Green future An Alberta utility has taken its first steps towards offering a green powere option to its electricity cyustomers.Green future An Alberta utility has taken its first steps towards offering a green powere option to its electricity cyustomers.Pump it up A newly-developed pump, about the size of your thumb, will increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of solar water heaters.The Heat is On A new book takes an in-depth look at the issues surrounding climate change and advocates an end to our reliance on fossil fuels.
Fish hatcheries warm to solar
According to federal researchers, product developers and fish farmers, active solar technolgy will soon be making waves in the Canadian aquaculture industry. After only four months, a solar water heating system undering evaluation at a West Coast fish hatchery has impressed the commercial operator. The Omega Salmon Group, in a joint venture with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, raises salmon at the Rosewall Creek hatchery, north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The site, which was spending $1,200 a week on propane to warm the water in its hatchery tanks, now saves about 25 percent on its fuel bill since a solar water heater was installed in the fall.
“It looks really good from the start,” says Omega�s Darin Padlewski. “It’s better for the enronment because we’re not burning all this propane and it definitely lowers costs. A lot of water goes through a hatchery and it costs a lot of money to heat it.”
The Rosewall Creek solar system is part of a Natural Resources Canada research program intended to evaluate the economic benefits of using solar energy in the Canadian aquaculture industry. NRCan built its first solar heating system in 1996 at the Alma Aquaculture Research Station. The project is also supported by the University of Guelph and the Ontario government.
Now in its third and final trial, the Alma study is comparing the development of rainbow trout grown in three different tanks. One tank has water kept at a constant temperature using oil heaters. The water temperture fluctuates in the second tank which is warmed exclusively with solar collectors, and the third uses no heat at all.
“There was some concern that a varying temperature could have a negative effect on the fish,” explains Gerald Van Decker, an NRCan active-solar analyst. Van Decker says preliminary results show the trout are unaffected by varying temperatures, and while the oil-heated tank may have a higher yield, evaluated by the weight of the fish, the productivity of the solar tank “looks very promising.”
The use of solar collectors is relatively new to fish farmers, but the solar heating systems at Rosewall Creek and Alma are essentially the same as thousands already warming backyard swimming pools across North America.
Joe Thwaites, president of Vancouver-based Taylor Munro Energy Systems, has been selling swimming pool solar water heaters for five years, and installed the Rosewall Creek hatchery system. It uses black plastic collector panels mounted on building roofs at the hatchery. Water is circulated between the collector and two storage tanks. A mixing valve combines the heated water with cold water to achieve optimal tempertures. If the stored water falls below 12 degrees Celsius, propane burners top up the temperature.
“The project set out to establish that under real conditions solar can work with the complexties of commercial operators to reduce propane bills,” says Thwaites, something he believes the Rosewall Creek system is demstrating.
Padlewski says Omega, which raises full-size salmon in 10 grow-out pens in B.C., is already con sid ing install ng solar water heaters at its two other hatcheries, both much larger than the Rosewall Creek site. “It’s kind of site-specific,” says Padlewski, “but if it proves to be cost-effective then we are going to employ its use.”
Study maps out green options
A policy requiring that a minimum per cent age of electricity generated and sold be derived from sustainble technologies is the most effective way to ensure renewables find a place in the evolving electricity market place, concludes a new study.
The study, by SESCI director Andrew Pape, looked at how best to foster the development of renewables under retail competition, focusing specifically on Alberta and B.C. The question of how electricity market restructur ing will effect environmentally-friendly technologies is becoming an increasingly important one as the march towards competition in Canada gathers steam.
Ontario’s long-awaited white paper on electric industry restructuring, released November 6, sets out a two-year timetable for implemention, ending in the creation of a competitive marketplace in the year 2000 for both wholesale and retail customers. In Alberta, where wholesale competition has been in place for two years, Energy Minister Steve West has announced plans to introduce full customer choice in 1999. Next door, the British Columbia Task Force on Electricity Market Reform is assessing retail competition as a possible market model for that province.
While competition offers green power developers an opportunity to market their product directly to customers, says Pape, there is also a chance they can be left behind in the quest for cheap power.
“Retail competition could be particularly threatening to the environment, as electricity will be treated more like a commodity than a service, forcing all producers to offer the lowest cost power available on a short-term basis,” he says.
However, he adds, there are mechanisms available to steer competitive electricity markets onto an environmentally-sustainable course. In his study, Pape concluded that the “preferred option” is a Sustainable Portfolio Standard (SPS), which requires retail power suppliers to acquire, on the free market, renewable energy credits equivalent to some percent age of total annual energy sales. An SPS of 10 per cent, phased in over the study’s 30-year simulation period, would see the installation of 1750 MW of renewables in B.C. and 1350 MW in Alberta with minimal impact on electricity costs.
But only the most cost-effective technologies are developed under this scenario, resulting in minmal wind development and excluding solar PV and tidal power altogether.
A System Benefit Charge, which is a wires charge collected on wholsesale electricity sales and distributed among sustainable technologies, can be de signed to support a diverse mix of sustainble technologies. But, Pape found, it will result in a reltively low market penetration of 500 MW in B.C. and 350 MW in Alberta. Because this scenario stimulates the greatest diversity of sustainables, it also contributes most to unit cost reduction.
Pape’s study rejected the environmental adder, essentially a carbon tax, as administratively complex and financially detrimental to provinces like Alberta, where the majority of existing generation is coal-based.
# 103 September 1997:
Renewable test site sits idle The Alberta Renewable Energy Test Site was forced to scrap this year’s field season, after the province’s energy department failed to respond to its funding application.
The Alberta Farm Machinery Research Centre, which manages ARETS, submitted its application in early March. By late July, says manager Rick Atkins, AFMRC had “given up” on funding for this year. “It’s just been a void. Nobody is giving us an answer. Even if they just said no, that would be something to go with.”
The site receives financing from Alberta Energy and Natural Resources Canada, with “in kind” support from manufacturers and from Alberta Agriculture through AFMRC.
Last fall, says Atkins, both NRCan and Alberta Energy said they wanted ARETS to put more emphasis on research and development, and on helping manufacturers commercialize their ideas. In the past, the emphasis had been on evaluation and demonstration.AFMRC put together a proposal that answered government concerns, Atkins says, and included plans for a full-time ARETS engineer and international testing of technology. The centre sought a contribution of $40,000 to $45,000 from each level of government, says Atkins. NRCan’s approval came almost immediately, but was contingent on the province kicking in its share.
ARETS won’t be completely inactive this year, however. In late July, AFMRC went back to NRCan to get financing for two small R&D; projects. In PV, the centre will be working with Jensen Engineering on the development of a new submersible pump and DC motor system. The wind project involves testing the new Delta Junior water-pumper by Dutch Industries. Although much of the work will be done at the centre in Lethbridge, it will move to ARETS in the fall and winter for “some long-term durability testing on some deep wells out there.” But individual R&D; projects like these aren’t going to save ARETS, says Atkins. “I don’t think its a long-term kind of solution. We need a broader base to continue with the site.”
ARETS, previously known as the Lethbridge Wind Research Test Site, was established in 1982 to evaluate and demonstrate the use of wind turbines for water pumping. It has since diversified to include solar and deep well pumping systems for local and export markets, as well as wind-powered aeration. In 1990 management of the facility was transferred to AFMRC and in 1991 the site moved to its present location near Pincher Creek.
Alberta Energy offered no comment.
OHT to sell solar-based technologies
Ontario Hydro is negotiating the sale of its solar-based technologies and expects to announce their purchase within the next few months.
Ontario Hydro Technologies (OHT), a separate business unit within the crown utility, decided in June to divest itself of patents and equipment related to spheral solar manufacturing technology, as well as a line of stand-alone renewable energy devices called Integrated Energy Products (IEP).
“We weren’t looking at selling the two technologies as a group because they are at two different ends of the spectrum,” says OHT communications director Joan Woodrow. “Spheral Solar will need some more research and development. It’s not commercially ready.”
Hydro purchased Spheral Solar from Texas Instruments in early 1995. The technology is intended to offer cost-effective manufacturing of flexible, robust PV panels. IEP focuses on one main product called EN-R-PAK, a lightweight portable power centre, and a group of optional components, including solar panels, a wind turbine and expander units. Hundreds of EN-R-PAK solar generators have been sold, and the unit is currently distributed through a number of national retail catalogues. Canadian Tire sells it for $1,300.
“We were also looking at a number of Third World applications,” says Woodrow, who explains OHT had plans to expand the distribution of EN-R-PAK to Africa, Australia and the Middle East. “Any potential purchaser should look to the export market almost immediately. There is clearly a need for this kind of thing there.”
Despite the apparent success of OHT’s renewable products and technology, when Hydro began to restructure for changes in Ontario’s electrical system, Woodrow says OHT was told to “stick to the knitting.”
“Essentially, we are a public utility,” she says. “We felt then and certainly feel now that EN-R-PAK and Spheral Solar have a great future. We’ve taken them as far as we can go, particularly with our corporate focus being much more concentrated on our business units.
Inside this issue:
Positive response: SESCI teams up with other renewable organizations to present a brief to Canada’s energy ministers.Conference report: SESCI’s 23rd conference examined strategies for implementing sustainable energy in today’s world.Sunrayce ’97: Canadian teams do well at the 10-day intercollegiate solar car race, despite some technical difficulties.# 102 the issue for June 1997
Epcor explores niche markets: Epcor hopes a new building-integrated PV system on the roof of its Edmonton headquarters will help open a niche market.Funding stalls SESCI’s solar car challenge.RETScreen: The federal government has produced a software program to assist the development of renewable energy in remote areas.Emissions offsets:The B.C. government is in the final stages of approval for a greenhouse gas emissions offset pilot project.PV grid connection: Ontario Hydro is ready to have customers test its new utility interactive power conditioner.# 101 the issue for February 1997
Inside this issue:
From the Office of the PresidentHead Office UpdateConference 1997Growing Grid Smothers Potential for Alternative Energy in SaskatchewanWWW SitesCanadian Renewable Energy Guide.
From the Office of the President
Hey SESCI! So, who are we and what, if anything, are we actually doing as SESCI members?
The first part of the question is relatively easy and to my perception very encouraging. SESCI is favoured with members young and old from the general public, staff and students from Canadian Universities and business people in manufacturing and service industries. Very broad categories but very inclusive and widely distributed. As our founding bylaws state we are “open to persons interested in furthering the objects of the Society.” While it’s nice to be inclusive, this broad a mandate begs the question “What are our objects?”
Our official objects stated in our founding bylaws, can be paraphrased as:
maintain a Solar Energy community by various means of communication;provide information to government sectors involved with energy utilization technologies;facilitate exchange of up-to-date scientific and technical information;distribute publications with pertinent, reliable, and interdisciplinary technical information;create awareness among Canadians of the importance of solar energy and of its proven potential as a supplementary source of energy to augment nonrenewable resources for energy;enhance Canadian quality of life, fostering innovative concepts in solar energy applications;maintain working relations with other societies such as the American Solar Energy Society, the International Solar Energy Society; and environmental groups on common concerns;encourage the formation of local chapters to exchange information of common interest.These objectives were set down in October 1974, and remain, in the majority, valid today. But a great deal has happened since that time. Solar thermal energy use in buildings rose quickly and then totally crashed. Solar electric energy has had a steady but almost unseen growth. Certainly the Federal Government does not look to SESCI for the latest in solar advances, and the most up to date technical information is a long way from being useful to the general public. Perhaps making Canadians aware of solar energy’s potential as a supplement to non renewable energy sources is too conservative, and enhancing Canadian quality of life a bit too optimistic, but overall the wisdom of placing priorities on communication and interdisciplinary study is an unmistakably positive approach.
Continuing the positive side, SESCI has provided public educational brochures under both Provincial and Federal government sponsorship. The Canadian Solar Discovery Challenge is bringing some high profile exposure to photovoltaic (PV) electricity and its ability to power road worthy vehicles. For buildings, products like PV 12 volt lighting systems and Conserval’s “Solarwall” are proving their enormous potential for residential, commercial and industrial applications. More importantly, building science is now sophisticated enough to give designers the ability to make building enclosures that allow sustainable energy technologies to perform at their best. SESCI must increase it’s efforts to bring successful sustainable energy products into public view.
SESCI members and associates are making significant contributions on their own. Howell-Mayhew Engineering’s grid connected PV home office is contributing to Edmonton Power’s electrical grid as well as their growing expertise in distributed electricity generation. Ontario Hydro’s Per Drewes is busy working out combination power conditioners and smart switching boxes that will allow safe DC connections for PV systems to OH’s grid.
Everyone will of course have their own custom tailored reasons for joining SESCI. I joined because I thought SESCI would be a good resource for my business, an architectural practice focusing on green building. Studying passive solar design at the University of Waterloo, I realized that passive solar building techniques promote the best overall understanding of building science and how to use construction resources in an efficient manner.
SESCI’s Finances: SESCI updated its Business Plan 1996-98 to better project future directions, activities and financial requirements. SESCI anticipated that its annual operating grant from the Federal Government would end 31 March 1997 due to ongoing government cutbacks; this has indeed happened. SESCI is now entirely dependent on revenues from its membership dues, projects, SOL advertising and private donations. SESCI’s finances have improved over the past ten months and we are quietly confident that the challenge of being entirely self-supporting can be managed.
Canadian Solar Discovery Challenge: The Canadian Solar Discovery Challenge (CSDC) is an example of an ongoing project. First started in 1996 with 5 solar cars in the race, this year’s CSDC ’97 will have 12 solar cars including 4 American cars. As well CSDC ’97 will have an exciting new dimension, The Solar Youth Day to be held at the Museum of Science and Technology, Ottawa. Area schools’ students Grade 79 and the Canadian University team members will inter-act throughout the day on June 4. More about this later in the year. All of the organizing for this large event is coordinated through the SESCI office and gives solar energy and SESCI very good profile. Last year, we obtained national TV and radio coverage, not bad for a first try. SESCI members who would like to be a volunteer for CSDC 97 are encouraged to contact the SESCI Office.
The Canadian Renewable Energy Guide: ‘The Guide’ published in October 1995 has sold approximately 1500 copies. Preliminary plans are underway to publish the 2nd Guide with a French edition still under discussion. Another ongoing project which will serve our mandate and contribute revenue.
Renewable Energy Brochures: Coordinated, edited and published by SESCI, 4 bi-lingual brochures on renewable energy, passive solar, active solar and photovoltaics will be ready by March ’97. These are intended to provide basic information to the general public and replace outdated past brochures. A second series of 4 is planned.
SESCI On The Road: Plans are underway to increase SESCI’s participation in exhibits, trade/home shows, etc. To implement this, SESCI will be obtaining a new exhibit booth in the near future, if all goes as planned. SESCI would like to build up a cross-country list of annual exhibits, trade/home shows etc. and would very much appreciate input from our members in this regard.
The above activities are an example of what we at National Headquarters have been doing. More on SESCI National HQ activities in the next SOL. Look for it!
SESCI 97 Conference
We have a dozen technical papers for the conference and more coming. Plan to be there, in beautiful Vancouver, June 4 to 7. The papers are impressive and so is the tentative list of speakers. On the 7th, plan to attend the BC Renewable Energy Association trade show. Delegates to our conference get in free. Look to our next issue of Sol for more on the conference.
Growing Grid Smothers Potential for Alternative Energy in Saskatchewan
SaskPower is investing $40M in the future of coal this year. The surveyors are already setting a path for a high voltage power line from Regina to Saskatoon.
This power line is a lifeline for the future of coal-fired power plants, which generate 70 per cent of Saskatchewan’s electricity from a narrow strip of coal fields near the U.S. border. It is a gallows for alternative energy in the province.
In 1993, in a brief period of energy enlightenment in Saskatchewan, SaskPower called for tenders for co-generation. The short-lived Saskatchewan Energy Conservation and Development Authority identified enough cogeneration potential from existing steam loads alone to serve the province’s energy needs well into the next century. This energy potential is spread across the province, negating the need for more transmission lines. Private companies devoted a lot of money and time developing their competing proposals. Then the Crown owned utility changed its mind, saying the province should not buy power it does not need.
At the time, the President of the Energy Authority expressed his opinion that the high voltage power line is also an energy project the province does not need. The Energy Authority was cancelled in the 1996 budget. The power line is going ahead, over the strenuous objections of hundreds of farmers whose land it will cross.
The stakes are high for SaskPower. The electricity market is being deregulated. Most of the economic growth in the province is hundreds of miles from the coal fields, but in areas rich in the potential for alternative energy sources such as cogeneration. If a panel were asked to judge the relative merits of cogeneration versus a new coal-fired power plant, plus transmission line, the co-gen plant would win. But if the transmission line is already there, a “sunken cost,” then the coal-fired plant can compete.
When asked why SaskPower is so fiercely opposed to co-generation, an aide to the former Grant Devine government said “that’s easy, there are two thousand people over there whose jobs depend on the next mega-project. SaskPower is doing to this government what it did to us.”
Canada’s environment minister knows the enemy. This month he was quoted in a Canadian press wire story titled Slow reaction to climate change frustrates Marchi. He is said to be getting fed up with the resistance he is facing on the climate change issue. Marchi said he found it frustrating “listening to energy ministers who spoke simply for the oil or petroleum patch.” What they are really speaking for is the status quo. Established companies make larger campaign donations.But more important than simply joining up is the corollary question to “What are we doing?” What do you want to do?