What a Year!

What a year that passed, and what a year to come! This blog set another new high mark for readership in 2015 with about 7,600 ‘views’ and 3, 500 visitors, mostly in Canada and the US but also from more than 40 other countries. (By accident or chance? I don’t know. If only they’d leave a comment.)

Canadians are facing many difficult challenges but are also making considerable strides since I began writing about local “sustainability” in 2011. Back then, I wrote about the Transition movement developing an “energy descent plan”. In 2015, we read about Vancouver voting to become petroleum-free by 2050. Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Munich, Seattle, Sydney and Lima have made the same commitment. We seem to have reached a point where we realize that our local efforts are just part of a global matrix trying to “sustain” our planet.

I hope to spend more time this year writing about innovative ideas, projects and emerging technologies. Here are some stories that I consider milestones, in a way: 

Since I wrote about ‘net zero’ housing in 2011, it has become more of a mainstream idea. Five Canadian builders participated in a national demonstration project and one builder has set a goal “to give homebuyers the option to upgrade to an advanced energy-saving packageBy the end of 2016, all new single family developments brought to market by Reid’s Heritage Homes should be Net Zero ready”.

There was a lot of controversy over the cancellation of gas plant projects in Ontario and their relocation to other sites. In the end these plants may be unnecessary with the development of energy storage systems for electric load leveling. Tesla announced the development of its “PowerPack” for this purpose. The company believes it could “sell $50m of storage in the fourth quarter of 2015, and up to $500m in both 2016 and 2017.” The UK government is providing £20 million for 2 competitions including “the Energy Storage Technology Demonstration Competition. [It] will offer organisations the opportunity to secure funding to develop and demonstrate innovative energy storage technologies.” Reliable energy storage would make renewable solar and wind energy far more economic. And it’s here now – The UK just started operating its largest energy storage array, a 10 MW battery installation, in Northern Ireland, at Kilroot Power Station.

In that vein, the sites of coal-fired generators may be converted to solar farms in the near future. “OPG is proposing to build two of those projects on the sites of coal-fired power plants recently taken out of service – up to 50 megawatts at the Nanticoke Generating Station in Haldimand County, and up to 30 megawatts at Lambton Generating Station near Sarnia. Another 40 megawatts is planned for the Lennox Generating Station, a still-operating facility in Greater Napanee that’s designed to burn either natural gas or oil.

Local renewable energy would lessen the need for long-distance distribution networks. Toronto has “installed 1,200 kilowatts of solar panels that feed electricity into the provincial grid… More projects will add about 2,000 kilowatts by the end of [2015], inching us toward [Toronto’s] goal of having renewable energy systems on all city-owned buildings by 2020. Suburban settings are best, where there are lots of buildings of five storeys or less that have flat roofs and are in open areas.” according to one solar firm. The City of Barrie had 20 rooftop solar projects operating in 2015, generating 1.375 MW… “It takes some thinking to see our roofs as power plants, but they are there.”

2016 may prove to be a watershed year for positive change.