COLUMN: Innovation helps lights shine bright

Reporter's Viewpoint

The night was silent, a hushed serenity away from city sounds.

Blackness crushed between grey – a mesh of darkness above my head that shifted in the sky. The stars, some shining light from beacons long past dead, were clear and crisp in the absence of city lights or pesky neighbour porch orbs.

I breathed in the cool air flowing from my window into my lungs. I missed the taste of it – clean, fresh air that swept off the lake into my parents’ home. It is an unusual taste – no tinges of salt or car exhaust to stick to your throat.

I had missed the sensation of the air, the smell of it. On my recent vacation, I was able to experience it again.

And before darkness filled the sky, the red, purple and orange glow of sunset reminded me of evenings I had spent on the front porch of my parent’s home as a teenager.

The front yard was a splotch of yellow dead grass, an indication my parents conserved water in the summer months. The garden bed held a few sparse plants and the steps had the same familiar green paint I sat upon so many times before.

Occasionally I heard a car pass by on the nearby highway, but for the most part the night was a tomb of stillness.

The beauty of the area brought important issues that I think of often to the forefront of my mind – the environment, alternative power sources and the importance of protecting the natural landscapes of the province.

I sometimes think how great it would be to get an electric vehicle instead of my gas-powered guzzler. My car is actually not bad for fuel consumption, but I still think of it as a guzzler because every time I go to the pump it seems to suck up the contents of my wallet.

Electric vehicles still have flaws. They require a large amount of raw materials to build the structure of the car.

It would also have to be powered by electricity from the grid. Where is all this power is supposed to come from?

B.C. Hydro continues to send the message to customers that they must practise conservation. However, if you get a fleet of electric cars on the road, how is that going to impact usage on the grid?

Air quality might improve, then again it might not. There is still a large amount of coal-burning plants throughout the world. More demand on power could mean more pollution from another source.

How are we going to power the future?

I don’t believe conservation will be enough. Sure, those people who leave every light on in their house, or leave their TV on all day – even if they aren’t home – should be reminded how they are using power.

However, many people are taking steps to try and use less electricity. But are those steps enough?

More power plants are needed. But the types of power plants we build will determine what kind of environment we leave to the next generation.

Proposed power projects such as the one Tony Irwin’s Western Tidal Power Ltd. is exploring in Dodd Narrows – which has potential to generate power for 5,000 homes – are the kinds of projects that must be explored in the future.

Tidal power, solar power and wind power projects could help Vancouver Island deal with rising power needs.

There are also thermal power possibilities. Renewable energy sources are important to pursue.

My hope is these cleaner alternatives will help keep the air and sky beautiful so that people’s children and grandchildren can sit on their porches in the late evening hours and enjoy the air and view of the night sky while still enjoying the comfort of their homes powered by electricity.