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Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Electric thermal storage: so far, so good

What do we want? Energy storage! When do we want it? NOW!

In mid-September, Yukon Conservation Society (YCS), supported by Yukon government’s Energy Branch, Government of Canada, Yukon Energy, and Yukon University saw their first residential electric thermal storage (ETS) furnace installed as part of a testing program to gauge the viability and efficacy of this system in Yukon. Our older downtown Whitehorse house was chosen for that first installation. And, after a month of service, I am thrilled to report my appreciation of its function and gratefulness for having been chosen based on structural and energy demand criteria.

The simple description is, after my oil burner furnace was removed, the new furnace housing was put in its place and a metric tonne of iron impregnated bricks were positioned inside with electric heating elements installed in an array. This device is a forced air Steffes model using some of the existing ductwork with necessary fabrication done by the installer (Certified Heating & Service).

Prior to that, Solvest Inc., upgraded our existing electrical panel from 125 to 200 amps to support the electrical demand.

The unit will be connected via internet to YCS for the duration of the project, with sensors reporting inside and outside temperatures to YCS, and directing necessary electric energy input accordingly during off-peak hours. YCS will collect and provide coded data on the ETS unit’s operation to their research partners at Yukon University.

While I had some hesitancy about enrolling in the project because of the amount of money I would be outlaying and also that my existing furnace was only 10 years old, it was a conversation with J. P. Pinard, that made me make an immediate shift. He said, “Norman, you will be cutting your carbon footprint in half!”

The lightbulb lit!

We are fortunate to have Yukon’s existing hydro-generated electricity, but with growing residential and commercial demands surpassing its capacity, “dirty” diesel and LNG use is increasing. We can tolerate this for now, but it is an untenable insult to the environment and the future of our biosphere. Fossil fuel energy is the easy source of energy, but that ease has dulled us to complacency around its inevitable negative, if not dire, consequences.

While the problems associated with fossil fuel use have been identified and freeze many into states of hopelessness, it is programs like this that search for and test possible solutions that should give us hope. Our current hydro-generated power could not support a significant number of ETS devices, but, as visionaries like Pinard suggests, a multi-megawatt “wind farm” installation could supply a cost-effective source of electricity to feed these devices with much less environmental impact.

Yes, there are significant up-front costs. More than the average consumer is prepared to pay. Therefore, it is incumbent upon governments to seed fund the research, development, and testing of possible solutions along many avenues. Some will prove lacking. However, without starting, the possible solutions will remain unfound.

Norman Holler

Whitehorse, Yukon

Society says time to return the favour

Like so many Yukon community events and festivals, the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival has benefitted very much from Air North’s support over the years. We appreciated Keith Halliday’s Oct. 16 Yukonomist article about the value that our home-grown airline brings to the territory, and we wanted to add our voice and some experiences to the mix.

Air North has been a diamond-level sponsor of KMBF for many years. We simply could not afford to bring in word-class musicians from all over North America without their support to offset the costs of flying North of 60. They help us get our performers here affordably, and with a lot of class to boot.

A few years ago, we were in an air travel jam. Most of our headlining performers were stuck in Vancouver, having missed their connections to Whitehorse because of delays on a major carrier. It looked as if the festival’s opening night would be a disaster. Our artistic director reached out to Air North, desperate for a solution. They not only managed to get all our artists on a flight, they actually comped their fares! One of the highlights of the festival was the thunderous applause from the crowd as we announced what Air North had done for us. It later came out that they had also pre-boarded the musicians and their (very valuable) instruments to make sure there was enough room for them as carry-on. This prompted the Grascals’ ace banjo player Kristin Scott Benson to write a heartfelt letter of appreciation to the Yukon News. She described the experience of flying with Air North as being like falling into comforting arms.

The value Air North brings to our tourism and industry sectors is indisputable, but so is the value they bring to our communities through their steady and gracious support of sporting, cultural and artistic events like ours. We all need to put our support behind them now, to keep them doing what they do best – treating people like gold.

Yukon Bluegrass Music Society board

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