Energy and Alternatives

People continue to complain about the price of electricity because it is divorced from the cost of generating it. The IESO website lists the average weighted price in June at 2.02¢/kwh while the byzantine “global adjustment” is 9.55¢/kwh. The Ontario government’s commitment to sink $12.8 billion into refurbishing nuclear plants just contributes to uncertainty about price stability and affordability. Renewable energy alternatives appear more stable and predictable in comparison.

When I am at consumer shows I occasionally enquire about the cost and feasibility of solar panels. Aside from price, I have always been told that I have ‘too many’ trees on the property. It happened again last fall when an exhibitor asked my address and then thrust a tablet at me showing an overhead image of a dense tree canopy and said, “That’s your house”. I was taken aback because I know that my home is not totally obscured by trees. In spite of several mature trees, the rooftop does receive direct sunlight for a portion of the day. Never mind, I moved on. More recently I decided to use a government sponsored geographic mapping service available on the web to access an aerial view of my property. Sure enough, most of the roof was clearly visible. From now on, I think I’ll bring my own aerial photo along. 

Meanwhile, I’ve learned that there is a greater emphasis on ground-mounted solar panels because a rooftop installation is only as good as the roofing material underneath. Having to remove and then reinstall solar panels to repair a roof is prohibitively expensive. Another commercially available option is “solar shingles”, a smaller array of solar cells connected in series that acts as both a power source and a roofing material.

Another alternative is the use of a passive solar device that generates heat, not power, directly with a simple covered metal plate and sends heated air into a duct. One commercial example is, which appears to be available online in several sizes. There are also quite a few do-it-yourself passive solar designs on the web.

Still, shadows may be a problem for me with solar, which is why I was keenly interested in an award-winning residential wind-power turbine developed in Britain called RidgeBlade. Being close to Lake Simcoe, wind power would probably be an ideal alternative. I wrote about RidgeBlade reportedly going into commercial production and licensing a year ago. So far, only one company is licensed for sales in France, Germany, Holland and Luxemburg. That firm seems to have put virtually no detectable effort into publicity, marketing or sales. Nor are there any other regional license holders. The technology developers, The Power Collective Ltd., seem to have run out of resources and energy. Disappointing, so far, for their field-tested and documented technology. We will have to be patient and wait for further news.

Regardless, to make any renewable energy investment worthwhile for me, more insulation has to be upgraded first and that will be the focus for now. We’re still waiting to hear more about federal and provincial climate change initiatives beyond changing light bulbs and weather stripping.