Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Capturing the Fog

I would really like to travel and visit the Atacama desert in the north of Chile, my Chilean apartment mates are both from Arica, the most northern city, and speak well of the desert in the north, which is also said to very closely resemble the surface of the moon (many sci-fi flicks have been filmed in this desert). Due to its geography, surrounded by the Andes mountains on one side and the Chilean Coast Range on the other, and a series of cold currents, the desert in Atacama is said to be the most arid desert in the world...with only 1mm average yearly precipitation!
No need to say that the people living there need to conserve water (perhaps buildings there have a priority to preserve water), but as it turns out there's a very cool way to deliver fresh water for these people. It consists of utilizing Camanchacas, which are dense clouds banks that form in the Atacama desert.

As a response to water scarcity, fog catchers have been installed in the desert that basically capture the moisture from the camanchacas and collect water which is of exceptional quality.

These fog catchers are very inexpensive to install, and can produce significant amounts of drinking water. Architects have got a hold of them, and are making them in all shapes and sizes... hopefully not sacrificing function over aesthetics!

They look awesome... provide water, and add to the martian theme!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Viña del Mar

Viña is a much flatter place, with grid street layouts (easier to get around). Most people come to the beach in (their) summer, and this is the place where the famous Viña del Mar festival takes place. Here are some Pics!


I Took advantage of the long weekend in Santiago to walk through the winding roads of Valparaiso and venture through the beaches of Viña del Mar. Valparaiso is a port city about 2 hours from Santiago. It's famous for its colourful houses and winding roads that follow the topography of the place. There's about 15 hills that border the coast, and It's pretty easy to get lost. Here are some Pics of Valparaiso:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sustainable Energy for Chile

Chile has been having problems meeting its energy needs. Like many countries, it is currently facing an energy crisis due to the rise of fossil fuel prices. Today it imports about 72% of its energy in the form of gasoline, coal, and natural gas.
It seems that a lot of countries are facing the same problems; energy is becoming a scarce commodity. Is there a way to resolve the energy crisis with sustainable energy sources?

Last Saturday Morning, I witnessed a protest right on my street. The Cause of the protest is a hydroelectric dam project being developed in the southern part of Chile. The project is called HidroAysen, and it consists in making 6 hydroelectric dams in Chile’s 11th region.
I instantly remembered my sustainable energy classes at U of T, and recalled a presentation from a colleague on the theme of hydro electricity. Hydro electricity is a renewable resource, emits negligible carbon emissions from its operation, it is reliable and can compete economically with fossil fuels…
Why would people protest against it? Isn’t Hydro electricity a good thing?

This GIF was picked up from Patagonia sin Represas (Patagonia without dams) an environmental organization against the HidroAysen Project ( ). The reason why they disagree with the project is because of the large footprint that it will have on Chile’s natural environment, how private companies will benefit from the detriment of public land, and because the project bypassed proper environmental assessments on the grounds of being an urgent necessity. Chileans are proud of their virgin landscapes, the natural beauty of their country that is almost untouched in the South. The dams planned are located around various Andean mountains in the south which will directly change the relationship of water and land, and destroy the existing ecosystems in the surrounding areas. Environmentalists fear that many endangered species in those areas will be affected. In addition, since most of the population is located in the Central part of Chile, transmission lines would need to travel through half of Chile… scaring the landscapes, and perhaps damaging the eco-tourism that has developed.
An alternative that is proposed by the opposition is the exploitation of solar energy in the northern part of Chile (also the most arid dessert in the world). It is a rare occasion when it rains in that dessert, and they argue that it would have a lessened environmental impact since there is fewer fauna in the area.
Considering that Chile lies on the edges of tectonic plates, there is also large potential for geothermal energy. Its Coastal geography also gives opportunities for offshore wind power, and tidal energy… I am not suggesting that energy needs of tomorrow are easily solved, but I do believe that these types of projects should have a thorough environmental assessment, and have open discussions with the public.