Talk Description to Me

Episode 73 - The Look of Energy

October 16, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 3 Episode 73
Talk Description to Me
Episode 73 - The Look of Energy
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Energy infrastructure might not be sexy,  but it's vital to our current way of life. These systems bring electricity to your home and transport oil and gas across continents, but what they actually look like remains a mystery to many people. This week, Christine asks about pipelines, rooftop solar systems, and commercial wind farms, and JJ describes the network of wires that lead from power plants, into your city, down your street, right to your home.

This episode was inspired by images from world-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, and his work with Toronto's Luminato Festival, which Christine and JJ had the pleasure of contextualizing for Luminato's Disability-led pop-up radio station Radio Lumi. To explore the Luminato Access Hub please visit:

https://luminatofestival.com/access-hub/



Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)
JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to me where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashed out in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

In previous episodes, we've talked about the climate crisis and the changes there from a few different angles. And we're going to do that again today by talking about energy. And this kind of got rolling for us because of a project that JJ and I have been working on together for the Luminato festival, Toronto. And if you've been following us on social media, you may have seen something about this. So JJ and I have been working together with radio Leumi. And part of that has been talking about the photographs of Edward burtynsky. And he's an internationally renowned photographer who has been working for 40 years to document the effects that humans have had on the natural world and how our resource extraction has affected the natural world in ways that we don't normally see. And we don't normally have access to. And so these were huge scale photographs. And the work that JJ and I have done on the photographs will be appearing on radio Lumi. Today, that's Saturday, October 16. And we'll we'll link to that in our show notes. Because the photographs are quite astonishing. And they've been put together into a film, which is a whole other a whole other experience. And so JJ has done some excellent describing work there. And I actually get to speak with Edward burtynsky from a blindness perspective. So if those kind of large scale issues are of interest to you check out the show notes. But it got us thinking about energy and energy infrastructure, both as it currently exists both sort of in oil and electricity, but also alternative energy. So we're going to talk about energy from a few different angles in terms of the visuals of infrastructure. And pipelines are something that have been in the news a lot, for us, at least. And they are often a source of controversy and contention. And we thought we would start there with some of the visual. So JJ, what can you say about pipelines? I don't even know what questions to ask.

JJ Hunt:

Well, it's interesting because pipelines, as you say, they're in the news all the time right now. And in, we rely on the pipeline network, which is incredibly vast, I looked up some images of the maps of, you know, pipeline networks in North America. And they're, they're usually color coded. So main lines are in orange, and then the secondary lines are in red. And then, you know, smaller lines are in blues, and greens and whatnot. And the grids, the networks of lines, they absolutely crisscross North America, going from Alaska, down through Mexico, incredible networks of pipelines. But despite all of that, and the fact that we get lots of visuals, when there's a news report, or you know, there's something on TV or something in a newspaper about a pipeline, they'll put a stock photo there. But most of us don't have any first hand experience with pipelines, we don't see them in our day to day lives. So which is different than say, like, you know, transmission towers, which we'll talk about, or even wind farms, which we drive by if we're going in the country. So I did some, just some googling some images, image searches on pipelines. And most of the pictures that come up when you do a google image search for pipelines, you mostly what you see are elevated pipelines. Obviously, elevated pipelines pipelines that are above ground make for a better picture than a picture of a field with a caption that says Like, trust us there's a pipe buried under here. But in fact, most pipelines are buried. So you know, I've seen some images of pipes and trenches where they're about to be covered, but mostly what you find on news reports and such are these above ground pipes. And so these are steel or plastic tubes, and the inner diameters of these tubes are anywhere between four and 48 inches, but most of the pipes that I saw pictures of, you know an adult would have a very hard time wrapping their arms all the way around them. They're big, they're big tubes, and they're supported when they're above ground. They're usually supported by a framework that keeps them off the ground, either, you know, anywhere from six inches to several feet off the ground, and I've seen everything from wood to steel to concrete frames or cradles that keep the Long pipes underground above ground. And the images that I've seen in the trenches, you know, so you've got a trench dug and a pipe is, is is lying in there ready to be buried, those tend to have smooth exteriors. But for the above ground pipes that I've seen, they are in sections. So it's, you know, maybe a 10 foot section of pipe, and then you, you know, connect it to another one. And then there's a ring that covers or seals that join between the two. So they're there, they have that more of a ribbed look when they're above ground. But underground, it looks like they are wrapped in some kind of protective layer, because they are going to be buried. And they tend to be especially the above ground ones that I've seen pictures of bundled together. So you'll get two or three of these pipelines side by side, running parallel to each other. And of course, photographers love pipelines, aboveground pipelines for pictures, because what you can do is take a picture from one end of a pipeline or not even at the end, it could be right in the middle. But you can take a picture down the line of pipes going across vast stretches of land, you know down green valleys with mountains in the distance or across vast prairies are over dry deserts that are dotted with cacti and scrub brush, and the pipeline gets smaller and smaller and smaller as it recedes into the distance. Really photogenic. They're very, they're very attractive in that way.

Christine Malec:

From what you're describing, it sounds like those tends to get used in rural or open spaces. But in cities, we the infrastructure looks different. And when we were getting ready to record you, you mentioned transformer towers, and I just scratched my head because I don't know what that is. So can we talk about the urban infrastructure of energy?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, so transformer towers are everywhere. No matter how you get your electricity, no matter how its generated, it's gonna be delivered to cities, towns and villages, along wires. And again, some of the wires can be buried, but that's a really expensive way to do it. So Still, the dominant way is to transport electricity along overhead wires. And so the infrastructure to carry those wires, there are these transmission towers, and sometimes they're massive. If they're really close to the power generation, they're probably going to be really big and bulky towers. And if they're getting closer to your house, they're going to be relatively small, simple poles. So high voltage overhead. power lines are strung from what in Canada we call hydro towers. Transmission towers is what they're referred to as in the States. And I think in the UK, they call them pylons. And these tend to be tall lattice structures made of steel or aluminum. So think like Eiffel Tower, that's really what these things look like is simplified versions of the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes they're shiny and silver colored. If they're new aluminum. Sometimes they're old, like a rusty Dell coppery color, if they're old steel, some have a similar shape to the, to the Eiffel Tower, in fact, wider at the bottom, narrowing as they reach the top. And these things can be anywhere from 50 feet tall to 180 feet tall. And generally, there's some sort of horizontal cross piece or multiple cross pieces near the top. So maybe these are steel trusses that extend out from two sides, there might be two or three layers of horizontal cross pieces, maybe growing smaller as they get higher, or maybe even growing larger as they get higher. And it's on the ends of these horizontal cross pieces that the wires are carried. So you get hundreds of these towers in a row. And you string wires from the tips of the high cross pieces, one after the other after the other. And sometimes the wires look quite taut, and they're parallel to the ground, but sometimes they have a real sag to them, right. And like I said, they're generally built from steel lattice and trusses, but the shapes, they do vary a lot depending on the needs and how many lines need to be carried. So some of these up top they have y shapes like two arms sticking out like the like a like a capital letter why sometimes they have T shapes with one big bar all the way across the very top. Sometimes they've crossed shapes so that the cross pieces are actually lower down on that on that central post. And again, close to the power generation you have a massive towers that carry the main lines off of the main lines, you run smaller lines so the towers get a little bit smaller as they go into the city. And then once the once the power has passed through a transformer, then it's going to get into the infrastructure that you'll see on your neighborhood streets which is usually like wooden post the classic wooden utility pole with one or two horizontal cross pieces again in wood. Then from there, you're going to have a single wire that will connect to that pole to the corner of your house. And that's what brings the electricity right into your home.

Christine Malec:

So my house has a wire coming from a post and just attaching the corner?

JJ Hunt:

That's right.

Christine Malec:

Like every house has that?

JJ Hunt:

Every house has that. So if you follow that wire, the wire that goes from your house will go to a small utility pole. And then that small utility pole will have wires that connect the entire street, probably to a hydro corridor in the city, and then that hydro corridor is going to have bigger lattice towers that carry bigger lines out of the city. And then once you get to the outside of the city, there's probably a transformer. And then on the other side of that chart transformer, there are going to be massive, a long line of massive utility towers are his transmission towers or pylons, or whatever. And that's carrying the power from the power generation. Whatever the plant is, however it's generated, it has to come through these massive wires, the thicker wires on massive towers.

Christine Malec:

This is so all new to me. So these towers, they're just are they doing anything other than holding the wires? Or like are they functional? Just in the sense that they're metal structures to hold and guide the wires? Or are they doing something to the electricity?

JJ Hunt:

No, they're they're just holding it there they're carrying it. Now there are, you know, there are I'm sure elements of the tower that are that are, you know, doing certain functions when it comes to actually, you know, transmitting the wires. But basically, these are just structures to hold wires high and high and low, high above. In fact, there was a where was it in Iceland, there was a some design competition in 2015, where a group said, you know, we've got these things running across our country, why not have them be playful, like they don't have to just look like these steel lattice towers. And so they designed structural towers that were huge people made out of the same material like it loudness metal, only, they're like holding the wires in their arms. So they created these digital renderings. These artists renderings of these beautiful giant steel creatures, you know, carrying these wires across vast stretches of, of the wilderness. They're beautiful. I don't think they ever got built. But I as far as I know that there's no reason that the towers couldn't look like that. As long as they you know, they have the same functionality. They're holding the wires far apart, there's providing enough space so that if, if a worker has to climb up, they've got access to all the wires without being in danger of hitting another wire, you know, these are the kinds of considerations.

Christine Malec:

Yeah, no. So on my street on a residential street, there would be posts. What's the next step? Like? I mean, I don't want to get so detailed, because people don't know Toronto geography. But I'm 200 meters away from a pretty busy street. So what would that busy street look different? Like how far do I have to go for the towers to start getting bigger.

JJ Hunt:

So because I know where you live, I know that the power would go like you say, down your street carried along wooden posts to the Main Street, the main drag, and then it would have to cross that main drag, which gets a little complicated because there's also there are street cars along that main, that main strip. So there's a whole other network of wires that are overhead because the street cars are getting their power from overhead wires. So you've got a pass over the top of those ones, and go down to a hydro corridor, there is a hydro corridor that runs along an East West rail line in Toronto. And there there are a little parkettes under along that hydro corridors because they've got all this space that needs to be set aside for the for the the hydro towers, there are a little pockets, you know, in all of the blocks, and some of them have playgrounds for kids and some of them have community gardens. And, and right beside a you know, on a, through a hedge row, there's a train tracks that run run through the city as well. And that's how, and it's through that big the hydro corridor that that you're going to have access to greater, I don't know higher voltage of power. And now I'm getting a little bit outside of my actual area of expertise! Ha ha!

Christine Malec:

They are tower. Like you'd see bigger, bigger structures.

JJ Hunt:

They are taller structures. On the hydro corridor, they are the tall lattice, steel and aluminum structures. And on the main street, you've got taller wooden posts, primarily although there might be concrete as well poured concrete posts with two or three crosspieces at the top and then your neighborhood Street. They're just going to be single posts, you know wooden utility poles. The classic little kid drawing version.

Christine Malec:

So at any given place in the city you would look up and there would always be some grid or at least some extension of wires over your head all the time?

JJ Hunt:

Everywhere, every city. So every neighborhood street is going to have these utility poles with with you know, single wires for power but also phone lines and cable lines all of those are overhead too and they have these junction poles so the lines will come together in someone's backyard or corner of you know of an intersection and all of those wires get you know, on some kind of connector pole and then they get spread out from there. So there are wires through neighborhoods, you get into main streets. You got even more wires that are overhead again can because you've also got things like streetcars in streetcar wires, there are whole grids so not only do you have the wires that are running down the length of the street, but you might have wires that criss cross the street because there are support wires to hold the power lines for the streetcars. So there are absolute grids of wires overhead in almost all downtown situations for sure.

Christine Malec:

And you probably don't even see it. You're so used to it. You don't even register it.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, for the most part you don't. It's just a common that's that's just how that's just what your neighborhood looks like. I happen to have one of those connector poles really close to my backyard. And it drives me crazy. Because the the telephone company never cuts down any wires. They they don't replace they just add a new one or this. Yeah. And so it's overloaded with all of these dead wires that that just drooped down from these poles so that you do start to notice. But the basic infrastructure? No, I think it's fair to say most sighted people just walk around without noticing them at all.

Christine Malec:

Is it possible for you to imagine looking at that, with a fresh eye that isn't so accustomed to it? And if you could do that? Would it look gritty or functional? Or organized? Or I don't know, I'm trying to come up with adjectives for what it would look like if I could? Yeah, with a fresh eye.

JJ Hunt:

Oh, you know, when, when I've been traveling. And of course, when you're traveling you you kind of put on a new set of lenses. And you do look at things from a different perspective, because you're actively exploring. And so I have been in the situation where I've been walking down, you know, Main Street in Vietnam, and curious about the power situate like a word. And you do see some of these poles and they're, you know, laden with wires and cables and, and so you can you do explore them in a different way in a situation like that. And yeah, sometimes they are, they are greedy is a good word for it. It's pretty heavy infrastructure when they're when they're laden with wires. Now, you can also get one where you can take a picture of a utility pole against the sunset on a beautiful night, and there's a couple of birds on the wire as it were in. That's lovely, you know, like you. It's, they don't have to be, you know, lights or anything like that they can, they can definitely be part of the charm of a neighborhood for sure.

Christine Malec:

I just got an epiphany. So we talked in a previous episode about describer language and the use of the word futuristic. So I bet one of the telltale things in a futuristic city is there's no wire grid.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, you're absolutely right. Because everything's just flying on its own right. So there's no wires for any kind of vehicle. No wires for power. That's all gone. Everything's wireless. Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's cleaner with no wires.

Christine Malec:

Heh heh. That's amazing. Um, let's talk about newer energy sources. And we talked a bit about wind turbines when we talked about sort of a trip to the cottage and things you might see on the side of the road. And I'm curious, I mean, I want to talk about the big picture, too. But I remember when I happened to be I was lucky enough to drive across the country with someone who was sighted. And so often, he would say, oh, there's a traffic light with a solar panel. And this was, you know, 20 years ago, and at the time, I was so impressed that there were solar panels just in use commonly, you know, on rural traffic lights and things like that. So I'm interested in places where wind and solar appear, but should we maybe start with the big picture of a wind turbine or a wind farm?

JJ Hunt:

For sure. So wind, a wind turbine, you know, onshore ones, so not not ones that are offshore in the water, but ones that are on land, they're tall, white towers, typically 75, 80 at meters. So that's like, what 250 to 280 feet, something like that. And then the tall, white thin towers topped by a relatively small, horizontal white cylinder. That's what houses the shaft and the generator, but they're usually encased in the in this white cylinder, maybe with a pointed nose at the front. And off of that front are three white blades, they look like long propeller blades from an airplane, and they spin at, you know that as as the wind rushes by, they spin it somewhere between 100 and 80 miles per hour. But I kind of say, based on the visuals, like just watching one of these things, it's hard to believe that they're spinning that fast, because as you're driving through the country and seeing these turbines, from a distance, they really look like they're spinning quite slowly, they look quite gentle. But that's a matter of that's a trickier vision, because they are far away. They don't look like they're spinning as fast. I think it's fair to say with wind turbines, if they are dotting the landscape, if you're driving through the country, and you see a handful or even if you see lots, but they're spread out over a vast area, and that is how a lot of us encounter them. If you're driving like you say you're driving through the country, you see some you see a wind farm, a spread out wind farm that has a fair bit of charm, and maybe even appeal. But when you see banks of wind turbines that you know, in a row in a big flat area, they lose a little bit of the charm of the situation, you know, I was, of course doing lots of Google Image searches for these things. And I noticed that the images that that news outlets and whatnot would choose for their propaganda were chosen according to this phenomenon I just described.

Christine Malec:

Heh heh heh.

JJ Hunt:

So I found an article entitled wind power, "Losing love in southern Alberta." And it's got an image of rows of turbines across the prairies. So not a lot of lush, you know, this was a pretty dull moment in the in the life of this prairie, not a lot was growing on it. So kind of bearish land flat and rows of these turbines across the prairies. So the uniformity, the fact that they're standing in rows, like soldiers, negative connotations, not very attractive. Whereas General Electric had posted an image on their renewable energy page that featured lush rolling hills. And these turbines, you know, popping up over the tree tops dotting the natural landscape much more appealing.

Christine Malec:

So much less efficient. Yeah.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, exactly. But but from a visual standpoint, that's easier to sell. These turbines that look like they've just naturally grown in the wild on these beautiful rolling hills.

Christine Malec:

Now we have one in Toronto. Did you come across many images of them in urban settings.

JJ Hunt:

Most of those big turbines don't really fit in the city. They tend to be on the outskirts. And in farm country, that's where you'll first get them in Ontario anyway. Whereas solar you get you do get a chance to see lots of solar in the city, because we've got people with rooftop systems, and so on and so forth. So with solar, you do get to see it, at least some version of it in the city, not so much with wind.

Christine Malec:

Did you look at images of the wind farm in the North Sea?

JJ Hunt:

Images of the North Sea wind farms that I'm seeing here are, I mean, its vast, right, just a vast stretch of water. And a perfect rows of these turbines row after row after row. But you can't you there's no sense of scale. Because it's open water. There's no land at all. There's no ships at all just row after row after row of these turbines. And they're just as I've described, white towers, thin white blades, three blades apiece. The only difference is that with a tower, the turbine base meets the water, there's a yellow cap or something that would be the connector point where it's anchored into the down under the water.

Christine Malec:

And like hundreds? Thousands? Can you get a sense of numbers?

JJ Hunt:

Just looking at these pictures, I would say dozens but again, there's so many... it's possible you turn the camera in the other direction you're getting dozens there you turn the camera in either direction you get another dozen...

Christine Malec:

Right, right.

JJ Hunt:

So it's really it's really hard to know. But again, these ones are in perfect rows. I'm sure for efficiency so they look almost like see like little seedlings coming up out of the blue. As they just pop up when you especially when you get far back when you've got some of these aerial photos were being taken from way far back. I've got rows here of 1,2,3,4 looks like rows of a dozen. But countless. They stretch out beyond both edges of the frame.

Christine Malec:

Wow. So let's talk solar. Solar is something that is doable in even an individual residential building. So what would it look like if you had if I was so lucky that my house had a solar panel or solar array? What might that look like?

JJ Hunt:

So in fact, we have some we've got some on our house.

Christine Malec:

Whaaaat?

JJ Hunt:

Yup, yup.

Christine Malec:

The things you don't know about your friends. Oh my gosh.

JJ Hunt:

Ha ha! A typical residential solar panel is about five and a half feet wide, three and a quarter feet tall somewhere around there. And depending on how the light is hitting them, the the solar panels themselves ranged from like a very vibrant royal blue color to a very dark midnight blue, almost black and that's really dependent on how the sun is hitting them. They generally these the these panels have thin aluminum frames around the edges. And they have a what looks like a grid of very fine lines and a steel gray color all across the inside. And what the panels are, are actually a series of blue square cells laid out in a grid pattern. So the grid that we see of those fine steel gray lines is actually the narrow spaces between those square cells. It often reminds me of like an architect's blueprint paper, it's very similar color, similar grid of these fine pale lines, and on rooftop. So if you're just walking around your neighborhood, the rooftops tend to be done in one of two ways. They're either mounted on a sloped roof are mounted on a flat roof. And if they're on the sloped roof, the panel's look like from street level, they look like they're installed directly on the roof. So running right parallel to the pitch of the roof. And they cover you know, as much surface as you can with standard rectangular panels, they are actually mounted on frames to raise them off the surface of the roof. This allows, you know, rainwater and snow or whatever to drain behind them. But you wouldn't necessarily notice that if you're just walking by on the sidewalk. And then on flat roofs, you've got aluminum frames that are erected so that the panels are mounted on an angle. So the panels in the end are get the same angle as if they were on a sloped roof. But although you can depending on where you are in the world, and if you've got sun that is going to be at its most powerful directly overhead for a long stretch of time, you might actually mount flat roof panels. And if you don't have snow, you might mount flat roof panels flat on your roof as well depends on the weather conditions and whatnot. Generally, flat roof panels are arranged in rows. So all of the frames lined up in a row one behind the other in such a way that the shadow never falls on the other panels. So there's a little bit of a gap between them. And those kinds of systems can be a little trickier to spot on houses, because flat roofs are often behind some kind of front peak. But in like mid sized commercial systems. So like flat roof systems on warehouses and factories, those you can spot when you're flying into or out of a city. So as your airplane is, is getting lower, you're coming toward the airport, you're probably going to be flying over some kind of industrial area because there's usually industrial areas that surround airports and on this barren land, because from above, you know, these industrial areas in the past anyway have just they look like I mean there's nothing but gray flat roofs or black flat roofs that look like tiles blanketing the landscape between you know roads. But now you'll start to see that some of them will have flat roof panel systems and solar solar systems that run all the way along row after row along the roof of these buildings. And again, depending on how the lights coming down, you might get some of that, that light reflected back at you off of the aluminum frames. And so they're like these little tiny bits of hope in that sea of gray otherwise useless flat roofs that do nothing but provide a heat trap

Christine Malec:

And so on a large scale. Is it just the same kind of panel you describe just a lot more of them? Or do the panels get bigger? Are they different in appearance,

JJ Hunt:

The panels are generally the same, they might get a little bit bigger for industrial systems, but they're more or less the same dimensions. But whereas you might have like 20 or 25 panels on a pretty big residential system. If you go into the country and someone's got a you know, a medium sized array on their on their farm property that you know they'll be on frames on the ground, perhaps they don't need to be on rubes that might be 50 or 100 pounds. panels. But then there are massive panels like truly massive or not panels, but massive systems that are basically made of the same kind of panels. So you just arrange them and link them all together and you feed into a different place. And sometimes they're just arranged in, you know, square, whatever you've got, you fill your land with row after row of panels. And they might be like 50,000 panels, 75,000 panels, I mean, they're just huge systems. But you can also have a little bit of fun with them. So like the the Island of New Caledonia, they have an array of 58,000 panels, but they arranged them in the shape of a heart. So from high above, you get to see this, like silver blue looking heart shape with a narrow access path down the center, which looks like the aisle in a movie theater. And yeah, it's lovely Disney World in Florida, they built a shaped solar farm that was 50,000 panels near Epcot Center. And of course, it's Disney. So they arranged theirs in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears. So one large circle for the head, and then two small circles for the tops, you know, for the ears at the top. And again, if you get close, it's just row after row after row of these panels on frames, but they are arranged in a shape. But then there are different kinds of solar major solar systems that concentrated solar power or CPS systems. Have you heard of these? Do you know nothings? No. No. So they're often located in deserts. I think there are some in the UAE, there's some in Nevada, and instead of using solar panels, these systems use mirrors, and they concentrate the sunlight onto a receiver. So visually, again, these are usually photographed from far away from up high. They they look like giant circles on the desert floor. And I really do mean giant like some of them are hundreds of acres in size, like more than a square kilometer, just massive circles on the desert floor. And they kind of look again, from this distance a little bit like vinyl records, these concentric rings, one after the other after the other after the other. And what those rings are, are rings of angled mirrors on rotating frames that can like slowly shift and follow the sun so that they are all angled toward the center. And you get ltens of thousands of these mirrors in a single system, reflecting sun right at a tower in the center. And so the in the center of the system is a tall tower, and all of the mirrors or mirrors are angled right to the tip of the tower. And then the photos, the towers look like candles, because their tips glow a brilliant, almost a painfully bright white light with all of this sunlight being concentrated right onto the tip of that tower. And then that's where the power gets generated, it gets stored, and I think they're like liquid salt systems and it gets quite fantastic. But with all of that sunlight being concentrated, you end up with a with an incredible amount of power. And it can even be stored in that salt.

Christine Malec:

Wow, this, this makes me feel a bit hopeful that there are strategies in place for a more sustainable future. And one of the things that I've been getting really interested in, in terms of sustainability is vertical farming. And so this is farming that's done indoors because agriculture is unfortunately like mass agriculture is one of the leading problems for in the climate crisis. And so what some people are doing is thinking about food production that is completely self contained. And at least in an urban environment. One way to do that is to make vertical structures where it's all self contained and hydroponically grown and so I know a bit about it in theory, and it's a fascinating trend. And so JJ, can we talk about the visuals of what's what's, what exists and what also what people are imagining for the future?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, absolutely. So indoor farms that are currently in operation, they're often in large warehouse spaces. So very high ceilings, lots of floor space, and sometimes they are even like two storeys tall. So these are big warehouses in some cases. And inside are row after row after row of stacked growing beds, and they're separated by aisles. So it's a layout, kind of like a like a warehouse grocery store like a Costco or something where you go up and down aisles and between those aisles are these long rows of shelves that go get stacked incredibly high. Like I said, sometimes several storeys tall and visually, everything looks quite layered. So let me break down one of those like stack show. would look like and then you can kind of extrapolate and imagine an entire warehouse full of them. So usually on the floor, there's some sort of equipment like a boxed pumps, I think, something like that. So they're in cases, black boxes, and then you know, they're about waist high. And then at about waist high, you get the first bed, that first growing bed. And these are, you know, I've seen ones that are plastic black trays, plastic white trays. And inside that tray is a thick blanket of greens. So lettuces, spinach is whatever. And then above that, there's a little bit of open space, and above that are the lighting tubes. So you've got up to a dozen narrow tubes, like fluorescent light tubes that run parallel to each other along the length of the plastic tray. And then above that is the next black plastic tray. All of these in frames like aluminum frames and whatnot that stack one above the other. So that's the system you've got your you've got your garden bed, your greens, a little bit of air, and you've got light coming from above, one atop the other atop the other atop the other, I've seen stacks that are 12 or more high. And I don't I mean countless numbers of rows of these things inside a warehouse, some of the systems where you are building your space to meet the needs, you'll also have glass walls, so that you can have some natural light come in. But sometimes they're just in warehouses where all the light is is artificial. And sometimes the light is, is a white light, sometimes it's more of a blue light, I've seen purple lights as well, the different kinds of lights, doing different things for the plants as they grow. And then depending on if it's a hydroponic system, or if they're just, you know, watering in a traditional way. There are, you know, different sets of pipes that will go down to these pump boxes at the bottom or if they are if they are floating in water, of course, then you have more pipes throughout the system to accommodate that.

Christine Malec:

The sort of dream for the future is tall glass buildings in a city in an urban setting so that you're not taking up much real estate, but you have this incredible vertical profile and as you say natural light do any of those exist yet or is that still in the imagination stage.

JJ Hunt:

I haven't seen any. When you Google, you know vertical farming, you'll get a lot of the images that I've just described of warehouse situations. But you'll also get these kind of very fanciful artist renderings of outdoor vertical farms of the future. And yeah, they're like their condo like structures apartment building like structures, but they tend to have large staggered irregular balconies. So each one of these balconies is then overflowing with plants and because they're staggered, they get full sun they're not in shadow from the balcony above. And in some renderings these structures have more of like they they're more futuristic shapes and designs there's that word again futuristic. So in this case --

Christine Malec:

No grids. No wires of grids.

JJ Hunt:

That's right there are no wires. There's also lots of curves right and and built with glass and steel in curved and shiny everything looks clean and clear lines. And then some of them are have like they're the towers are actually to blank. So they're not boxy, but you know condo towers, they're like tubes. With these round balconies irregular sticking out the sides, I saw one that looked like a, like a wonky stack of dishes piled really high. Like the kind you'd see tom and jerry cartoon where they're trying to carry the crazy stack of dishes to the kitchen. So you've got like these disks, these plates that are all sticking out from a core. And those are the areas where they're sticking out. Those are the balconies that are teeming with plant life. And sometimes, the core of these buildings are imagined to be additional vertical farming space. So they might have glass walls and whatnot so that sunlight comes in or they might have open spaces on the inside so that you know more light and natural air can get in. But in some cases I've seen they also are imagining residences, so actual condo units or housing units that are integrated into the structure. So one side of the building will be for farming and the other side will be for housing or, you know, lots of glossy digital drawings and you know, artists renderings online, but now I didn't see any actual photos of these condo farms, nothing I could find.

Christine Malec:

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