
The Louis Bull Renewable School with a full solar array and solar heating is the next project.
Other projects being investigated are hydroelectric from the Battle River, geothermal from existing oil and gas wells and producing ethanol from hemp.
The Nadon straw bale home in Camrose County optimizes residential energy efficiency.
Site orientation, straw bale wall construction, salvaged materials, energy-efficient windows, appliances, lighting; and in-floor heating and entry airlocks all contribute to àn inviting, cozy family home.
“We all use energy. We are all part of the solution. We all have a part to play. We all will benefit from finding solutions together. We all share this watershed, this province, this planet.”
Our conclusion might agree with Aldo Leopold, dean of ecological thinking, 1938: “We end, I think at what might be called the standard paradox of the 20th century, our tools are better than we are and grow better faster than we do.
They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”
More Battle River Watershed information and photos from the tour are available at www.Battle River Watershed.ca or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Pat Reiter, gardener