Types of hydroelectric power: How do the dam things work?

Hydroelectricity, or ‘hydro’, is generated from the energy in the water cycle of the earth. The sun evaporates water on the surface of the earth, causing it to rise up to form clouds. Clouds eventually form droplets, which then rain, snow, or hail down to the surface. Water on the surface flows downhill until it evaporates again. During this time it may become trapped in glaciers, lakes, ponds, puddles, or the ocean. Driven by the sun, the water cycle is a truly renewable resource.

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Progress and potential of renewable energy

The intent of this publication is an ongoing investigation of the progress and potential of renewable energy in our world. Our goal is to collect the best writing and news on the subject of renewable energy projects and policies. We have observed that humanity is innovating rapidly as the energy security of the future becomes a global priority. Current trends indicate that the age of coal will end before we run out of coal.

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Reservoir hydro resources on the Canadian prairies

We have been captivated for a long time by the intriguing possibilities inherent in combining Manitoba’s extensive hydro resources with Saskatchewan’s high-quality wind power. A number of other groups in Saskatchewan have been lobbying for greater interconnection between the two power grids to take advantage of the natural synergy that exists between wind power and reservoir-based hydro power.

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Is most radiation from nuclear power?

Nuclear power is a tiny fraction of our total radiation dose. Nuclear power is legally obligated to keep its radioactive emissions incredibly low. Even people who live close to nuclear power plants will receive from them only a fraction of the dose that they receive naturally from their environment. Human-made sources account for about 20% of the dose to humans, with nuclear power composing less than 1% of the total dose. Coal is responsible for a larger portion of radioactive dose than nuclear is. This is a point missed by most people involved in the world discussion about energy sources.

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Solar Thermal Power

Solar thermal power generation presents a unique opportunity among renewable technologies today. It is well-understood. Prototypes and commercial power plants of this sort exist. It has capabilities for both baseload and peak-matching power generation. It is affordable in locations with lots of sunlight. Costs are in the range 10-15¢/kWh currently, with great potential for the future.

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Feed-In Tariff: Government Encouraging The Market

The feed-in tariff is a well known policy mechanism in the area of electricity generation. It has been applied in many countries with the intent of encouraging the development of renewable power generation. Such a policy typically involves guaranteeing to desired types of generation both subsidized long term prices for electricity and guaranteed grid access. This policy has been well utilized notably in Germany and Spain, where residents have seen very stable electricity prices coupled with tremendous growth of the renewable energy sector of their economies.

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Leverage hydro to use wind

When wind isn’t blowing hard, use a dispatchable source such as hydro to produce power. Let’s assume that we have 150 MW of hydro on hand to cover the Centennial Wind Farm when the wind isn’t blowing. If we look at entire year of production, we can expect that about 42.4% of all energy will have come from the wind, and that the remaining 57.6% of the energy would have come from the hydro. What is necessary for a system like this to work is to have enough water behind the hydro dam that it can cover a fairly long spell of low winds. This could be as long as several days. If our hydro reservoir is big enough to cover that time, we should be able to cover the intermittent nature of the wind for the whole year. If it isn’t big enough, we will have to get our power from elsewhere. Perhaps importing it from neighboring grids or by using another source such as natural gas.

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Reliable power rather than baseload

What people really want is reliable power. We don’t want to end up freezing in the dark. Electricity is important enough to our society that our energy security is of great importance to us. This is a fundamental issue that all technically advanced nations have to face.
It would be a mistake to equate baseload with reliable. Baseload power sources still have to turn off sometimes. In some cases, the downtimes for the big thermal plants such as nuclear and coal can be several percent of their lifetimes. If our power grid were based off of only baseload sources of this type we might see rolling blackouts now and then unless we built extra power plants to cover the downtime.

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Electricity Grid: Key Terms and Definitions

In the most general sense, we are talking about moving power from one place to another. The electric grid accomplishes this by having power lines between generation stations and demand locations such as homes and businesses. Some general rules apply to this sort of technology. The more power you have to move, the more expensive it will be to build the infrastructure to do it. The further you have to move the power, the more energy losses you are going to have in doing so. These rules apply in general, but the specifics of a problem will dictate what sort of solution is applied.

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Incentives to build renewable in Saskatchewan

We proposed a feed-in tariff for renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and hydro power. What this means is basically that people or companies who produced power from these sources would be paid more for their electricity than non-renewable providers. See our proposal for more details about the practicality and effectiveness of a feed-in tariff as well as more detail on tailoring the solution for Saskatchewan. The intent of this policy mechanism is to stimulate an increase in private investment into these technologies.

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Does nuclear power lead to weapons proliferation?

Arguments can certainly be made to support either side of this argument. This article gives examples of valid arguments on both sides of the issue. In general it is clear that understanding of nuclear energy fundamentals is a prerequisite for creating nuclear weapons. In this area however, the proverbial cat is out of the bag. Pandora’s box has been opened. The knowledge exists and is relatively widespread. The real question is what to choose to do with the knowledge that the world now has.

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Does nuclear power cost more than other options?

While some variants of nuclear power plants are estimated to cost up to five times as much as competing technologies such as minimally-compliant coal power, these are extreme examples. Most populations will not allow minimally-compliant coal plants to be built because of their substantially dangerous pollution as well as radioactivity levels far above those of a nuclear power plant. Their radioactive and chemical emissions come in the form of massive fly ash ponds as well as airborne fly ash emissions.

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Waterton rock face

Nuclear Myth and Fact Project

Nuclear Power: Our First Major Project In October 2008, the Uranium Development Partnership committee was formed by the government of Saskatchewan. We noted that the mandate of the committee was to recommend the best ways for Saskatchewan to enjoy prosperity by developing nuclear industries. We also noted that the committee seemed to be filled primarily […]

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Nuclear Plants Need Backup Generators

A power utility has to have the capability of calling into service enough power to make up for the loss of its largest generator on short notice. For a nuclear generator, this would be between 300 and 2000 MW. In our home province of Saskatchewan, the largest single generator SaskPower has to keep backup capacity for currently is a 300MW coal unit. However, if the entire Boundary Dam facility went down, the Saskatchewan system could be missing as much as 813 MW of power.

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Feed-In Tariff Proposal for Saskatchewan

A Feed-in-Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to provide an incentive for development of a desired type. Typical implementations of feed-in-tariffs for power generation usually involve guaranteed long term prices for electricity generated and guaranteed grid access. This means that if a person or company builds this type of desired generation, they are guaranteed to be able to sell their power, and guaranteed a minimum price for their power.

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Nuclear Power: The Whole Story

Electrical power production using a nuclear power source is accomplished through the heat produced by bringing greater than a specific amount of radioactive material together. Water is heated to create steam, which in turn spins turbines to generate electricity. Greater quantities or concentrations of nuclear material produce more heat. The higher the temperature of the heat source, the more efficient the production of electricity from it becomes. If the core becomes too hot, it is possible for core material to melt. If the reactor core is kept relatively cool, the energy production is not thermodynamically or economically efficient. Combinations of different fuels, fuel cladding, and coolants have been tested to optimize reactor cores for efficient power production while remaining very safe. Many different combinations are in use today, each with it’s advantages and disadvantages.

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