Renewables urge action. Strong government leadership is needed to allow Canada’s “virtually unlimited” sustainable energy resources to deliver their significant economic and environmental benefits, says this country’s renewable energy industry.Renewables urge action. Strong government leadership is needed to allow Canada’s “virtually unlimited” sustainable energy resources to deliver their significant economic and environmental benefits, says this country’s renewable energy industry.A place for renewables A new Worldwatch Institute report says solar energy is poised to join computers and telecommunications as a leading growth industry in the 21st century.Oil capital goes green. Calgary’s distribution utility, Enmax, is offering green power to its residential customers in a program that’s the first of its kind in Canada.
Greenpeace promotes rooftop PV Greenpeace is hoping to help kickstart Canada’s solar market by compiling a list of Toronto homeowners interested in buying photovoltaic systems and arranging a bulk buy of PV cells.Software helps designers Tap the Sun Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has released a new solar energy package exploring the basic elements of passive solar design in housing.
Renewables urge action
Strong government leadership is needed to allow Canada’s “virtually unlimited” sustainable energy resources to deliver their significant economic and environmental benefits, says this country’s renewable energy industry.
“Specific action on the part of governments is required to pull our emerging technologies to their feet and to enable them to become competitive domestically and in the international marketplace,” the industry argued in a brief to July’s 55th Annual Mines and Energy Ministers meeting in Calgary, pointing out that in Europe, Japan and the United States, strong government policies have nurtured emerging technologies like wind and PV into vigorous and profitable industries.
“Canadian companies deserve no less support from their government,” the renewable sector says. “Canada has provided like support for the petroleum, mining and nuclear industries in the past when they were in a similar position.”
The brief, prepared with input from SESCI and CanSIA as well as Canada’s wind, earth energy, small hydro and biofuels industries, recommends action on a variety of fronts. These include the implementation of a Renewable Portfolio Standard, the development of nationally-coordinated policies to encourage net billing installations up to 100 kW, and the establishment of a system of emissions trading and caps. It also repeated the renewable sector’s arguments for tax parity with the non-renewable sector and for a green tax credit for consumers.
the federal government should continue to show “leadership by example” and expand its Green Power Procurement program. In addition, the brief says, GPP should be “adopted by provincial governments as policy and by industry, as a voluntary measure.”
Showing leadership internationally, by aggressively pursuing its emissions targets and by modifying its foreign aid programs to support environmentally-beneficial projects using Canadian technology, should also be part of Canada’s environmental strategy, the brief says.
Finally, the brief recommends that government commission a study to examine all sources of energy and their relationships to employment and economic development, testing “unsubstantiated claims” that climate change action will result in “economic Armageddon.” In fact, the brief argues, studies already completed consistently show that sustainable technologies create more jobs than the alternatives. For example, Paul Hawken, in The Ecology of Commerce says “Photovoltaic and wind-based energy systems produce two to five times the number of jobs as coal-fired or nuclear power plants”.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association’s Jason Edworthy represented the renewables sector at the meeting’s open session, designed to allow industry to discuss items of interest with the energy ministers. While few ministers really joined in the discussion, he says, representatives from several provinces expressed a desire to be kept up-to-date on technology and activities.
“For a brief period following this event, there is a window of opportunity to arrange meetings with ministers and senior officials, leveraging this exposure to gain greater opportunities. Use it,” Edworthy recommends.
He urges renewables to “get active” in protecting the definition of green power as renewable and emissions-free, pointing out that during the meeting questions were raised about whether large hydro and nuclear qualify. The industry also needs to be involved in writing the rules for emissions trading and other activities, Edworthy says, or there is a risk that “inadvertently, or intentionally” they won’t support sustainable technologies. “We are few, so we must co-ordinate and all of us must participate.”
PV pumps power into ag-industry
Sunmotor International hopes to make a big splash with photovoltaic-powered water pumps, and a federal study says the PV agricultural industry is ready to grow.
Sunmotor, based in Olds, Alberta, recently completed third-party testing of its new M-series floating pumps, which are now available on the market. The evaluation, carried out between the Alberta Farm Machinery Research Centre and the Alberta Renewable Energy Test Site (ARETS), was funded through equal contributions from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Sunmotor.
“An advancement has been made in increasing the reliability of the unit,” says ARETS manager Rick Atkins, who believes Sunmotor’s pump will last 25 to 50 per cent longer than many others aimed at the same market. “If the pump isn’t operating properly it affects the motor which crashes the whole thing.”
The three models of the M-series pump use a direct-current motor powered by up to four 75-watt PV panels, and are used primarily to transport fresh water to cattle watering troughs, preventing herds from walking through and contaminating streams and dugouts. Atkins says Sunmotor’s pump can also be easily moved, adapting to any location. “It actually becomes a pasture management system,” he explains.
The Sunmotor system is homegrown, with parts for the pumps and motors made in Edmonton. The designs come from Sunmotor’s parent company, Jensen Engineering, which specializes in agricultural engineering, consulting and research.
“We do a fair bit of work in drainage and small-scale irrigation, and that’s what prompted our interest in renewables,” says president Eric Jensen. “We started research in 1982, testing windmills, and realized solar was much more practical in terms of maintenance.”
The Canadian agricultural community also appears to be realizing the practical benefits of PV-powered pumps. Jensen says the market is expanding exponentially and demand for his product is growing by 40 per cent per year. His experience conforms with a new study conducted by the photovoltaic section of NRCan’s energy branch. The public report, which will soon be available from the CANMET Energy Diversification Research Laboratory (CEDRL), analyzed the Canadian agricultural market for PV products. It found remote electrical devices on large farms and ranches, which are traditionally powered by gas generators, can be more efficiently operated by PV technology in most of Canada.
“There is a lot of room for growth,” says NRCan’s PV section head Lisa Dignard, “and I think the players who are here right now have the potential to grow.”
In order to focus on the Canadian market, Jensen Engineering has formed a sister organization to Sunmotor International, Canadian Agtechnology Partners (CAP). Saskatchewan-based Kelln Consulting is the only other Canadian producer of PV-agricultural technology, and it too reports a growth in demand for PV-powered pumps. Dignard believes the western-based industry will find success in eastern Canada and the U.S., even though the CEDRL report found regional disparities in market potential, with western Canada offering the greatest opportunity.
“In Alberta there are approximately 40,000 to 60,000 dugouts and each of these represents an available market,” says Dignard. “And this is just water pumping. There is electric fencing, and anything with remote sensing or monitoring hasn’t really been developed yet.”
Dignard says NRCan is prepared to consider other jointly-funded tests of PV-powered agricultural technology. And while ARETS finishes its work on the M-series Sunmotor pumps, Jensen is already working on their sale in an export market.
“I’ve designed them specifically so they could be assembled in overseas countries,” says Jensen. “In the long run the biggest market will be small-scale irrigation, because I can pump about 25 gallons a minute and that is quite a bit of water for some of these small farms in Asia.”
Low-tech applications merit attention
President’s messageby Stephen Pope
Solar energy is returning to the mainstream news with announcements of involvement from large fossil fuel companies, governments initiating “solar roof programs” and other energy suppliers looking for special advantages in a climate of utility deregulation. In the US, production house builders participating in national or state sponsored “green home programs” are starting to offer grid connected PV systems as “standard equipment.”
With all the excitement about electricity, it may be easy to forget that there are six other solar applications (daylighting, passive and active space heating, ventilation air heating, and water heating for domestic or process uses) that deserve attention as well. Some of these may be more appropriate uses of technology than solar electrics, even if they don’t get media attention. Indeed at this year’s SESCI Conference, the ISES UK Representative Bernard McNelis argued against promoting PV in developed nations, claiming solar thermal to be more cost-effective and capable of creating more jobs.
The question of appropriate technology is one that should not be overlooked in the excitement of a renewed interest in solar energy. As in all other energy matters, the most cost-effective watt generated is the watt saved. Pursuing the benefits of conservation encourages lower technological intensity applications like passive solar heating and daylighting. Fortunately, the solar world is growing even in low technology areas.
For passive solar technologies, lack of knowledge has been a barrier. Access to measuring and planning tools required to do the detailed analysis that demonstrates the benefit of the passive approach has been limited. To assist this knowledge transfer, two new products have been recently announced.
After a very long and frustrating delay, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has released Tap the Sun, the fruit of a joint Natural Resources Canada/CMHC project to rewrite the original Canadian Passive Solar Handbook. Tap the Sun includes a CD-ROM with NRCan’s “Catalogue” window manufacturers database as well as software designed to calculate window sizes to avoid overheating in passive solar houses. This sizing program is a development of the best paper from the SESCI 1997 Conference.
Tap the Sun will also provide information on solar fundamentals, model house plans, and other technical information that will make it helpful for the general public as well as building professionals. Indeed, in summer 1997 SESCI reviewed a draft with the intent of developing training courses for the general public based on the material in the book. I encourage SESCI members to contact CMHC and purchase a copy, both to have access to a first class reference, and to emphasize to the federal government the importance of passive solar technologies in Canada’s energy mix. CMHC’s order number is 1-
On the software front, last year, NRCan’s CANMET Energy Diversification Laboratory released RETScreen, a Microsoft Excel-based pre-feasibility analysis tool for renewable energy technologies. RETScreen! allows the quick identification of the economic potential of a renewable energy project, saving development costs and speeding up the process.
The first release allowed analysis of wind, micro hydro, PV, solar ventilation air heating, and biomass.
CEDRL is now preparing a RETScreen! module assessing the benefits of passive solar heating, to be released in the first quarter of 1999. This module will be of significant benefit in demonstrating the economic advantages of efficient building envelopes, passive solar design, high performance glazing, and solar shading strategies. The RETScreen program can be downloaded free from the following web site: http://cedrl.mets.nrcan.gc.ca/retscreen/
Both of these tools bring to the public the knowledge to use solar energy in its purest, least complicated form. Once the pieces have been properly put together, the resulting “solar collector” is long-lived and nearly maintenance-free. However, because the “solar energy equipment” used in passive systems are common things like windows and trellises we often take them for granted, or discount the benefits that they deliver. An NRCan study describes the “reasonably achievable” passive solar heating potential for all buildings as 131 petajoules per year. That’s the equivalent of 36,400 megawatt hours of electricity. Let’s catch some!
# 106 for June 1998:
Inside this issue:
Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale talks with Alexandra McKirdy, SESCI’s project co-ordinator. Goodale dropped by the SESCI booth while on a tour of the trade show at May’s Renewable Energy Technologies in Cold Climates Conference
Renewables face barriers. Passive solar is a “highly neglected” renewable technology make a significant contribution to Canada’s climate change goals, says the former manager of NRCan’s windows program.Solar saves Coast Guard millions. …since it began converting its navigational aids to solar power.Solar means Business. Some of the world’s largest oil companies are becoming some of the world’s largest solar energy producers.Students study climate change An environmental research organization, the Pembina Institute, has produced an educational kit to help Cnadaian students understand global climate change issues.Product report: Wear solar technology with style The New Citien Eco-Drive solar-powered watches are an impressive example of solar technology..Selected articles:
Renewables face barriers
Passive solar is a “highly neglected” renewable technology poised to make a significant contribution to Canada’s climate change goals, says the former manager of NRCan’s windows program.
Roger Henry, who now runs Techno Logical Solutions, told May’s Renewable Energy Technologies in Cold Climates Conference that a 1990 NRCan study found passive solar techniques could reasonably contribute 131 petajoules per year, equivalent to the energy output of a 600 MW nuclear plant, to Canada’s building energy requirements. The total technical potential is 363 PJ per year.
“These amounts of energy are big. If you compare these with the potential from any of the other renewable energies, these are much bigger,” says Henry.
The use of high-performance windows offers more potential for solar utilization and energy conservation than any other single change in buildings, says Henry. Yet, despite the fact that good products are readily available for only an estimated 10 per cent higher cost, consumers aren’t demanding them.
More effective energy codes would help, says Henry. Canada has developed a unique Energy Rating system for windows that takes solar gain into account, says Henry, a standard that became central to the new Energy Code For Houses. “The problem is that this code has not been accepted yet by the provinces.”
Other passive solar techniques can also result in significant energy savings, says Henry. NRCan’s Green Floor Project at its headquarters in Ottawa is successfully demonstrating how daylighting can be incorporated into existing commercial buildings.
The seventh and 13th floors of the 21-storey office tower were outfitted with energy-efficient lighting and window blinds designed to allow natural light to travel further into the work area. Occupancy sensors regulate lighting in all areas, and daylight sensors control light intensity to decrease the usage of electricity when the sun’s light is sufficient.
“We are just getting some monitoring back now, and in many cases it looks like they’re cutting the energy consumption in half on these floors,” says Henry. At the same time, he adds, ‘the environment is so good that many people like this floor better than the standard floor.’
Solar thermal technology has also experienced a ‘fairly slow penetration’ into the North American marketplace, says Stephen Harrison, a professor in the Queen’s University Solar Calorimetry Laboratory.
“Highly efficient, very reliable’ solar domestic hot water, pool heating and air preheating systems are available, says Harrison. But low-cost conventional energy, high initial capital costs, poor industry infrastructure and early product failures that shook consumer confidence have all proven to be barriers to their widespread adoption.
Ongoing research and development to simplify systems and incorporate mass-manufactured components, thus improving reliability and lowering costs, should improve the situation, says Harrison.
Consumer awareness is also key, says Harrison, and the fact that utilities are starting show interest in solar applications like domestic hot water is an important step forward, he says. “We need their marketing, we need their infrastructure and we need their credibility.”
The high cost of photovoltaic technology, ranging from 50 cents to more than $1 US per kWh of electricity produced, have kept it from penetrating mainstream markets, says Peter Lund of the Helsinki University of Technology. “But for special applications, especially for remote sites, PV may prove very important,” Lund told delegates.
A promising short-term market in building-integrated systems is developing, says Lund. The United State’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative, along with similar programs in Europe and Japan, will generate $60 billion in growth over the next 10 years.
Solar saves Coast Guard millions
The Canadian Coast Guard has saved “tens of millions of dollars” in operation and maintenance costs since it began converting its navigational aids to solar power in the early 1980s.
Lights on buoys, like these sitting on a dock in St. John’s Newfoundland, are powered by photovoltaics.
Coast Guard spokesman Sunny Leung said more than 5,500 buoys, lights, fog signals and other aids to navigation on Canada’s coasts, Great Lakes and inland waterways now run on photovoltaic power.
“Because of the success of the program, we’ve made a commitment to continue using PV wherever possible,” says Leung.
The PV systems, which range from 10 to 2,400 watts, have significant advantages over the primary batteries and diesel generators that previously provided power to the aids, says Leung. Despite rigorous conditions like cold, ice build up, humidity and rough seas, the systems have proven highly reliable. Because of this, he says, servicing doesn’t have to be compressed into the peak period at the beginning of the shipping season and technical maintenance workers can be “more economically deployed.” And unlike stand-alone batteries, PV provides a uniform voltage supply throughout the year, “thus maintaining the proper signal strength of the aids.”
The environmental benefits are also apparent. Conversion to solar has eliminated the need for about 20,000 primary batteries per year. “These batteries are not recyclable and must be disposed of through burial in landfill sites,” says Leung. The lead in the PV storage batteries, on the other hand, can be recycled.
In addition, says Leung, PV generation now displaces about 1.5 million litres of diesel fuel annually. But because the fuel is still relatively inexpensive, only the smaller diesel sites have been converted to solar with an average payback period of five to eight years. With “no economic incentive” to do so, it’s unlikely larger-scale diesel generation will be replaced in the foreseeable future. The payback for the small PV systems used to replace batteries is less than three years, says Leung.
Understanding the big picture
By Stephen PopeSESCI President
The following is a development from the SESCI President’s address to the banquet of the SESCI ’98 / Renewable Energy Technologies in Cold Climates
In the past few years, developing events have presented significant new opportunities for renewable energy, and solar energy in particular. A list of those opportunities may appear as follows:
response to GHG concernselectricity industry restructuringrise of alternative proposals for building & transport energyrise of concerns about human health in relation to industrial production and human shelterimprovements in systemic understanding of building performanceIt must, however, also be recognized that each of these opportunities has a particular context. That context, I suggest, is first and foremost in the beliefs and attitudes that form the structure of our daily lives. These might be described as:
attitudes about energy use.attitudes about long term investments.attitudes about maintenance.attitudes about place and the local environmental conditions.attitudes about popular participation in essential services.attitudes about local development.Certainly the opportunities for solar are becoming more significant daily, but why talk about context? I raise this point because it is healthy to remind oneself that technologies are expressions of widely-held ideas and social values. Our society is slowly returning to value conservation over consumption. This is both SESCI’s long-term benefit and, in the short term, its biggest challenge.
The long-term benefit is clear. The opportunity of solar energy is to allow humankind’s use of energy to become like all other natural systems, able to operate in closed resource loops where the only external energy input comes from the sun. In the short term, this ideal represents a challenge to our established patterns of energy use, especially in buildings.
We have become accustomed to talking about solar energy technologies in the same manner as conventional technologies when they are significantly different. Where conventional energy-rich technologies can and do behave as elements independent of their area of service, solar technologies both perform better and are more cost- effective as an integrated part of a whole environmental context. This unthinking following of conventional energy use patterns produces systemic barriers to low technology applications such as passive solar heating design.
We have also become accustomed to talking about solar technologies in isolation from the areas and functions they serve. Optimizing the elements of a solar domestic hot water system becomes a goal in itself, rather than providing hot water for a particular location. I recently attended a conference on daylighting for buildings in which only two papers observed over two days explicitly recognized that the quality of the sun resource available for lighting depended on the latitude of the building site. Returning to the integrated context of a solar application is crucial. An energy-efficient building can make more use of a renewable resource than a conventional inefficient one. A super-efficient building can become an energy producer, not just consumer.
Opportunities become available depending on their context. To take advantage of the potential that currently exists for solar energy, SESCI must move to those contexts that are most promising.
This will require a more adventurous attitude towards the assessment of the areas solar wishes to serve. It may mean forming partnerships with groups who were previously antagonists. SESCI must move more definitively towards strategic alliances with many interests, including non-energy- focused partners in conservation- based groups. We must understand the big picture before we know where we fit.
# 105 for March 1998:
Inside this issue:
Net billing a promising niche. A new grid-interactive photovoltaic system in Ontario’s Muskoka district is on the leading edge of a promising market for renewables.Solar power comes to King Street. Mountain Equipment Co-op’s new energy-efficient Toronto store is bringing solar power down to street level.Ice storm illuminates alternatives.Dateline 1839: Electricity from the sun. First of a four part series.Product report: System marries thermal, PV technologies. A cost effective domestic hot water system is available based on a novel appliance called the Solar Sidebar.Canada’s Solarwall finds success in Japan.Net billing a promising niche
A new grid-interactive photovoltaic system in Ontario�s Muskoka district is on the leading edge of a promising market for renewables.
Steve Alcock, owner of Alcock Construction, worked with the homeowners to design the 2.2 kW system and the energy efficient 4,500-square-foot house it helps power. The house is part of Ontario Hydro’s net billing pilot program, which allows domestic generators to feed excess power to the grid, then draw it back when needed.
“I think we’re in advance of the marketplace because of the cost involved,” says Alcock. “My clients are part of that small, but I hope growing, community that believes greening their house is a useful thing. We’re still not at that point where the cost of solar voltaics is justified except for remote applications.”
But as the price of power goes up, “inevitable” because of the decommissioning of nuclear reactors in Ontario, and the cost of solar cells come down, says Alcock, net billing will become a more attractive option.
“I think the general public loves the idea of being able to be part of their own power generation.”
The Muskoka PV system, which uses 24, 90-watt BP Solar panels and two Trace 4200 pure sine wave inverters, is targeted to be “load neutral” over the year. That is, it will generate as much electric power as the house uses, elimnating the need to purchase electricty from Ontario Hydro. “It’s energy budget is aimed primarily around appliances, pumps and lighting. This system should be able to handle that without much trouble.”
In addition to the PV system, the house features super high-efficiency windows, in-floor hot water heating, a high-efficiency boiler and battery storage to keep the house lit during the area”s relatively frequent power outages. The house has a high passive solar gain and exceeds R2000 standards by 40 per cent.
Although net billing is “less than a drop in the bucket” in the greening of Ontario Hydro’s grid, says Alcock, he believes the utility recognizes “how this is part of the future.”
Al Paulissen, president of Guelph-based Wenvor Technologies, hopes so. He has three customers with net billing contracts for wind systems and sees the potential for more.
His company’s display at September’s International Plowing Match generated requests for “100 or so” site visits. “We’re confident at this point that proof is there that there is interest in net billing,” he says, adding that he hopes Ontario Hydro will “go further” than the 20 systems allowed under the pilot.
Jeanette Boyer, who manages the program for Ontario Hydro, says proposed restructuring of both the utility and the province’s electricity market make it hard to predict what will happen next. “Virtually everything is up in the air,” she says.
Because of this uncertainty, and because of the pilot’s slower-than-expected uptake, Hydro is not planning any expansion, says Boyer.
So far, only 11 contracts have been signed. Of those, four are PV projects ranging from 50 watts to 2.2 kW and seven are wind turbines from three to 50 kW in size.
Solar power comes to King Street
Mountain Equipment Co-op’s new energy-efficient Toronto store is bringing solar power down to street level.
The building, which opens March 31, features a grid-connected, one kW solar canopy overhanging King Street West. Inside the store’s front entrance, an LED display allows passersby to see how much power the canopy is collecting.
Corin Flood, MEC’s project manager, says the outdoor equipment company worked with Ontario Hydro on the project. The utility supplied an interactive micro power conditioner, which converts the PV power to AC electricity and provides the connection to the grid.
With a one kW solar system generating power for a 4600 square metre building, says Flood, MEC doesn’t expect to be feeding much power back to Ontario Hydro.
“It’s not really going to provide us with a payoff, but it’s one of those things that stimulates dialogue,” he says. The demonstration system at MEC is one individuals could install in their own homes and cottages, he says.
Flood says MEC explored the possibility of installing a larger photovoltaic system to supply a more significant portion of the store’s energy needs, but rejected the idea as too costly. Instead, it decided to focus its efforts on reducing energy use. More solar panels can be added later as they become more cost-effective, says Flood.
About $250,000 of the building’s $6.8-million cost was slated for environmental upgrades. Efficiency measures like more insulation, increased use of natural light, computerized lighting controls and low-flow water systems reduced the building’s energy requirements by about 35 per cent over one built to minimum ASHRAE 90.1 standards.
In addition, designers sought out environmentally-responsible building materials. The store uses blast furnace slag diverted from landfills in the concrete mix, non-ozone- depleting refrigerant in its air conditioning system and re claimed timber in construction. It also features a rooftop garden.
“We wanted to look for every opportunity that we could to reduce the environmental impact of the building,” says Flood. “We looked at pretty much every element in the building and examined the alternatives.”
He says MEC hopes its store will become a model for other green buildings. In fact, he’s already receiving calls from interested companies.
“We definitely have gone well beyond the norm, and we want others to follow suit.”