The traditional approach to deicing roads is to cover the roads (and thus the ground around the road) in salt – which is absolutely awful for the environment. Because so many people drive cars the demand for road salt is high and has come to negatively impact local economies and environments.
There is a solution to make salting less damaging and it’s already being used in some communities.
Beets are usually just used to create sugar or, like at Schrute Farms, beet soup. In Ontario roadworks departments have been using a byproduct from beet sugar processing to clear ice off of roads. They mix the beet byproduct with salt to create a new brine that works better and harms less.
Niagara Region has used the mixture for about three years, resulting in a 30 per cent reduction in road salt which damages tender fruit trees and vines, said Dave MacLeod, the region’s manager of transportation operations and technology.
The Ontario transportation ministry is working with Oakville and Grey County to test the effectiveness of other beet juice-based products that are added to brine, said a ministry spokesman.
“The ministry’s objective is to provide safe highways for all travellers by using the best available technology. At the same time, we recognize our responsibility to protect the environment, so we use technology to help us determine the best way to clear our highways in the most environmentally friendly, cost-effective way,” he said.
Air conditioners use a ton of energy and when everyone has their’s running the load on the power grid can be pushed to the limit. At night, when it’s generally cooler, the power grid isn’t being used nearly as much. A company called Ice Energy is using that extra night time capacity to make ice, which is then used to cool buildings as a compliment to exiting AC setups.
The building owner gets cheaper power, and the utility gets a solution to its peak power problems, said Mike Hopkins, executive vice president of corporate development. That all comes at a cost of roughly $2,200 per kilowatt of installed capacity, a figure that’s quite competitive with other forms of distributed energy storage, he said.
It’s a growing business. Ice Energy is now roughly halfway through fulfilling the 53 megawatts of Ice Bear units it has contracted to provide its biggest customer, the Southern California Public Power Authority, which buys power for municipal utilities around the SoCal region. That relationship also led the company to relocate from Windsor, Colo. to Glendale, Calif. last month, and to decide to focus on California as its key market, Hopkins said.
The David Suzuki Foundation has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the lack of ice coverage at the North Pole. Where Will Santa Live? is a fun spin on a serious issue and looks like a good way to talk about ice coverage while keeping the conversation entertaining.
“We’re asking Canadians to do something novel and give a gift to Santa this holiday season,” says David Suzuki. “We have to help Santa, the elves and the reindeer evacuate the North Pole and find a suitable temporary workshop in Canada.”
We hope you'll forgive us for having some fun with a beloved holiday figure. But climate change is no laughing matter.
Global warming is a serious problem, and poses a very real risk to all the winter traditions and experiences we as Canadians hold dear.
By supporting our “Where Will Santa Live?” campaign, you will be helping us develop a clean, renewable energy plan for Canada, affect climate policy decisions at a national and provincial level, and provide more resources to Canadians on how to go carbon neutral at home and at work, among many other initiatives.
Learn more about our work to turn back climate change and how you can take action to be part of the solution.
It should come to no surprise that the sun melts snow and ice. Indeed, one of the reasons we have such severe climate change is because the energy from the sun isn’t being reflected off of snow (the albedo effect).
Some enterprising researchers have proposed that we capture the energy the sun is tossing at us by using roads to store energy that can be later used to melt snow or provide energy. Imagine all the roads in North America as an energy source!
“We have mile after mile of asphalt pavement around the country, and in the summer it absorbs a great deal of heat, warming the roads up to 140 degrees or more,” said K. Wayne Lee, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering and the leader of the joint project. “If we can harvest that heat, we can use it for our daily use, save on fossil fuels, and reduce global warming.”
The URI team has identified four potential approaches, from simple to complex, and they are pursuing research projects designed to make each of them a reality.
One of the simplest ideas is to wrap flexible photovoltaic cells around the top of Jersey barriers dividing highways to provide electricity to power streetlights and illuminate road signs. The photovoltaic cells could also be embedded in the roadway between the Jersey barrier and the adjacent rumble strip.
“This is a project that could be implemented today because the technology already exists,” said Lee. “Since the new generation of solar cells are so flexible, they can be installed so that regardless of the angle of the sun, it will be shining on the cells and generating electricity. A pilot program is progressing for the lamps outside Bliss Hall on campus.”
Another practical approach to harvesting solar energy from pavement is to embed water filled pipes beneath the asphalt and allow the sun to warm the water. The heated water could then be piped beneath bridge decks to melt accumulated ice on the surface and reduce the need for road salt. The water could also be piped to nearby buildings to satisfy heating or hot water needs, similar to geothermal heat pumps. It could even be converted to steam to turn a turbine in a small, traditional power plant.