Stonehenge at sunset
Photovoltaic array in Germany, 2007
Solar array on the International Space Station, 2000
  • Spear points from the Clovis phase found in present-day Alberta.<br/>Source: Historical Resources Management Branch, Archaeological Survey

    Clovis phase spear points used in present-day Alberta.

    Clovis phase spear points represent the oldest hunting technology in Alberta, and indeed all of North America. These fluted, jagged stone points would be attached to a bone or wooden shaft and used to hunt enormous prey such as mammoths and mastodons.
    Source: Historical Resources Management Branch, Archaeological Survey

  • Diagram of an atlatl (spear-thrower)<br/>Source: Courtesy of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

    Atlatl (spear-thrower) technology emerges in present-day Alberta.

    Atlatls were used by early hunter’s to increase the velocity of their projectile weapons. Spears or darts thrown with an atlatl could deliver devastating wounds to an animal, allowing the hunter to kill the animal from a safe distance.
    Source: Courtesy of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

  • Representation of an early hunter drawing a bow<br/>Source: Courtesy of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

    Bow and arrow technology reaches present-day Alberta.

    Bow and arrow technology in North America appears to have developed first in the Arctic before spreading south throughout the continent. The bow and arrow was ideally suited for use in the wide open spaces of the Great Plains, and was widely adopted across the region.
    Source: Courtesy of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

  • Petroglyph of a mounted hunter chasing a bison, Milk River<br/>Source: Royal Alberta Museum

    The ‘Horse Revolution’ begins in present-day Alberta.

    Horses were brought to North America by Spanish colonists in the sixteenth century. From the Spanish colony of New Mexico, horses spread across North America, reaching present-day Alberta in the 1730s. The adoption of the horse had a significant impact on the hunting/transportation patterns of Plains First Nations peoples.
    Source: Royal Alberta Museum

  • Swimmers Enjoying the Banff Hot Springs, ca. 1935<br/>Source: Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, v263-na-3562

    Rocky Mountains National Park is established by the Canadian government.

    One of the main attractions of the new park was the site’s natural hot springs. The luxurious Banff Springs Hotel, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888, pumped water from the hot springs into its swimming pools and treatment rooms. Tourists flocked to the site to take advantage of the water’s supposed therapeutic healing powers.
    Source: Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, v263-na-3562

  • Calgary Water Power Company hydroelectric plant, n.d.<br/>Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4477-44

    The Calgary Water Power Company opens Alberta’s first hydroelectric plant.

    The company was owned by entrepreneur Peter Prince, who also ran the Eau Claire & Bow River Lumber Company. From 1894 to 1905, the company was the major electricity provider for the city of Calgary.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4477-44

  • The city power plant in Edmonton, 1912<br/>Source: Glenbow Archives, NC-6-271

    The City of Edmonton purchases the Edmonton Electric Lighting Company.

    The decision in favour of public ownership was made after repeated disruptions in service from the privately-owned utility. Edmonton was the first major urban centre in Canada to own its own electricity utility.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NC-6-271

  • Changing the name from Calgary Power to TransAlta, 1981<br/>Source: Photo courtesy of TransAlta

    The Calgary Power Company is formed.

    The founder of the company, Max Aitken, was initially drawn to the region by its vast hydroelectricity potential. The company would develop into Canada’s largest investor-owned utility. In 1981, the company changed its name to TransAlta Utilities Corporation, in order to better reflect its provincial reach.
    Source: Photo courtesy of TransAlta

  • Calgary Power’s power house at Horseshoe Falls on the Bow River, ca. 1912<br/>Source: Glenbow Archives NA-3544-28

    Alberta’s First hydroelectric dam opens at Horseshoe Falls.

    Owned and operated by Calgary Power, the Horseshoe Falls Dam was the first of two such facilities built on the Bow River system prior to the First World War. A second hydroelectric dam began operations at Kananaskis Falls in 1913.
    Source: Glenbow Archives NA-3544-28

  • Ghost Hydroelectric Dam, 1935<br/>Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-5663-44

    The Ghost Hydroelectric Dam begins operations

    This massive facility was the largest hydroelectric dam in Alberta at the time it was built. The Ghost Power Plant more than doubled the amount of electricity generated by Calgary Power, which was already the province’s main energy supplier.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-5663-44

  • Rural electrification crew at work near Irma, 1951<br/>Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4160-20

    The first Rural Electrification Association (REA) in Alberta is established in Springbank.

    Over the next two decades, a total of 416 REAs would be established across the province. These organizations would play a crucial role in the spread of electricity to rural Alberta.
    Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-4160-20

  • CCF Advertisement in the People’s Weekly, August 14, 1948, urging people to support public utility ownership<br/>Source: Image courtesy of Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

    Voters of Alberta narrowly reject proposal for public ownership of electricity utilities.

    The 1948 provincial election included a plebiscite concerning ownership of electricity utilities in Alberta. Rural areas largely voted in favour of public ownership, while urban voters (particularly in southern Alberta) supported a continuation of private ownership. In the end, the vote was extremely close, with public ownership defeated by a mere 151 votes.
    Source: Image courtesy of Peel’ Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries

  • Five of the turbines installed at Cowley Ridge Wind Farm<br/>Source: Photo courtesy of TransAlta

    Cowley Ridge Wind Farm begins operations near Pincher Creek.

    Cowley Ridge was Canada’s first commercial wind farm. A total of fifty-two wind turbines were installed in 1993-94. In 2000, the project was expanded with the addition of fifteen new (and much more powerful) turbines.
    Source: Photo courtesy of TransAlta

  • Aerial view of Drake Landing Solar Community<br/>Source: Wikimedia Commons/CA-BY-SA-3.0

    Drake Landing Solar Community opens near Okotoks, Alberta.

    Drake Landing is North American’s first fully integrated solar community. This award-winning initiative uses solar heating technology to provide the community with the majority of its space heating and hot water needs.
    Source: Wikimedia Commons/CA-BY-SA-3.0

  • AAdvanced Energy Research Facility, Edmonton, 2011LT<br/>Source: Photo Courtesy of Enerkem

    The City of Edmonton announces the launch of the ‘waste-to-biofuels’ project.

    The waste-to-biofuels project will convert garbage into biofuel by harvesting carbon from the waste material. The project includes an Advanced Energy Research Facility, which opened in 2012.
    Source: Photo Courtesy of Enerkem

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People and the Sun in Ancient Times

Since the earliest times, the Sun has been prominent in the worldview of different human societies. Some of the most awe-inspiring monuments to the importance of the Sun in this regard are the megaliths built during the late Neolithic Age (ca. 5,000 BCE to 2,000 BCE). Undoubtedly, the most famous of these is Stonehenge, which is oriented in such a way that the monument’s heelstone aligns perfectly with the rising Sun on the winter solstice. Less famous but equally impressive is the burial tomb at Newgrange in Ireland. This massive tomb is aligned so precisely that light floods into the main burial chamber only once per year—at sunrise on the winter solstice, when the light passes through an opening just above the main entrance. Historians and archaeologists may never fully understand the precise religious beliefs and practices of these

peoples, but the megalithic structures they left behind point to the obvious importance of the Sun in their views of the universe.

In addition, Sun deities play a prominent role in many ancient civilizations, including the Egyptian, the Greek and the Roman. The imperial families of both Japan and the Inca Empire claimed descent from their respective Sun deities (Amaterasu and Inti). Among the Aztecs, the deity most associated with the Sun, Huitzilopochtli, was both worshiped and feared. The Aztecs believed that Huitzilopochtli was locked in a perpetual struggle with the forces of darkness—if he failed, the world would come to an end. To assist their god and provide him with energy to continue the struggle, Aztec priests notoriously practiced human sacrifice on a significant scale.

In addition to worshipping the Sun, many cultures made use of its energy, particularly for heating their buildings. Such solar energy, harnessed without the intervention of machinery, is known as passive solar power, and one of the first commentators to make note of it was the Greek philosopher Socrates. In the fourth century BCE, Socrates noted the advantages of building houses with overhangs and south-facing windows. Such dwellings drew in the heat of the low-lying sun in the winter, but deflected the worst heat of the high sun in the summer. Passive solar energy thus provided the Greeks with an ingenious way to regulate the temperature of their dwellings. This became common practice in ancient Greece and Rome, so much so that “sun rights” were ensured through legislation for all citizens; no one could legally block out a neighbour’s access to the Sun. The Greeks and Romans also developed convex lenses known as burning glasses that concentrated the Sun’s rays. The

intense heat generated by these lenses was used to cauterize wounds, to ignite fires, and, in at least one famous case, as a weapon of war. In 212 BCE, the Greek mathematician Archimedes allegedly used a large burning glass mounted on a ship to set fire to an invading Roman fleet.

Another culture that mastered the use of passive solar energy was the Anasazi, who lived in the present-day southwest United States by about 1200 CE. Like the Greeks, the Anasazi people took advantage of the different trajectories the Sun takes across the sky in winter and summer. They built their houses in south-facing cliffs, taking advantage of the natural overhangs that protected them against the excessive heat of the Sun in the summer, while letting its warmth into their dwellings in the winter. The remains of cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and Grand Gulch Cliff in the American southwest provide striking evidence of the ingenious ways in which the Anasazi people took advantage of passive solar energy.

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