Feb 12, 2013
Solar Myths: There's a good article on common myths about solar energy here. It's an interesting read, and will help counter the disinformation out there. It's been documented that the fossil fuel industry is now bashing renewables in order to slow their uptake, so its important to debunk the myths and disinformation they sow.
Rally in Washington DC: There's a huge climate rally being organised for Washington this weekend to help bring Climate Change to the forefront, building on the momentum of Obama's state of the union address, and the appointment of John Kerry, known as a "climate hawk", to Secretary of State. A decision on Keystone XL is expected soon, and this rally could tip the balance against it. It's been made very clear by Bill McKibbon's Rolling Stone article on the "New Math" (and his subsequent tour), and by many others including Dr James Hansen of Nasa, that the tar sands oil needs to stay in the ground if we are to have any hope of averting the climate catastrophe that has already begun.
Why should Canadian's travel to Washington for this rally? Unfortunately, Canada has become a laggard, and sometimes downright obstructive, when it comes to the international climate change action front. Harper has made it clear he will only act on climate change when the United States does, and only to the extent that the US does, rather than show true leadership on the international stage and lead the world on climate change action. This is not surprising if one looks at Canada as a petro-state like Saudi Arabia or Dubai, and unfortunately, currently the shoe fits at the federal level. Sad, but true.
So the only effective way to lobby for real climate action in Canada, at least until the next federal election, is to help the relatively progressive President of the USA to take action, starting with Keystone XL. Numbers are our only advantage against the immense wealth and destructive power of the largest industry on earth. It's time to take to the streets. See you there, Febuary 17th.
Here at home in Ontario, we have a new Premier and a brand new Energy Minister. Premier Wynne was the greenest of the Liberal leadership candidates, so we're all expecting a continuation of the FIT and MicroFIT programs, and hopefully some improvement of these programs in the future. It is imperative that we deploy as much solar and wind as we can to displace polluting natural gas (methane) and coal. We can do this! Let's go!
August 23, 2012
MicroFIT Approvals Start to Flow!
Well, it’s been a very long, dry 10 months, but today the Ontario Power Authority has finally started releasing MicroFIT approvals! The first few approvals have started to flow out from the log-jam, and so once again residents can invest in lucrative MicroFIT installations, and the solar industry can get back to work in Ontario!
This is great news for the industry, which has been waiting since October 2011 for the Ontario Power Authority and the Ontario Ministry of Energy to complete their program review. There are still a few installation months left for MicroFIT for the lucky winners of what is now the MicroFIT lottery. MicroFIT contracts are limited to 50 MW this year, about a third of which had been applied for by Aug 7th . 50MW sounds like a lot (5000 10KW projects), but it goes fast, as it’s a popular program and the rates are still good, with risk-free 11% returns or more. Those who get their applications in early, will win contracts. Next year, the allocation is for 100 MW, but at a lower rate to be announced in November this year. So get your applications in, or contact SolarG and we will help. (http://microfit.powerauthority.on.ca/). And if you’re on Hydro One, apply for a connection as well. With Guelph Hydro and most other urban hydro companies, connections are not an issue.
The new FIT program for systems larger than 10KW (or about 900 square feet of rooftop) will be processing applications starting Dec 1 of this year. If you have a commercial rooftop 5000 square feet or greater that could host a solar array, you can lease your roof for a solar installation and realise a new income stream with virtually no effort or risk. It’s a great way to pay for your roof replacement. Just call for an assessment.
Introducing SolarG PVThermal™ Photovoltaic Hot Water Systems!
Beyond FIT and MicroFIT, the low cost of solar has made net-metering and solar off-grid systems far more cost-effective than in the past. Excitingly, SolarG is now offering maintenance-free Solar Photovoltaic (PV) hot water systems for those currently heating their hot water with electricity, oil, propane or other fossil fuels. PVTherm makes obsolete the old fluid-based systems that require glycol changes, can have leaks, overheating, and other issues over a period of years. SolarG has available a unique patent-pending offering that provides off-grid hot water, possibly supplemented by grid power in the cloudiest winter months, without inverters or batteries, making it cost-effective, off-grid and maintenance-free.
These solar systems can also be integrated with backup power systems for an even more cost-effective and high-value system. With a solar backup power system, your lights will silently be on during the next blackout. Your furnace will keep you warm, your sump pump will keep your basement dry, and you will have water pressure if you are in the country. And no hydro connection is required, for those denied by Hydro One! Stay tuned for more details.
Now we’re not saying you need an off-grid power system because anything major is going to happen, but you never know, and it is 2012.
July 18, 2012
Finally Ontario's MicroFIT program has been re-launched! Well, sort of. You can re-apply, if you applied but have not received a contract offer, or what is now called a MicroFIT approval. Or, if not, you can apply for the first time. The catch is that the applications will not be approved until after August 10th, so that the OPA can prioritise the ones that previously applied according to their original timestamps Sept 1st, 2011 to April 5th, 2012.
What's different? The rates have been adjusted, the rules have changed a bit, but nothing earthshattering with the major exception: A 50MW cap has been implemented for 2012. And there were 104MW of applications in the queue as of the end of June. There will of course be attrition, some people won't like the new rates (though they are still excellent in terms of rate-of-return on investment (ROI), yielding over 10% for a low-risk investment), and some ground mounts will no-longer be eligible, noteably those next to or in residential zones. And the restiction to one project per individual will eliminate some projects. But still, it's a large gap, and very unfortunate that the OPA and/or the ministry have chosen to throttle the program in this way. In Europe, the process is much simpler and the rates are used exclusively to adjust uptake, which provides a much more predictable and timely process for building renewables.
But beyond the process, is the fact that the targets, now treated as caps, in Ontario's Long Term Energy Plan are far too low to get us to the 100% sustainable energy that we all have to achieve. And meanwhile, climate change is already, after only 1 degree of warming, wreaking havoc around the world with floods, droughts, heat waves, and crop failures. And the ocean's are dying. We as a civilization are on course for one of the greatest extinction events of all time, with projections of 50% of species dying off this century. So the mission is urgent and important.
And Ontario still has the brakes on it's renewable energy programs.
April 16, 2012
As part of the Transition Guelph Resilience Festival of a few weeks ago, Chris Martenson came up from California to speak at the University of Guelph. Chris's message was stunning. His understatement is "I believe the next 20 years will be very different from the last 20", then he tells you why. If you haven't seen them, Chris has a series of free videos on his website that are well worth watching. Because his message is rather shocking to the unaware, Transition Guelph scheduled Tina Clark to speak after Chris. Tina, a leader in the transition movement in the USA, has to be one of the most up-beat and pleasant speakers I have ever encountered. Her message, beyond the mechanics of transitioning and sustainability, is that while there are tough times and tough choices ahead, but with community, music and a positive attitude we can have fun doing it! It's a wonderful message, and if you get a chance to hear or see Tina, and of course Chris, I highly recommend them both. Chris is rumoured to be coming to Toronto in the next couple of months.
The general message I took from the festival and in the past couple of months readings is that while combating climate change and championing sustainable energy is still key, we also need to prepare for the difficult times ahead, and the key word is "Resilience". It's a positive word, and while it's often used to describe aspects of eco-systems, it's a good one for us as well, as we face changes and disturbances in the coming years, whether as extreme weather, rising energy and other resource prices, or the resultant effects on the world economies. We're currently witnessing all of these challenges.
The place to start is with a “resilience audit”, in which you look at you, your family’s or your community’s ability to weather:
- Energy disruptions, such as power failures, gas shortages, etc.
- Food supply disruptions (dependent upon transportation, weather, energy, Monsanto etc)
- Water supply disruptions (dependent upon electricity, droughts) and of course
- Economic disruptions (currencies, markets, credit, bank stability)
Many of these are interlinked, since all are driven by energy. One lesson learned from studying past civilizations is that as complexity increases, vulnerability increases and resilience decreases.
The current exponential growth of our population, resource use, and economies is unsustainable, but on an individual and community level, we can all increase our resilience. And have fun doing it!