I wish I could roll the clock back 40 years and do it all over again. I've had a good life and don't begrudge any of it but my fascination in engineering drives me to constantly look at what's happening in that front and wishing I was back in the game.
When I was in my late teens, I finished high school and there was no money in our family to go any further never mind the fact that my father had no aspirations to see any of his 3 kids to a lifestyle better than his. We were never encouraged to seek betterment. I ended up working at a Chrysler dealership cleaning cars. After about a year, my shop manager had a head to head talk with me and told me I can't waist my life cleaning cars so he asked if I wanted to start a mechanic apprenticeship to which I said yes. He approached the owner of the dealership and told him of the plan and told the owner that my pay of $1.85/hr would have to increase to 50% of the journey man rate of $8.00/hr to meet the requirements of the apprenticeship program.. The owner was reeling at the thought of having to pay me twice was he was paying me and said no way. So the Shop Manager suggested that they put me on flat rate at $8.00'hr and I would only earn money based on my output. Thinking that this was good for the owner and he wasn't going to get screwed out of money, the Owner agreed. So I became an apprentice. Never looked back. I put out between 40-50 hours of work every week and went from $1.85/hr x 40 ($74/week) to $360/week. I owe a great debt to this savvy Shop Manager who got me on the road.
4 years later, I earned my Auto Technicians papers. About a year later, the tune up technician in the shop got into a heated argument with the shop foreman and the technician dropped dead of a massive heart attack. So here I stand looking down at him thinking this is my future? Nope. I needed a better job with benefits and a pension.
So I ended up at the nuclear power plant in Pickering Ontario as again an apprentice of a different trade Millwright. 5 years later I'm a journeyman Millwright making $16.00'hour and the auto mechanics managed to get up to $8.25'hour. Winner again and I now have benefits and pension even better.
Why the story- I was a dumb high school student with no direction and worked my way from that up to a Section Manager in a nuclear facility but that journey had me constantly looking to the future of engineering and what was yet to come. I was pretty proud to have come from nothing to a guy working in the nuclear industry until the day I ran into a great uncle, Colin Caswell. He was an anti-nuclear who was in the provincial government. How dare I work in an industry he despised. He told me we had enough rivers and streams to power the future of electrical needs if we only tapped into the resources. Talk about an ego deflator.I kept my head up and maintained my interest in the nuclear and would talk to anyone wanting to learn more about how we split the atom to create heat, to boil water to make steam, to drive steam turbines and power generators. It was a good life. But…….Nuclear is expensive and in the long run, there’s nuclear waste to contend with. Hydroelectric is cheap to get going and cheap to maintain. The initial energy comes from God and is free. The downside is that transmitting the energy to the needs has energy losses, so even if you have free energy up in the northern parts of the province, you have energy losses to contend with.
Coal fired, oil fired or gas fired- filthy products to handle and the byproducts of burning are costly both health wise and environmentally wise.
Along came “Green Energy” Photovoltaic and wind turbines. Ontario started the Green Energy Program and allowed anybody who produced electricity the opportunity to sell it back to the Ontario grid at 72 cents a kilowatt. So people were putting panels on their roofs and international corporations were investing trillions in putting up wind turbines plus commercial photovoltaic farms. So get this, you as a home owner put up enough photovoltaic panels to produce 18 kilowatts in a day but as a customer you use 12 kilowatts in a day. You were allowed to sell the energy you produced to the grid for 72 cents a kilowatt and then you bought from the grid the 12 kilowatts needed at market value of 8 cents a kilowatt hour. Logic would tell you that you really just sold the grid your surplus of 6 kilowatts but the way they set it up those in the business were making a killing on the deal. Well, after 15 years they finally ditched the program.Now, in Ontario we have thousands of wind turbines sitting idle for days at a time and I’m talking like 8000-10000 turbines. One of the Nuclear Power Plants in Pickering Ontario is about 3 years out from being decommissioned so there will be a need for replacing 8 units at 540 megawatts= 4320 MW and each one of the wind turbines put out 2.3 Mw so that will eat up 1878 wind turbines to make up for the power plant when it shuts down. The downside is that the turbines can’t be counted on 24/7/365 so now what? Storing electricity of that magnitude during times of surplus is still a long way off.Hydroelectric- as long as rivers and streams keep flowing, Bob’s your uncle but now global warming and changing weather patterns. Can we really rely on a steady amount of precipitation?? Let’s ask the people in central west USA. Lake Mead which is a reservoir created by putting a dam on the Colorado River, (the Hoover Dam) has dropped from a full pool level of 1229 ft above sea level to 1044 ft above sea level under drought like conditions over the past 6 or 7 years. Lake Mead itself is only 532 ft deep at full capacity so the water level has dropped by just about half. Along with supplying water to Hoover Power Electric Dam, it also is the fresh water supply for 5 US States. If global warming persists and these drought-like conditions persist, there will be a fresh water crisis in the Midwest. Thank you, global warming.
It’s a fascinating topic for me to try and fathom out a resolution for and I wish I was still in the game.