Solar and wind technologies have made significant developments in recent years. Now, tidal power is catching up.
The government of Canada plans to contribute $1 million to help develop tidal stream technology and research tidal power in Nova Scotia. The Offshore Energy Research Association and the Nova Scotia government have each pledged to add an additional $125,000 to the project.
Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources, says the project will aim to study the environmental impact and reduce costs associated with tidal power.
“Few countries in the world have the advantages we do when it comes to tidal power,” says Carr. “Bordered by three oceans and with the longest coastline of any nation, Canada understands the potential of tides as a source of electricity,”
Tidal power has massive potential as a renewable energy source. The ocean tides are an inexhaustible source of clean energy, with the benefit of being far more predictable than the wind or sun. However, tidal power is currently underutilized.
Currently, there are two main methods of generating tidal power: tidal barrages and tidal streams. But both technologies have downsides in their current form.
A tidal barrage works much like a hydroelectric dam, allowing water to flow in at high tide and trapping it as the tide lowers. Then, a gate at the bottom of the barrage opens to let water through, spinning an underwater turbine.
Tidal barrages only work in areas with a high tidal range (a large difference between high tide and low tide) and appropriate terrain for building a large barrier. And although they generate clean energy, barrages are not entirely environmentally sound, as they can cause damage to local ecosystems.
Tidal stream technology is like an underwater wind turbine, capturing the kinetic energy of tidal currents to generate electricity. But since they’ve only been around for about ten years, the tech is still very expensive compared to other renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.
But tidal stream technology is on the rise. Last year, the first grid-connected tidal turbine was installed in Nova Scotia, generating enough electricity to power 500 Canadian homes. Researchers are now studying the impact of the turbine after its first year in use.
How much does the average person use each day?
According to the United States Geological Survey, most people use 80-100 gallons of water every day when they could easily get by with 20.
There are hundreds of ways we can use less water in our daily lives. Unfortunately, not all these methods are realistic (or desirable) for the average person. We understand that most people, for instance, are reluctant to re-use their bath water. Nor are they willing to withhold flushing the toilet until the end of the day.
Fortunately, conserving water doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. Here are some simple, effective, and (most importantly) realistic ways you can start using less water today.
Showers and baths account for the majority of the water consumption in our homes. An average tub takes about 36 gallons of water to fill, while a shower only uses about 2-5 gallons of water per minute. If you can keep your showers under the fifteen-minute mark, chances are you’ll use less water than you would with a bath.
Estimated water savings: 15-20 gallons per day. Assuming an average of 100 gallons a day, that’ll bring your daily usage down from 100 to 80 gallons.
Doing laundry or dishes with a half-empty machine wastes both water and electricity. If you need to wash just a few dishes and you can’t wait for a full machine, wash them in the sink instead.
Estimated water savings: 15 gallons per day for laundry and 10 gallons per day for the dishwasher. On days where you don’t run these cycles, your water use is down to 50.
Brushing your teeth only uses about a gallon of water, but that adds up if you’re brushing twice a day (as you should be!) Get your toothbrush wet and then turn off the faucet until it’s time to rinse. The same goes for washing your hands or shaving.
Estimated water savings: 2 gallons for brushing teeth and more for your hand-washing. You’re sitting at 59 gallons now.
You’d be shocked at how much water you can waste through a tiny leak in your plumbing. A small toilet leak alone can cost you 20 gallons of water each day! According to Save Our Water, most people would save 110 gallons a month if they fixed their leaky faucets and toilets. That’s a lot of water and a lot of money on your monthly bill.
A quick way to check for toilet leaks is to place a food drops of food colouring in the back of the tank. Let it sit without flushing. If there’s colour in the bowl after 30 minutes, you probably have a leak. But don’t panic! It’s an easy fix.
Estimated water savings: at least 20 gallons.
Taken together, these tips take your water use from 100 gallons a day all the way down to 33! That’s a great start.
Airlines are doing it. Movie studios and restaurants are in on it, too. Major corporations like Google and Nike have embraced it in their long-term goals. Even entire countries, like Iceland and Costa Rica, have joined the cause.
Carbon offsets (also known as carbon credits) are a way for businesses and individuals to pay for their part in producing greenhouse gas emissions. But do they really work, or are they just another eco-trendy bandwagon?
Climate change is a worldwide crisis that impacts everyone. The main culprit is carbon dioxide, which is released when we burn fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas.
When we drive our cars, we pollute the earth with greenhouse gas. The same goes for flying on an airplane or, really, doing anything else that consumes dirty, non-renewable energy. Every switch we flick on and off contributes in some small way to this immense problem.
What can we do about it? Well, we can do out best to reduce energy consumption in various ways. We can buy energy-efficient appliances and abide by best practices for energy use.
But no matter what we do, it’s impossible to reduce our carbon emissions to zero.
That’s why carbon offsets exist. Carbon offsets are like “credits” you can buy to fund environmental projects that help to reduce future emissions in some way. By doing this, you can essentially offset your own polluting emissions, hence the term ‘carbon offset.’
For example, say you’re taking a plane trip to visit your parents in another state. You could find out how much greenhouse gas the trip will cause and, based on that amount, invest in a solar farm project somewhere in the world. The renewable energy created by those solar panels will, in theory, balance out the environmental cost of your trip.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “It’s based on the principle that, since climate change is a global problem, an emission reduction made elsewhere has the same positive effect as one made locally.”
There are certainly benefits to carbon offsets. However, the process is complicated and sometimes controversial. To start, for the investment to effectively offset the donor’s greenhouse gas emissions, it must meet these requirements:
These are areas where issues have arisen with carbon offsets in the past. For example, past year, the English court shut down 19 companies for selling worthless carbon credits.
There are also concerns that carbon offsets could never truly negate the impact of greenhouse gases. As stated by RationalWiki, “the limited amount of environmental remediation available compared to the massive amounts of pollution being put out risks carbon offset inflation by overselling the available amount of remediation, rendering said offsets useless.”
Though this may turn out to be true, carbon offsets can still be beneficial in that they motivate people and businesses to invest in projects such as solar and wind energy farms. This provides renewable energy with an additional source of revenue and helps the industry grow, which helps reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Imagine never having to charge your smart watch again.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have created a wearable device that produces electricity from body heat using a flexible thermoelectric generator. This breakthrough technology could not only make wearable devices more convenient, but save on the energy required to charge them.
If you don’t already own a piece of wearable technology, you’ve probably shaken hands with someone who does. Smart watches and fitness trackers are catching up to smart phones as a must-have technology. But these nifty devices aren’t without disadvantages, like the need to charge them at least a few times a week.
With thermoelectric generator technology, your Fitbit or Apple Watch could run continuously without needing to be plugged in. Such convenience has the potential to further integrate this technology into our daily lives.
But it’s not all about fun toys like smart watches and fitness trackers. The team at North Carolina University has its eyes on the market for medical devices, like heart monitors and environmental sensors. Thermoelectric generators would eliminate the need to remove these devices to charge them, making the technology safer and more reliable for patients.
Last year, North Carolina University produced its first experimental prototype for a wearable thermoelectric generator. It was a small, body-conforming patch that generated the most heat when worn on the upper arm.
Though it was lightweight, the patch was rigid and uncomfortable to wear. That’s why researchers began working on a flexible device instead.
“We wanted to design a flexible thermoelectric harvester that does not compromise on the material quality of rigid devices yet provides similar or better efficiency,” said Mehmet Ozturk, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university. “Using rigid devices is not the best option when you consider a number of different factors.”
The new design uses a non-toxic metal alloy called EGaln to connect the thermoelectric elements in the device. The allow has lower resistance and allows for greater power generation. It also makes the device “self-healing”, as Professor Ozturk explains.
“Using liquid metal also adds a self-healing function: If a connection is broken, the liquid metal will reconnect to make the device work efficiently again. Rigid devices are not able to heal themselves.”
As wearable devices grow in popularity, we will continue to consume more and more energy charging them. Having a built-in body heat generator could substantially reduce the carbon footprint of these devices.