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Bright Ideas in the Bridge City

March 2, 2016 - 1:17pm

When Gord Stushnoff talks about street lights, it is easy to understand the association between light bulbs and bright ideas. Stushnoff is the Lighting and Drafting Superintendent at Saskatoon Light & Power (SL&P) who, along with colleague Nathan Ziegler, is working to implement the City of Saskatoon’s Energy and Greenhouse Gas Management Plan. The ambitious plan is shaping the City’s progress toward its Environmental Leadership Strategic Goal by reducing emissions and demonstrating the economic benefits of energy-efficient technology.

Stushnoff and Ziegler are currently providing leadership to three exciting initiatives under the City’s plan: Light Emitting Diode (LED) street lights, the Landfill Gas Project and the solar panel demonstration project at the Landfill site in the City’s southwest.

Installing LED street lights in all new projects makes good economic and environmental sense given LEDs consume 60% less energy and last three times longer than the traditional bulbs currently in most streetlight fixtures. To date, over 1,300 LED street lights have been installed in new neighbourhoods and along new roadways.  This has reduced associated greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking 22 cars off the road.

Aside from the significant increase in energy efficiency, LED fixtures deliver improved light quality—a practical application that even has law enforcement impressed. Police have noted that LED light makes for more accurate evidence gathering and suspect descriptions when investigating a crime. “Where traditional bulbs give off an orange/yellow tone, LED lights are whiter, cleaner, crisper,” Stushnoff says. “Plus colour rendition is more accurate with LED. Reds are red; greens are green. There’s a lot better clarity and colour with LED light.”

Over at the Landfill, there’s more going on than just waste management. Nathan Ziegler, Sustainable Electricity Engineer at SL&P, proudly oversees the Landfill Gas Power Generation Facility and the soon-to-launch solar panel demonstration project in partnership with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society’s (SES) Solar Panel Co-operative.

When organic waste decomposes, it generates greenhouse gasses including methane and carbon dioxide. Before the Landfill Gas project, those gasses would just end up in the atmosphere. But thanks to the project’s capture and combustion technology, greenhouse gasses are used to power generators that produce electricity sold to SaskPower for about $1.2 million every year.

“Every minute of every day we pull an average of 340 cubic feet of greenhouse gasses off that landfill that otherwise would have gone into the atmosphere,” says Ziegler. “That’s 180 million cubic feet every year converted into electricity—a reduction of 52,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide last year alone.”

To put those numbers into perspective, that’s like taking 10,400 vehicles off the road and generating enough electricity to power nearly 1,200 homes and businesses. That’s roughly the size of the Nutana neighbourhood!

This summer, the Landfill will become the permanent host of the first solar panel demonstration project in Saskatchewan. The demonstration project is a partnership between the City and the SES. Through this project the SES Solar Power Co-op will open the solar market to citizens as well as provide vital data to guide the City’s planning down the road.  

While the initial project will house a modest 160 solar panels and produce a relatively small amount of energy, SL&P sees solar power taking off, thanks to Saskatchewan’s big sky and abundant sunlight.

Green technology can take a long time to develop and is still relatively expensive. But, as Ziegler is quick to point out, “As more people move to Saskatoon, and as more people grow up learning and living a more sustainable way of life, timelines will speed up, and costs will shrink.”

All good news for Saskatoon thanks to the SL&P team whose bright ideas are lighting the way to a greener, more economically viable and sustainable future.    

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