Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Power of Niagara

I picked Niagara Falls to talk about this week for three reasons. I was just there and have pictures of my own to post, I think it is interesting, and lastly, I’ll was there again on Saturday. There is a ton to write about, but what I think is the most alluring, other than its obvious natural beauty, is its history of hydro electricity. Niagara Falls is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and was formed from the glaciers of The Last Ice Age. One thing that will be clearly absent from this blog is the idiotic stories of people going over the falls in a barrel. Dumb!

Today, there are power plants on either side of the continental border of Canada and the “US and A” (as Borat would say). These stations produce ¼ of the world’s hydro electric power. Hydro Electricity is created when energy is extracted from water by generators and turbines, returns the water with the same chemical make up. It is a renewable resource, and creates very little waste.

Even before the very beginnings of the use of electricity, Niagara Falls was a focus for generating power. In 1759, Daniel Joncairs dug a ditch to his nearby sawmill to power a water wheel from the Niagara River. Later on, Augustus and Peter Porter, brothers, purchased the rights to the Eastern rapids with plans to trench a hydraulic canal and reroute a portion of the water to a reservoir above. The water would then flow downward to the gorge and with the help of turbines, would power industrial machinery above.

In 1853, Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Co. was chartered. In following years, they successfully powered up the nearby city of Niagara Falls.
At that time, there was no way to run power a long distance because everything was run on direct current.

In the late 19th Century, The Niagara Power Co. offered a prize of $100,000 if someone could figure out how to get power to run longer distances. “Currently” it was running only about 2 miles. Enter Nikola Tesla. He won the contest with the principle of alternating current. He came up against a lot of resistance from Thomas Edison, his former teacher. Thomas Edison had previously developed alternating current, but it had a lot of 'bugs' and didn't work efficiently. He paid Tesla, while under his wing, a lot of money to further develop it. Shortly after, Nikola Tesla left Edison and introduced his latest development of alternating current. For the rest of his life, Edison discredited Tesla. The drama was “shocking”!

Today, we have alternating current/direct current or AC/DC. This means that now electricity can be run extremely long distances AND we would later have a late night bar anthem of drunk moms everywhere– “You Shook Me”. bleh!

Rumor has it that Mr. Tesla’s entry included this statement to Niagara Power:

“I’m the one that wants to be with you.
Deep inside I hope you feel it too. “

photo of Tesla from

(It’s not true…but…. I couldn’t resist!)

At this point in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, power plants were being built on both sides of the border. This area did not escape tragedy, however. In 1895, the Schoelkopf Power Plant had a wall collapse from water seeping behind the rock face wall. In the morning, the workers noticed the wall leaking and attempted to slow it with sandbags. Too late! One worker died, but the others were luckily unhurt. I mention this to demonstrate that there was indeed struggle and failure when it came to the harnessing of the Falls. It was a long hard road full of shortages and not free of controversy. Another reason that I mention this is because THIS is MY WORST NIGHTMARE. If I believed in past lives, I would swear I was there to witness this. I am terrified of leaking and/or dripping water! Terrified!

Old power plant on the Canadian side.

There have been many people and companies involved in the development of the power usage of Niagara Falls, and I can’t possibly cover it all. Today’s result is the United States operating the two major power plants with an output of 2,700,000 KW of power and Canada outputting 2,338,000 KW out of 5 different plants. It is also been said that the actual force of The Falls has been backed off because of the nearby power plants. Figures as much as 50% less water flow currently as opposed to its natural flow. Don’t worry, it’s still wicked!

One other note that I’d like to point out is that my parents were witness to when the Falls were turned off completely in 1969. They say they have pictures, but I would bet that the film is still in the camera, in the toy box, in the sewing room and that is pretty safe to say.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Dynamic Tower, Dubai UAE

Today’s topic is Green Design in Dubai, specifically, The Dynamic Tower, an 80 story, envoironmentally friendly building that is currently under construction. If you scroll through this blog’s archive, you can see my first touch on Dubai. My friend suggested that I write on the Eco-friendly side of this marvelous city. Okay, I will. He should consider this a wedding present, since he is getting married this weekend.

Dubai does have a green initiative and does follow “green building” standards as of January 2008. Come to find out, the United Arab Emirates has the largest Ecological footprint in the world, not America. Whoa! They are taking serious steps to reduce water consumption from 550 gallons per head/day to 250 gallons per day over a period of years.

An Arab company called Cyber Gear has also launched a website called Go-Green, a tool for everyday green living ideas and advice.

Leave it to Dubai, they will also have the one of the World’s first moving skyscraper, if not the first planned. It also happens to be Eco Friendly, as stated above. The Dynamic Tower is a building in which each floor rotates to take advantage of wind power; all 80 stories. It is also Solar powered with photovoltaic solar panels. Since each floor is CONSTANTLY in motion, 20% of the “roofs” are exposed to the sun at all times. This will create more solar energy than what the building will actually use. A full rotation takes about 3 hours. This $700 million project was the brainchild of Italian Architect, David Fisher. There is another one planned for Moscow in the near future. The completion date for the Dynamic Tower in Dubai is 2010.

picture from:

Each floor is fabricated off site, cutting down on cost by 10% and increases construction efficiency by 30%. That makes me smile. When I read most articles on green design, they mostly fail to mention that to get the structures in place to crank out eco friendly cars, build wind turbines etc., they clear cut land and trees, leaving a scar on the ecosystem surrounding it. Ugh.

The Dynamic Tower was named one of TIME Magazine’s best inventions of 2008.

As a last aside on what….umm….. Architects(?) have planned in Dubai, Brad Pitt has an Eco Friendly Hotel in the works. Yep, I’ll let that sink in for a moment........

I think it is great that he is spreading the word on green design, kudos Mr. Jolie. But after researching The Dynamic Tower, I come across this little nugget, I can't help to snicker. (insert and LOL here)
Now, before all of you ‘Legends of the Fall’ fans go ape on me, I commend Brad for being named Green Design consultant for this project. He will be working with an Architectural firm and according to sources, using his architectural chops. He must know his stuff. He must have passed the LEED exam like Sarah R. O’Keeffe did, but unlike some others I know. You know who you are, and you are nothing like Brad Pitt.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech

Okay, I lied. I was going to write about 'change of use' for buildings this week, but I decided, after watching the news tonight to post Lou Gehrig's farewell speech. Today, July 2, is the anniversary of this speech. On June 2, 1941, Lou Gehrig died of ALS, a disease also known now as Lou Gehrig's disease. In front of more than 62,000 fans, an emotional Lou Gehrig delivered his speech at Yankee Stadium. That day, he not only left a lasting legacy with one of the most moving speeches in sports history, he also didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

Picture AND more information about ALS can be found at:

So for this week, I leave you with a message of hope. Not the usual Independence Day rally for America, (which we need about now with a 9.5% unemployment rate in the US), but it is just as fitting. How much more American is baseball anyway? Now, go get a slice of Apple Pie and enjoy!

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. "Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.

"When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know. So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for." - Lou Gehrig

Go Celebrate! Celebrate Independence, celebrate friends, family and loved ones. Celebrate you! You deserve it!
Lou Gehrig (1903-1941)
picture from: