August 22, 2012
Could the IKEA concept of “offering a wide range of well designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them” be expanded to include solar and wind energy?
With IKEA plugging into solar power for almost all of its U.S. buildings, could IKEA-brand solar panels for your home be far behind? Of, course some assembly would be required. And there would be an Allen wrench.
August 3, 2012
Ninth in a series on the ‘Now or Never” report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV).
Priority #9 highlights the importance of renewable energy to Canada’s energy future. And that’s possible because we have an abundance of water, wind, sunlight, geothermal and biomass resources. Renewable energy initiatives are often developed in response to addressing greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying energy supplies, meeting government regulations and satisfying consumer demands for renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy is primarily used to generate electricity. Hydropower accounts for about two thirds of our electricity generation here in Canada. The rest is generated by oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear. ‘Other’ renewables are also part of the mix but are just a sliver of our energy pie. The challenge is how can we grow that piece?
In Canada, the answer right now is slowly. But steadily. Canada’s wind power installed capacity is growing every year. Biomass-fired electricity generation (forest and agriculture waste, municipal solid waste and landfill gas) is being considered as an option to replace some coal-fired plants. Biofuel development is continuing to grow; all major oil refineries in Canada blend ethanol and biodiesel. And both solar and geothermal are heating options for residential and commercial development.
Canada certainly has the capacity to make good use of these resources if we can tackle the key issues. Upgrading of the electricity grid infrastructure is essential. Private and public funding of research we know is key to technology development and innovation. And realizing that municipal governments and consumers have a big role to play in developing renewable energy resources locally.
Today’s lesson is in your hands. I will supply you with sources about the big renewables in Canada, but as these industries are constantly evolving, I’d advise that you keep up with them. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I’ve recently posted several stories on renewables, and am always looking for more.
Canada is an enormous country, and has amazing potential for renewable energy. This is an exciting time for renewables, so I would definitely recommend that you look at these sites now and visit often. There are some truly fantastic things happening.
Canadian Wind Energy Association – Canada’s wind farms
Ontario – Small wind for home and farm
Canadian Solar Industries Association – Solar energy 101
Solar decathlon – Who will compete next?
Canadian Renewable Fuels Association – Public policy
BC – Bioenergy strategy
Canadian Geothermal Association – What is geothermal?
NRCan – Tides, rivers and waves
FORCE – Tidal energy (watch the Fundy Tidal Research video)
April 5, 2011
If you live in Ontario and want to know where your electricity is coming from at this hour, the Canadian Nuclear Society hosts a website called Where is My Electricity Coming From at this Hour?
All you have to do is go to the website and it not only tells you from whence your electricity comes, but also how many tonnes of CO2 have been avoided by not burning coal, the number of homes being supplied by each electricity source, from whence your electricity came in past 48 hours and the capabilities and output of pretty much every generating unit in Ontario, be it nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydro, wind or other. The source for the generation data is Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.
We’re pretty excited about this service, not only because of the transparency it provides, but also of its false-impression-busting capabilities. For example, the amount of CO2 Ontario’s coal-fired generating plants emit gets a lot of coverage, and from this we get the impression that coal is one of the major sources of Ontario’s electricity, but in consulting Where is My Electricity Coming From at this Hour, we find that currently only four per cent is coming from coal. Forty-nine per cent is coming from nuclear power, 23 is coming from hydro, 18 from natural gas, five from wind and one from other, chiefly wood biomass.
And 16 hours ago, 4.6 per cent was coming from coal, and that was about as high as it got in the last 48 hours.
In fact, the website points out that 13,210 tonnes of CO2 that would have been emitted in the past hour if all the electricity in Ontario was coal-fired, have been avoided due to the use of other energy sources.
We wonder how many Canadians coast to coast know and understand where their electricity comes from, not only by the hour, but in general. Knowing where our electricity comes from may be useful in deciding how much we’re going to use and how we’re going to use it.
March 7, 2011
The Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK is challenging you to solve the problem of reducing the country’s CO2 emissions by 20 per cent of 1990 levels by the year 2050.
The data behind the 2050 simulation is based on actual UK data. You read along and learn about how the country uses energy and then decide how you see its future. The program quantifies your ideas and prompts further questions about the impact of your choices.
When you are done you get a snap shot of what your world looks like – again nicely quantified and easy to understand – including geography references, scale and scope of development that would be required, nod to efficiencies realized and a literal count of things like wind turbines and nuclear power plants that would be required. You can return to your musing and try again or submit the results.
But what we really like about this sim is that it’s the foundation for the Pathway Debate. Eight climate and energy experts have set out how they think the UK could meet the target using the 2050 tool. Brilliant. This is one of the best online tools we’ve seen recently to help consumers understand the relationship between supply and demand. It’s about the energy mix and how all of the sources work together to power the future. So hop to it and take a spin or should we say a sim.
Really, everyone these days is an energy armchair critic, picking winners and losers and thinking they have a better idea. Now it’s your turn. You decide. And you just might learn something in the process.
February 10, 2011
In our recent post on the World Future Energy Summit, we discussed the need for policy change in order to achieve current climate change targets. Two scientists in the United States have taken that one step further. Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, Stanford University and Mark A. Delucchi, research scientist, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis; believe that all that is needed to achieve a totally carbon free, totally renewable, wind, water and solar (WWS) based energy system by 2030 is political will.
Well, maybe a bit more than that. We’ll also need:
- 490,000 tidal turbines, each with an installed capacity of one megawatt
- 5,350 geothermal plants, each with an installed capacity of 100 megawatts
- 270 additional hydroelectric plants, each with an installed capacity of 1,300 megawatts
- 3.8 million wind turbines, each with an installed capacity of five megawatts
- 720,000 wave powered turbines, each with an installed capacity of 0.75 megawatts
- 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, each with an installed capacity of three kilowatts
- 49,000 solar focusing steam power plants, each with an installed capacity of 300 megawatts
- 40,000 photovoltaic power plants, each with an installed capacity of 300 megawatts
Basically, to achieve a totally renewable WWS energy system, we’ll have to totally renew the existing system. And that includes building a new, super-interconnected electricity transmission grid. It also involves scrapping all internal combustion engine vehicles and replacing them with electric or fuel cell vehicles.
And the cost estimate is only about $100 trillion.
The most fascinating aspect of this theory is that it might just be doable.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that by 2030, world energy demand will be 16.9 terawatts (TW), or enough to power 47 60-watt light bulbs for every person on earth. But Jacobson and Delucchi point out that in a carbon-free world there would be no internal combustion engines, and internal combustion engines are far less efficient than electricity, so the actual requirement drops to 11.5 TW.
And if you think 3.8 million wind turbines is a lot, consider that auto manufacturers make 73 million cars per year. Also consider that much of the world’s electricity generation and transmission infrastructure is aging and will have to be replaced in the not too distant future anyway. And without all the transportation-induced air pollution, medical and environmental costs would decrease significantly.
As far as reliability of the system is concerned, a thoroughly interconnected grid will be able to re-route surplus electricity to wherever it is needed. Jacobson and Delucchi point out, perhaps a little simplistically, that if it’s raining in one place, it’s sunny someplace else, or if there’s no wind, it’s probably sunny. In other words, electricity will be generated somehow, somewhere.
The authors have determined that the only technical barrier might be the availability of rare-earth metals needed for batteries, solar films and fuel cells. But if we recycle old batteries and buildings, we should have ample supply of steel, concrete and things like neodymium and indium.
Which means the real barrier is political will, which ultimately means getting everyone onside. Most of us agree there’s a problem, but maybe it’s a little far fetched to try and achieve all this by 2030. Maybe it’s more realistic to try for 2050. Implement a more gradual shift, replacing old infrastructure as needed with new wind, water and solar generation. Maybe people will be a little more comfortable with that and a little more willing to put one of the 1.7 billion photovoltaic systems on their own roof.
January 12, 2011
In Toronto, Bridgepoint Group has helped secure financing for a 200+ MV Ontario wind farm. Northland Power Income Fund has sold its 54 MW wind farm in Quebec to Burlington’s NextEra Energy Canada.
Ontario has almost 40 per cent of Canada’s installed capacity for wind-generated electricity. The Conference Board of Canada has reported that development of the offshore wind industry in Ontario could add between $4.8 and $5.5 billion to the province’s economy.
Hydro-Quebec has recently accepted bids for a dozen small-scale wind energy projects totalling just under 300 MW of installed capacity.
On the prairies, SaskPower is assessing the economic and environmental benefits of self-generated power projects. Wind turbines are being installed at municipal ice arenas as part of the demonstration projects.
TransAlta, located in Calgary has recently commissioned wind facilities in Alberta and New Brunswick. Greengate Power, also located in Calgary is planning to build a wind facility just outside of the city in partnership with Edmonton’s Capital Power Corporation.
December 14, 2010
In Ontario the Gosfield Wind Project has opened. Owned by Brookfield Renewable Power, the project (a 50MW facility) will produce power for the Ontario Power Authority. Close on its heels is the construction start of another Brookfield project. Its new Comber Wind farm (a 166MW facility)is expected to be on line in a year. Together these two projects will power over 70,000 average Ontario homes.
Also in Ontario, the government is seeking public input into its long term energy plan. Log on and share you thoughts.
In Nova Scotia the Nuttby Mountain Wind Farm (a 45MW facility) is powering up. If you’ve never had the change to visit a facility, have a look at the pics below. They’ll give you a good sense of scale and better understanding of what’s involved in building a project like this. The green colour bands on the posts are new – nice idea. Thanks to Nova Scotia Power for the slide show.
October 20, 2010
Ontario continues to lead the country in installed wind energy capacity. A recent Ipsos Reid survey 565KB PDF, found that most Ontario residents supported wind energy in their region (looks like they are over NIMBY), encourage their municipal governments to facilitate wind energy development and believe wind energy can provide economic opportunities and benefits.
Canada should finish 2010 with 754 megawatts of new wind energy capacity, which represents a whooping $1.7 billion in new investment. Significant, public-supported energy industry growth powered by significant investment equals exciting news.
In la belle province, the federal government’s ecoEnergy for Renewable Power program is set to provide up to $65 million over the next ten years to two wind farms in the Gaspé – Cartier Wind Energy’s 100.5-MW L’Anse-à-Valleau and 109.5-MW Carleton wind farms.
Are you interested in owning your own wind turbine or leasing land to a commercial wind developer? If you’re an Alberta landowner, you’re in luck.
The Pembina Institute’s new detailed Landowners’ Guide to Wind Energy in Alberta (3.1MB PDF) provides information on a range of topics: the province’s electricity market, wind technology, wind energy issues and impacts, the approval process, ownership models and negotiating with developers. This resource is free to download.
There are two wind events coming up in Canada. CanWEA’s 2010 Annual Conference and Exhibition takes place from November 1 to 3 in Montreal. If you’re in the city, CanWEA is looking for volunteers to help at the conference.
And to wrap up a busy year, CanWEA will host Growing Wind in BC, which runs from December 9 to 10 in Vancouver. The event will include an education seminar and discussion forum.
June 9, 2010
Given their massive size and a variety of concerns around noise (even though there’s no evidence that the noise from wind turbines leads to adverse health effects) and the safety of birds and bats (though there are ongoing attempts to create “bird-proof” turbines), it’s hardly surprising that wind farms still get a tough rap. Even though truly “backyard” wind generation is still a ways off, residents are still uncomfortable with turbines anywhere nearby.
But now, residents in Ontario are exhibiting an entirely new brand of NIMBYism. What’s different about this latest round of complaints is that the wind farm in question would be as far away from any literal backyards as a development can get: smack dab in the middle of the world’s 13th largest lake, Lake Eerie. As reported by The Detroit News, some residents in the communities surrounding Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie oppose the proposed development by SouthPoint Wind, which would produce up to 1,400 megawatts of electricity. As with many NIMBY protests, residents are worried that the turbines could reduce property values by cluttering the landscape, and that these farms could damage surrounding wildlife.
The issue of the appearance of the hundreds of wind turbines is further complicated by the fact that Lake Eerie lies on the US-Canadian border, meaning that development on either side would be visible to both. Just like the wind that would power these turbines, nobody has jurisdictional authority on the horizon.
And SouthPoint isn’t the only energy producer eyeing the Great Lakes as a source of wind energy. NorTech, an American company, developed “the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo), a regional nonprofit organization responsible for accelerating offshore wind deployment in Lake Erie.” In fact, the LEEDCo recently announced a partnership with GE that would see turbines supplied to a 20 MW offshore project, targeted for late 2012.
As far as offshore wind development goes, the objections of a sailing club and lakeside property owners is fairly minor when compared to the massive logistical difficulties that ocean-based farms have had to contend with. Rough seas, high costs and transporting maintenance workers over large expanses of water are just a few of the hurdles that other developments have faced. Still, even when there are barely any people around, the human factor in energy development can often be the most important one of all.
March 29, 2010
It’s not a new question, but it’s one we’re still constantly trying to answer. And when it comes to energy, it’s a question that seems to have a few contradictory answers.
On one hand, we already know that Canada’s future is going to be different than its present: with the advent of alternative energy technologies and an increasing emphasis on energy efficiency, Canadians are demanding a bigger say in the energy they use. A national Canadian Centre for Energy Information survey conducted this year found that a full 59 per cent of respondents felt disconnected from decision-making on energy policies. But on the other hand, there are strong economic incentives to continue using the same profitable sources we’ve always used, especially when demand for those sources is growing globally. So, what’s a Canadian to do?
Flow doesn’t have a crystal ball (just a pic), but we’re always doing our best to keep an eye out to the future. So, here are a few thoughts on Canada’s energy future: the new, the old and the green.
At the moment, Canada’s primary energy production is dominated by crude oil and natural gas. Together, these two sources make up almost 75 per cent of our total energy exports, exports that totalled $126 billion in 2008. Given the current patterns of global energy consumption, those exports isn’t likely to become any less important to the country.
Global demand for both oil and natural gas is continuing to rise, driven by demand in Asia and the Middle East, particularly China. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), demand in the transportation sector alone is expected to climb 41 per cent by 2030. And with most of that demand occurring in the developing world, Canada’s strength as an exporter is likely to continue, especially with oil reserves actually continuing to grow.
In fact, despite the fact that oil is a non-renewable resource, developments in areas like Alberta’s oil sands — the second largest oil reserve in the world — have hiked the planet’s total proved reserves to 1,258 billion barrels. If demand continues to increase, there will continue to be reserves to meet this demand into the near future.
One of the places where industry will be discussing that near future will be the CERI 2010 Oil Conference, a three-day event running between April 18 and 20. With session titles like “Conventional Oil: Last Rights or New Breath?” it’s clear that the industry recognizes that changes are coming, but with demand continuing, there’s strong reason to believe that the future won’t necessarily be unrecognizable.
Still, while oil and natural gas have long been mainstays of the Canadian energy mix, an increasing emphasis on the environmental impact of their use has fuelled the development of alternative energy sources. The field of alternative energy includes sources as varied as biomass and waste products, but two of the leading areas in the field of alternative energy continue to be solar and wind.
Solar and wind energy are two of the most common examples of energy technologies that are changing the Canadian energy mix, and are likely to continue to change it into our future. Solar power is already becoming increasingly common in Canadian homes and once-distant wind turbine might end up finding their way into our cities.
For now, solar energy is primarily used in two ways in Canadian homes, either passively and actively. Examples of active use include photovoltaic (PV) cells that generate electricity or through solar heating panels that transmit the sun’s heat through a heat-transfer liquid. Passive uses of solar energy include architectural changes that allow homes to absorb ambient heat and redirect it in much the same way that a heating duct redirects a furnace’s.
At a federal level, solar development is supported through Natural Resource Canada’s CanmetENERGY, whose solar projects include research into low energy solar homes and developing codes, certification, and installation standards for PV systems and components. The agency has even developed a useful map of PV potential across the country demonstrating Canada’s solar potential.
Given that potential, it’s not surprising that organizations like The Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) are trying to get professionals networking. In May, CanSIA will host its first-ever regional conference. Running for two days, May 25 and 26, the conference’s topics include “The economics of solar – can it make sense?”, “Sharing the Western Landscape…where do renewables and solar fit in?” and a “Solar Showcase” featuring private and public industry figures.
Wind, meanwhile, continues to be largely a commercial, rather than a residential sector. Though there are wind turbines small enough to be used residentially, they aren’t nearly as common as their larger, commercial brothers.
For now, wind represents only 0.3 per cent of the country’s total electricity mix, but given global trends it’s not difficult to imagine that number growing. In fact, in the last 10 years, wind power use globally has increased annually by 30 per cent. The applications for Canada, where rural communities sometimes require their own power, are considerable. Operations adding diesel or hydro to intermittent wind, for example, could provide the same amount of energy with fewer emissions and other negative environmental impacts. Expect issues like these to be discussed at The Canadian Wind Energy Association’s upcoming Wind Energy Forum, running from April 13 to 14 in Toronto.
Whether they’re fossil fuels or renewable energy sources, one of our strongest motivations for changing the way we use energy continues to be our concern over greenhouse gas emissions. Even if our mix continues to include fuels that produce these emissions, the way we use our energy is becoming just as important as the types of energy sources we use. Canada’s energy future, then, is likely to include changes in that use, both by consumers and businesses.
For those industries already producing fossil fuels, the emphasis will now be on “cleaner” versions. From carbon capture and storage technology that will trap much of the carbon dioxide ultimately released into the atmosphere, to fundamental changes in the way that oil and natural gas are extracted. At least one of the many public acknowledgements of this move toward cleaner fossil fuels can be seen in the U.S.- Canada Clean Energy Dialogue, a resolution between the two countries aimed at reducing the intensity of the energy industry’s emissions.
Consumers, meanwhile, in addition to being able to purchase home-based energy systems that can sell power back to the grid, as Ontarians can do under the province’s Feed-In Tariff program, are using less energy. And provincial governments are doing what they can to ensure that this conservation becomes a large part of the country’s energy future.
Provincial governments have already nodded to the importance of reducing their citizens’ energy use, creating agencies like Quebec’s Agence de l’efficacité énergétique and Prince Edward Island’s Office of Energy Efficiency to centrally manage provincial energy efficiency initiatives. Together with more rigorous building codes and incentive programs that encourage everything from low flow toilets to more efficient appliances, the hope is that future energy use will not only be defined by resources like oil and natural gas, wind and solar, but by the consumers who ultimately use them.