November 5, 2007

Wind, solar energy power new air monitoring station in Alberta

Alberta has opened its first air monitoring station powered by solar and wind energy. The Hightower station, situated in an uninhabited forest 65 kilometres northwest of Hinton, is monitoring air quality using only 900 to 1,200 watts per hour--less than half the energy required by a conventional station. One of 127 air monitoring stations operating in Alberta, it will provide background data to help manage air quality in the province and will serve as a model for other jurisdictions that need reliable air monitoring stations in remote areas.

"With an energy efficient building, two wind generators, solar panels, battery storage and occasional use of a propane generator, we're up and running," said Cecil Andersen, chairman of the West Central Airshed Society, operator of the new station. The society monitors air quality in Breton, Drayton Valley, Edson, Entwistle, Hinton, Jasper, Pigeon Lake and Thorsby.

The Alberta government contributed $40,000 toward the design and construction of the station's alternative power system, which comprises two wind turbines, eight solar panels, battery storage and a propane generator. The wind turbines, over 13 metres in height, each have two five-metre blades. At maximum power, each turbine produces 3,000 watts per hour.

In addition, the station's eight solar panels are capable of generating up to 1,200 watts per hour. On average, the wind turbines and solar panels supply about 75% of the station's power. Twenty 68-kilogram batteries beneath the station provide significant storage capacity.

The facility also features thick walls which provide excellent insulation. Unlike conventional air monitoring stations, the Hightower station has no air conditioners and no heating equipment. Heat from the air monitoring equipment warms the station and an underground tube brings cool air into the station. Compact fluorescent and LED lighting is used to reduce power requirements.

The station houses equipment that continuously monitors ambient levels of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, along with temperature, wind speed and direction, solar radiation and relative humidity.

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