PEI is Going Green

Cresting the Confederation Bridge onto PEI, one realizes they are entering a different place and senses even a different time. Rising cliffs of rich red clay scared by relentless sea and wind rise up from the Atlantic into fog settling over the vast rolling farmland island. Boat loads of lobster head back to the fishing villages and lighthouses dotting the distant coastline. The long forgotten smell of earth and sea carry on the wild winds. There are no expressways or skyscrapers, sub-ways or public transportation systems, yet this little province manages to lead the way in Green initiatives despite size and location.

Prince Edward Island’s wind farm at North Cape is able to supply almost 6% of PEI’s annual electricity usage and research is underway into creating a hydrogen village that will convert unused energy from the wind farm into hydrogen and store it for future use. PEI wants to raise its wind energy to 15 percent by 2010.

The Government of PEI has developed a unique approach to waste management. In fact, PEI is the first to have a province wide waste source separation system. In 2003, PEI’s program recorded an incredible 65% diversion rate. PEI banned non-refillable soft drink bottles way back in 1977, and soft drink cans in 1984. Today, the return rate on Prince Edward Island’s soft drink and beer containers stands at close to 98 percent. This is the highest in North America.

Cities, businesses, and citizens of PEI have started to embraced green technologies and are realizing the advantages of eco-friendly approach on their pocket books as well. The city of Charlottetown uses renewable energy technologies such as biomass-fired district energy systems that provide steam to its 64 customers and 84 buildings. To do this, roughly one million litres of hot water are distributed through special, Danish-built, thin-wall steel inner piping, which is encased in foam insulation with an outer steel casing. The hot water is distributed from the Charlottetown District Energy Plant at 85°–120°C, and it returns at 70°–90°C. Thermal losses from the system are very small relative to the amount of heat being transported to all the end users.

Individuals like my friend Dan Viau installed and operates an outdoor wood furnace behind the toy factory adjacent to his house. Dan supplements about 20 cords of wood annually with waste from the toy shop and is able to keep his home, factory and shop heated throughout the cold PEI winters at significant savings to his wallet and the environment.

There are concerns however, as PEI residents rely exclusively on groundwater for their drinking water and nitrate levels are high due to farming practices. One in five wells tested displayed nitrate levels above Health Canada regulations. A joint federal study showed that if farmers in the watersheds stopped using fertilizers today, it could take 20 years for nitrates to come down to a normal level. Interestingly, before the turn of the century, lobster bodies were used as fertilizer due to their low market value and abundance at the time!

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