Exhibition Opening – Along the Pipeline at Nuit Blanche

TBob Smokerhis Saturday, Feb. 28, the Maison du Développement Durable in Montreal will play host to the Along the Pipeline photography exhibition. Presented within the confines of the Nuit Blanche, this promises to be an exciting evening with cocktails, pipelines and lots of people. If you are in Montreal and free, please stop by. Afterwards you can continue on to one of the many numerous events happening all across the city.

Can’t make the opening on Saturday? Don’t worry, the exhibit will be displayed until March 17, 2015.

Where: Maison du Developpement Durable
When: Saturday, Feb 28 – March 17
Time: Opening at 20:00 on Saturday, Feb. 28

Giving Back – Wind Energy in Delabole, United Kingdom

The slate quarry in Delabole, UK. (Robert van Waarden)

The slate quarry in Delabole, UK.

Delabole is famous for its hole in the ground. Well, to be more accurate, it is famous for its slate mine. The hole is visible from the backyard of Peter and Jacqueline Harman’s slate house. For 23 years that hole has had a backdrop, contrasting new and old, of the first commercial wind farm in the UK.

The wind turbines turn lazily in the Atlantic breeze. They don’t bother Peter. “I think that if people could see that they can benefit from it, it might change their opinion,” says Peter.

Peter and Jacqueline are retired pensioners that have just moved to Delabole, a little village in the south west of the United Kingdom. Their home is still in a state of renovation; boxes piled high, furniture covered with sheets and projects visibly underway. Everything in this house runs on electricity, including the heating; and when your walls are 21 inches of slate it can take a while to warm up. Although “once warm, it stays warm” insists Peter.

The Harman’s electricity bill is significant so Peter spent some time researching the best rates. He noticed an article in the local paper, The Slate, with details about the new Delabole Local Tariff from Good Energy.

The sunrises on the little village of Delabole in the United Kingdom. (Robert van Waarden)

The sunrises on the little village of Delabole in the United Kingdom.

The concept is simple. Good Energy owns the aforementioned wind farm and their customers living within two kilometres of the site are eligible for a local tariff. The idea is that those that have it in their backyard should benefit from it. This is something that the developers of Delabole wanted to do at the very beginning but only recently a change in regulations allow for it to happen.

Phydeau, the Harman's dog at their home in Delabole, the UK. (Robert van Waarden)

Phydeau, the Harman’s dog at their home in Delabole, the UK.

The tariff gives a 20% discount on standard energy prices and includes an additional ‘windfall’ bonus. If the turbines exceed their expected yearly performance each household gets 50 pounds. It is the first scheme of its kind in the UK and puts the community at the centre of renewable energy generation.

After speaking to Good Energy, Peter didn’t even look at other rates. He immediately signed up and as of April they have been receiving their discounted wind energy. He believes that he will save around 70 pounds per year, no small amount for a retired couple.

Peter emphasizes that it wasn’t only the financial reward that affected their decision. He says that Jacqueline is a strong believer in the need for action on global warming, and even if he hasn’t quite made up his mind on the science, he really likes renewable energy and what it represents.

An old two bladed wind turbine framed by trees turns in the wind near Delabole, Cornwall in the United Kingdom. (Robert van Waarden)

An old two bladed wind turbine framed by trees turns in the wind near Delabole, Cornwall in the United Kingdom.

Peter has spread the word and now several of his neighbours have also shown an interest in signing up. He thinks that this idea should be replicated across the UK.

“Wind farms are a good idea, as long as they don’t put hundreds of them everywhere and spoil everything, but if they have a wind farm in a local area, why shouldn’t local people benefit from having it there?”

Peter Harman and his dog Chalkie at their home in Delabole, UK. (Robert van Waarden)

Peter Harman and his dog Chalkie at their home in Delabole, UK.

Constructing the largest wind farm in Europe

The 600mw Fantanele-Cogealac wind farm in Romania. (Robert van Waarden)

The 600mw Fantanele-Cogealac wind farm in Romania.

“When you drive from Constanta you can see the whole area is filled with wind turbines and it is a nice sensation, a nice feeling,” says Miklos Szilagyi, construction site manager for the largest wind farm in Europe, the 600MW Fantanele-Cogealac in Romania.

Miklos says that he “fell into” this job. He began working in the construction industry when he finished university over 30 years ago. His experience took him to Hungary, Greece and on projects across Romania but he never thought that he would manage the construction of the largest wind farm in Europe.

Miklos Szilagyi descends the stairs of a turbine on the Fantanele-Cogealac wind farm in Romania. (Robert van Waarden)

Miklos Szilagyi descends the stairs of a turbine on the Fantanele-Cogealac wind farm in Romania.

“It wasn’t easy,” he says. They were starting from scratch and everyone was learning on the job.

“Each day during the construction we were thinking, what will happen today. There were a lot of issues,” says Miklos.

They had to pour 240 foundations, each one different: some were situated on rock, some needed pilings and some were easy. Miklos doesn’t think that there are two foundations that were made the same way. Each required 450m3 of concrete and 40,000kg of steel. The first loads of cement had to be shipped from Germany until Romanian manufactures managed to produce the grade required. They even had to construct a new concrete plant onsite to keep up with demand.

Wind turbines backdrop the small Romanian town of Fantanele. (Robert van Waarden)

Wind turbines backdrop the small Romanian town of Fantanele.

“Our knowledge was not huge. Everybody was learning, reading, talking together, and each day finalising something. We had a very very good team here.”

It took three and a half years of work but the wind farm came online in November of 2012. Wind energy accounted for 19% of the Romanian grid production when Miklos showed me around the site. Fantanele-Cogealac was flatout producing 580MW.

The newly painted Orthodox church in Fantanele. (Robert van Waarden)

The newly painted Orthodox church in Fantanele.

Fantanele-Cogealac is giving back to the neighbouring communities. The church in Fantanele has been repainted with support from the wind farm; a new market has been constructed; and furniture has been bought for the schools. 300 kms of roads have been built for the turbines, which means local farmers can now access their land in wet weather. Similarly, the villagers are working to improve their homes and taking more pride in their community. A lot has changed here in five years and the guaranteed tax income is going keep the changes flowing.

Miklos’ skills are required at an upcoming hydro project and he will soon sign off at the wind farm but he is walking away proud of his work and his turbines.

“They are very nice. Especially they are nice because they look nice,” he says.

Miklos Szilagyi, construction site manager for the largest wind farm in Europe, the 600mw Fantanele-Cogealac in Romania (Robert van Waarden)

Miklos Szilagyi, construction site manager for the largest wind farm in Europe, the 600mw Fantanele-Cogealac in Romania

Along the Pipeline | Energy East Pipeline Photography

Energy East - Hardisty Tank Terminal

The Hardisty Tank Terminal, beginning of the proposed Energy East pipeline.

My latest photography project, Along the Pipeline, is underway. I am currently in Regina and I have been on the road for the last couple of weeks. My journey has taken me from Hardisty in Alberta and will continue to the East Coast of Canada. I have been photographing the individuals and the route of the proposed Energy East pipeline to find out what it means to Canadians and First Nations. It has been a great experience. I have met ranchers, farmers, oil workers, and foreign workers.

Energy East Photography

Photo session at the Gould Ranch in Alberta.


The project focuses on a series of large format portraits created on a 4×5 film camera. Each image will eventually be combined with a quote or little anecdote from that individual explaining their position on the pipeline and the future of Canada.

I hope that the photographs will create a journal and record of some of the people along the route and how they will be affected. You can follow all of the updates and the journey at my sister website, AlongthePipeline.com. From here I will keep moving east.

 Energy East Photography

Pat Wheeler, Hardisty, Alberta

Bulderbos – A Roaring Forest Against Airport Expansion

In 1994 over 1000 people from the Netherlands gathered to protest the expansion of Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. They planted trees in the planned path of the new fifth runway forcing Schiphol to reconsider and move the runway. Although the protest was eventually unsuccessful in halting the construction, those trees grew into a forest known today as the Bulderbos (roaring forest).

This constructed landscape is a lasting symbol of people putting environment over development. The small photo series brings the Bulderbos into the homes of five key supporters and tree planters nearly 20 years later.

  1. The Bulderbos
  2. Mary Lauw – Zoetermeer
  3. Wijnand Duyvendak – Amsterdam
  4. Leo Langeveld – Ede
  5. Jeroen Warmerdam – Nieuw Vennep
  6. Ad & Gerda Roset – Hoofdorp


Bulderbos – a legacy of green protest – Images by Robert van Waarden

Two for One Coffee at Impacting Environments Exhibit

Hey Amsterdammers and/or people traveling through ludwigAmsterdam, my photography exhibit ‘Impacting Environments’ is entering its’ second month at Coffee Bar Ludwig. Thanks to Coffee Bar Ludwig, for a limited time, you can get ‘2-4-1′ coffee voucher valid for the period of my exhibit. To do so, simply sign up to my e-news letter using the form below or head on over to my Facebook page and use the form there. Then print out the final ‘Welcome’ email and present it when ordering your coffee.

Ludwig is located at 547 Eerste van Swindenstraat, Amsterdam Oost. Exhibition ends Dec. 9th so hurry. Only one usage per customer.

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Little Black Lies in Calgary – a Tar Sands Talk by Jeff Gailus

I little black lieshave teamed up with Canadian author Jeff Gailus for his Tar Sands talk, Little Black Lies, tomorrow night in Calgary, Canada. During Jeff’s talk my photographs from the Tar Sands will be playing in the background.

If you are in Calgary tomorrow, join Jeff Gailus as he explores the intersection of two of the most salient features of the early twenty-first century: the explosion of tar sands development and the ubiquity of hogwash. The two, he posits, are companions of sorts, each engaged in a symbiotic dance that allows them both to thrive—to the detriment of our moral and social well being.

Jeff is the author of the Grizzly Manifesto and a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. I am very happy to join forces with him as he exposes the ridiculous ‘ethical oil’ argument put forward by the government. Join him tomorrow at the Calgary Chapter of The Council of Canadians, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.  Doors open at 7, Unitarian Church – 1703 1st St. N.W.

Force – Jaap van der Beek

My newest photography project, Force, is a focus on the human side of wind energy. It demonstrates that wind energy it is not an aspect of the future but a lived reality right now for people and communities all over the world. This is the second in a series of posts (read the first here) to introduce these wind energy heroes. Partially supported by the GWEC, contact me if you wish to publish or support this project.

Force Wind Energy - Jaap van der Beek“Als ik alleen met aardappelen en uien bezig zou zijn, dan hoefde ik voor de rest niet zo veel mensen te spreken.” Jaap van der Beek (If I only grew potatoes and onions, then I wouldn’t speak with so many other people.)

Jaap van der Beek is a businessman, a farmer and a pilot in Middenmeer, the Netherlands. Like many farmers in North Holland, he harvests tulips, potatoes, onions, and wind energy. For over 15 years he has been involved with harvesting the power from the wind and his 850kw turbine powers hundreds of homes.

He speaks passionately about the impact that wind energy has had on his life. Perhaps first and foremost, above the financial gain, is the sense of community gained from involvement with wind energy. Owning a wind turbine has connected him with the other solitary wind turbine owners in North Holland and with the industry as a whole. He is a member of the implementation commission with the Netherlands Wind Energy Association and member of the WindUnie co-operative. He works tirelessly to promote and grow the wind energy sector in the Netherlands.

Currently Mr. van der Beek is working on a building a new turbine. “I am a business man, therefore I want to move on, I want to go bigger, better. To stand still is to go back,” he says. However, due to new planning regulations, van der Beek’s proposed 3.5MW turbine must be placed at another location in the polder in line with other turbines. He is currently working with other windmill and land owners in North Holland to secure a location for this collection of wind mills. He has been busy for 5 years on this project, an inordinate amount of time considering it takes about 2 months to actually install a windmill. All across Europe it seems the long planning and permit process is hindering the quick implementation of clean renewable energy.

For now, as the project continues development, van der Beek will work with the seasons, the tulips will grow and he will continue to implement wind energy solutions on his farm and in his life.

Tar Sands, Water and the First Nations of Alberta

“I don’t know what’s happening to this place, it won’t last 10 -15 years if we lose our water.”

Gabe Burke, Fort Chipewyan

Water in Anzac Alberta, Tar Sands Story

Simon Reece from Anzac, Alberta, stands on the pier on Gregoire Lake. Without the huge amount of fresh water resources in Northern Alberta, the Tar Sands would not be able to operate. Oil companies don't pay anything for the water removed from the Athabaska river, which they subsequently pollute, requiring residents downstream to buy bottled water to drink.

Syncrude Oil Processing Plant

The Syncrude oil processing plant. Average greenhouse gas emissions for oil sands extraction and upgrading are estimated to be 3.2 to 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as for conventional crude oil produced in Canada or the United States.

cemetary fort chipewyan

The cemetary in Fort Chipewyan. Since the arrival of the Tar Sands, more cancer is appearing in Fort Chipewyan then in a regular community this size.

The Athabaskan River delta is one of the largest water systems in Canada and a key component of the livelihood of the Dineh, Cree and Metis that live along its’ banks. However, upstream from communities like Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan the out of control Tar Sands Industry is polluting the system and rendering it unusable. I was recently in Alberta, photographing and interviewing the First Nations  to help publicize their story.

Despite cozy government and industry relations claiming that industry is not affecting the water quality, the evidence is mounting and exposing their flawed science and PR campaign. A recent report by several authors including acclaimed scientist Dr. David Schindler has the government of Alberta scrambling to cover up and increase their PR. “Contrary to claims made by industry and government in the popular press, the oil sands industry substantially increases loadings of toxic PPE (priority pollutants) to the AR (Athabasca River) and its tributaries via air and water pathways.” David Schindler.

Athabaska river

Residents of Fort Chipewyan sail down the Athabaska River. Many residents of Fort Chipewyan have cabins on the land. They try to maintain some of their attachment to Mother Earth, which is exceedingly difficult with the dangers of eating the fish and disappearance of wildlife due to industrial development upstream.

When I was in the region, I heard again and again that people don’t trust the water. The water is suspected to be part of the cause of a drastic increase in cancer cases in Fort Chipewyan and is widely cited as the reason why the fish are appearing with tumours. For a community that used to rely on fish as a food source, now when a fish appears at the table, the first question asked is, ‘Where did it come from?”.

“The Athabaska river is like a main artery of the world, it’s the blood going down, if your blood is polluted, you aren’t going to last damn long and that is what is happening to our country and earth. All the rivers are getting polluted so bad. I pity young people now, there are rough times ahead. Water could be about 10bucks a liter in ten years, how are you going to survive. ” Gabe Burke

It is shocking that the Canadian and Alberta governments continue to put industry profits above the health of people and the environment. However, the drive and energy of the young people and leaders within the communities are succeeding in securing support from a wide range of groups and individuals including James Cameron, director of Avatar. The tide is shifting.

Eriel Deranger

Eriel Deranger works and lives in Edmonton. She is originally from Fort Chipewyan and is one of many young indigenous people that have dedicated their lives to healing Mother Earth.

It is time that the truth be told about the water situation in this beautiful part of Canada and I join the call for a comprehensive study on the water system, free of industry input and a moratorium on further Tar Sands development until responsible ways of developing are found.

This post is part of the Blog Action Day #10 focusing on water.

Green Jobs Photo Censored by the Senate

Recently this image was prohibited from appearing within the Senate Rotunda in Washington, D.C. This image was meant to accompany the National Wildlife Federation Fair Climate Photo Exhibit in Russell Senate Building Rotunda that finished on July 2nd. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the Senate decided that Freedom of Speech was not a right to be upheld within its’ walls and would not allow this image to hang. Also suffering at the hands of the censorship committee was this image by Project Survival Media Coordinator Shadia Fayne Wood.

I guess the Senate felt that there were too many people demanding green jobs and a switch to a clean low carbon future.  Devastating, because we  know that such a switch is necessary to guarantee our survival.