Monday, September 1, 2008

Random Summer 2008 Update (40)

Random Summer 2008 Update

We've been busy - work, play, other stuff - and the weather has been really nice for most of August. We've taken a number of pix to document a few of the things we've been up to so I'm taking a bit of time to do this "random update" of some of our summer experiences.

Eric and Monique moved out of their apartment on June 30. Eric, with most of their furniture and household accessories, and all of his personal stuff, moved into our basement. He had a couple of jobs lined up for July and August. He was in and out of the house most of the summer until a couple of weeks ago when he went to Kelowna, to join Monique who had gone ahead to find them a place to live and herself a job. Eric will be going to school there starting at the end of September.

Craig flew in on August 2 from New Zealand and has been staying here most of the time. He took a week to go visit pals in Drumheller, but mostly has been doing his social butterfly thing here in Calgary.

All that to say we've had the two boys here at the same time for a few weeks and aside from the fact that it's been fun to have them both around for awhile, I had this idea that, gee, maybe we should get our picture taken with all four of us. I had this fantasy that we'd go have a professional photographer do the honours - but you try to get four people organized for an event like that when they are all flying around in different directions!

So I settled for a picture taken in our backyard by Craig's friend, Dave. Dave did a great job - but you have to work with what you've got. And we had 30 degree heat so needed to find shade - we ended up in our still under construction back yard - maybe not the most ideal situation for a family portrait. In any event, thanks to Dave, we have a few shots of the four of us. It will probably be the last one for quite a long time.

Here we are! Craig, Mary, Joe and Eric.

Craig with Dave and his daughter, Soleil.


Here's our house again - this time pix taken at the end of July.

In mid July, Joe and I got in the car one evening and went for a little drive west of Calgary. He was looking for some silver willow to dig up for our yard. I took the camera and snapped a few pix. This is somewhere around the Cochrane area. Very nice.


I've been working in the electricity industry for a few years now and find it very interesting. For me it's a lot more interesting than oil and gas - "more moving parts" - as someone aptly described it. Every once in awhile, I have an opportunity to tour a generation facility, and in July, I had the opportunity to tour a big ol' Alberta coal fired plant. I've seen hydro, gas and wind, so was happy to be able to add coal to my "collection."

I'll save the environmental soap box for another time, but suffice to say, in Alberta, we are sitting on a few hundred years' worth of coal - most of Alberta is flat and dry, so there isn't too much scope for hydro, although there are a few reservoirs in the mountains. So we go with what we have: coal and natural gas.

In Alberta, this kind of coal plant produces most of our base load power. Plants are typically sited right at a coal field, which is strip mined 24*7*365 and fed into the plant.
The coal is fired to heat water in the boiler to produce the steam that is used to turn the turbine that runs the generator to create the power. The water that is heated eventually finds it's way out to a cooling pond and it is recycled back into the plant. It's simple enough that even I can understand it.
This is one of the two drag lines used at this plant. (As we were not equipped with steel toed boots, they wouldn't let us out of the van, hence the corner of the window in the pix - I was behind the driver.) The drag line bucket to the right holds 24 cubic meters of material. You can see how big the thing is by the size of the truck (which wasn't so small!) beside it.

I could imagine Fred Flintstone operating this because in a sense, the whole technology seems rather primitive.
This fellow was one of our tour guides. He walked over to the coal seam to grab a chunk of coal for us to see. I took the pix to illustrate the coal seam and its relative depth. Andrew is standing on the bottom of the seam, and you can see the black layer tops out at the top of his head. So it's about six feet deep in this spot. He informed us that this would be about average - sometimes less, sometimes more. This area in underlain with a layer of coal that is estimated to be able to provide power for 30 years.
The drag line digs the coal up and drops it into these big trucks (I think that was the truck in the drag line pix above - so you can see how big they are - the red post might be a meter tall, max). These trucks are huge! They drive over top of the hopper, the bottom of the truck opens up and the coal falls into the hopper. The hopper is under the grating at pix bottom left.
The coal is ground up somewhere underground between the hopper and the chute you see in the mid left of the pix. The plant is the square building behind the chute, which is where the coal is heading. To the back left of the chute, there is a pile of coal - that's stashed there for an emergency, if the drag line is unable to dig, or there is some other interruption in coal supply. This stash would last for about a day, we were told.

And this is where the real action starts - the furnace that heats the boiler. I don't remember the exact temperature of this thing, but suffice to say, its darn hot! It heats steam to 583C (1000 F).
This is from the roof of the plant. The cooling pond is the water in the right of the pix, and the transmission lines carrying the power to users is visible if you look closely. This illustrates my point about flat and dry (except for the cooling pond, which is obviously man made and apparently up to about 60 feet deep).
This is the first in about 25 years that Joe did not have to work during Stampede and he was delighted. We had an invitation to visit our long time friends, Jacquie and Roy, at their summer retreat east of Calgary at a place called Hidden Valley. So on the first weekend of Stampede (early July), we stampeded east to Hidden Valley and enjoyed visiting our friends.

As you can imagine, a summer place is much like a regular place - always stuff to do! And this time out, Roy was wanting to remove a tree stump so he could expand the deck. He and Joe set to work on this project.

Jacquie and Roy above, Mary and Joe below.




I liked these trees. If you look really closely, you'll see three little bird houses - one per tree. J & R have three grandkids, so there is one for each kid.

This is the back of their place - I didn't get a shot of the front - its behind a mass of trees!
Early evening, we moved to the fire pit.

Jacquie was very proud of her lighting - it looked better later when it was darker and she was able to turn on a few more strands.

The fire pit.

We tooled around Hidden Valley in a golf card. Jacquie wanted to show us the proximity to the Bow River. The property is very low and prone to flooding. They have been flooded a number of times very seriously. Looking the other direction, you can see the bagging and further down, permanent levies that have been constructed to discourage the flood water from getting into the development. Most of the places are not too fancy - partly because of the flood potential, and also due to the fact that the land is leased from the local First Nations, so nothing is permanent. J & R have had this place for something like 25 years and have really enjoyed it. We thank them for inviting us to enjoy it with them on this day!
So ends my "random summer post." Fall announced that it's on the way yesterday, as it was overcast, gloomy, rainy and cold - cold enough that I turned the furnace up.
Eric is off to Kelowna and Craig will be leaving on September 11 for New Zealand. Back to his lady love and his new life of substitute teaching.
That leaves Joe and I "home alone" again - a situation that we don't find altogether unpleasant!

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