CSEE officially open at CBU
Mi'kmaq leaders, politicians, staff and students all gathered to celebrate the opening of the Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment (CSEE). There was a sense of hope in speeches given by the likes of Premier Darrell Dexter, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, and the woman who championed the Centre's cause, Annette Verschuren. A sense of hope for the things the Centre can accomplish, and what it can do for the school and the community.
The CSEE was created to meet the environmental and energy challenges the world is currently facing. Researchers at the Centre will meet this challenge by seeking out new renewable energy resources, and finding innovative ways to use the resources already at hand, all while keeping the safety of the environment in mind.
The CSEE building itself reflects these ideals, being partially self-reliant for its energy needs.
The wind turbines outside the building are easily visible to anyone driving by the campus, but some of the features are not quite so visible. The building has an array of solar panels placed on the roof that powers the hot water system in the building, and runoff from the roof while it rains is collected and used to supply water to certain facilities within the building. Perhaps most impressive is the geothermal system within the building, which allows it to heat and cool itself without relying on the university's central heating plant.
One of the main focuses of the Centre is finding new, cleaner ways of tapping into the energy of coal, one of Cape Breton's most abundant resources but one whose use causes great harm to the environment.
Using a method called underground coal gasification, which can extract energy from coal in a way that has minimal impact on the environment, a coal-fired power plant can reduce its emissions by up to 2.5 million tonnes, which is the equivalent of taking approximately 1.3 million cars off the road. This would also lead to lower fuel prices and greater opportunities for employment.
But the method of underground coal gasification requires further research to determine its effectiveness and feasibility before it can be properly implemented, which is where the CSEE comes in. With the large deposits of coal underneath Cape Breton, it is an ideal location for further research on new methods of using the resource. It presents a great opportunity for the CSEE to lead the way on energy advancements that will have a huge impact on the world.
The CSEE is also exploring ways to deal with contaminated mine water that fills 3,200 kilometres of flooded mines under Cape Breton. As this water is discharged from the mine it can contaminate ground water, drinking water and the ocean. The Centre will look into ways to safely discard of this water, possibly using it as a renewable geothermal energy source. This research will help reduce the costs of running mines not just in Cape Breton, but all around the world. The CSEE is one of only a few places in the world with an expertise in mine water, and the vast network of flooded mines under the island gives them ample resources to carry out this research.
All of the research and developments that will happen at the CSEE are an undeniably good thing for the school and Cape Breton as a whole. It will bring new interest and money to the island, and help fix the environmental damage that has occurred here in the past. The Centre will also help bring innovations to the world at large, changing the way we gather and use energy.
Annette Verschuren sums things up best, “Imagine a Cape Breton solution to environmental remediation, born of the island’s legacy of industrial pollution.”
The Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment will be a place to watch in the upcoming years.