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Building a 21st Century Union requires staying on top of the latest goings on in Canada and around the world. News items, photos and more to keep you 'in the know'.

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Vancouver ups the ante on urban sustainability

Vancouver City Council took a daring leap forward last week, voting unanimously to become one of the world’s leading cities on developing a low-carbon economy. They joined the big leagues, with the likes of San Francisco, Copenhagen, and Sydney, in committing to a long-term goal of deriving 100 per cent of their energy from renewable sources. Currently, Vancouver meets only 32 per cent of its city-wide energy needs with renewable energy (including electric power, heating and cooling).

They have a long way to go to get to 100 per cent, but given their history they are up to the task.

Vancouver is internationally recognized as a world leader in urban sustainability, through our Greenest City Action Plan passed in 2010.

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Welcome to the Mosaic Centre: Canada's biggest net-zero building

The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce is going to be the first commercial net-zero office building in Canada. What was once just a dream of co-owners Dennis and Christie Cuku has become reality.

“We said it was going to be beautiful. Check. Sustainable. Check. And affordable. Check,” says Christie Cuku.

This 30,000 square foot building cost $10.5 million dollars. It’s three months ahead of schedule and five per cent under budget. It’s bright and roomy with beautiful exposed wood beams, feature stairs and a three-storey living wall in the foyer. It has large south facing windows, thermally massive concrete floors and as low an electricity load as they could get away with.

They reduced that load by getting rid of as many overhead light fixtures as they could. Instead the workers get copious amounts of natural light and use task lighting when necessary.

Wathc this short video on how the Mosaic Centre was contructed. To read more about click here.

China to connect 21.5GW of new capacity in 2015

China's wind industry grew rapidly in 2014, as anticipation of onshore wind feed-in tariff (FIT) reductions caused a rush to install and connect projects.

Official statistics show grid-connected wind capacity reached 96.37GW at the end of 2014 with about 19.81GW of this newly commissioned. According to the China Wind Energy Association, total wind installations last year reached 114.76GW, and of this 23.35GW was new.

Based on analysis of approved project pipeline and results from Make's China Project IRR model, Make expects China's new installed grid-connected capacity in 2015 will be 21.5GW.

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Vincent Callebaut's City of Science in Rome is turning a former military district into a self-sufficient urban ecosystem

The project will regenerate the urban area along via Guido Reni, between the MAXXI and the Auditorium in northern Rome. Across the entire city, a grid of public spaces and pathways will link the structures, providing safe, pedestrian access across the entire footprint, while existing tree-lined avenues will be integrated into the overall design.

Building facades will be covered in vertical gardens and balconies, which will provide free, organic edible plants to inhabitants. Instead of being placed next to the buildings, fruit trees and food gardens become part of the buildings instead.

Retail stores, artist studios, art galleries, bars and restaurants integrate with residential spaces to create self-sustaining town within the city of Rome. Every building roof will be covered in greenery that can be used to feed the people of Citta del Scienza.
 

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Shepard Energy Centre, powered by natural gas, fully operational, Enmax says

The new natural-gas powered Shepard Energy Centre is fully operational, Enmax announced on Wednesday.

The $1.4-billion plant in east Calgary is capable of generating more than 800 megawatts of electricity for the provincial grid, the city-owned utility company said in a release.

“The facility is the largest of its kind in the province and an important step in Alberta's transition away from aging coal-fired generation facilities,” Enmax said.

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Sonoma County Is Building the Largest Floating Solar Project in the US

California wine country is going solar. Specifically, floating solar.

Sonoma Clean Power recently announced it has contracted to build the largest floating solar project in the United States, which will produce enough electricity to power 3,000 homes when it comes on-line in 2016.

The 12.5-megawatt installation is one of the largest projects of its kind in the world, second only to a 13.4-megawatt solar farm under construction in Japan.

There are 1,400 irrigation storage ponds in Sonoma County alone, and plenty more around California. Many of them are located at vineyards. The Far Niente winery in Napa Valley pioneered the world’s first large-scale floatovoltaic system with SPG Solar in 2011.

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Off The Grid: Living off land hour from Vancouver

Check out this excellent mini-documentary about an island just one hour from Vancouver, Canada which is entirely off the grid. The island, called Lasqueti, is home to over 400 people living in everything from yurts to earthships. Watch the video and think about what your life would be like living in an off the grid community.

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New Study Shows Solar Energy Soon To Be Cheapest Option

Solar power is set to become the cheapest power source in many parts of the world by 2025, according to a new study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems commissioned by Agora Energiewende.

The independent think-tank of 18 experts conclude that by 2025 the cost of producing power in central and southern Europe will have declined to between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt hour, and by 2050 to as low as 2 to 4 cents.

The study is based entirely on “conservative assumptions” about the future of solar development, excluding any potential breakthroughs that could theoretically make solar even more effective. But we’ve already seen the cost of solar drop dramatically over the past, and such is expected to continue.

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Power Purchase Agreement with Hydro-Québec Distribution for Nicolas-Riou Wind Project

EDF EN Canada Inc., a subsidiary of EDF Energies Nouvelles Group, Énergie Éolienne Bas-St-Laurent, a company wholly owned by all of the RCMs of the Bas-Saint-Laurent as well as the Viger Maliseet First Nation and Régie intermunicipale de l'énergie Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, composed by the RCMs of this region and Îles-de-la-Madeleine conglomeration, today announced the signature of a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Hydro-Québec Distribution for the 224.4 megawatt (MW) Nicolas-Riou Wind Project. Selected by Hydro-Québec Distribution in its call for tenders of 2013 (A/O 2013-01), this wind project is 50-percent owned by EDF EN Canada; 33-percent by EEBSL and 17-percent by RIEGÎM.

Located in the RCM of Basques and Rimouski-Neigette, the Project will be comprised of 68 Vestas V117 wind turbine generators. Each unit will have a rated capacity of 3.3 MW. The project represents an investment of approximately CAD $500 million, creating up to 400 jobs during the construction phase.

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How one company plans to store energy in giant balloons under Lake Ontario

Under an unassuming building on the edge of Toronto Island, a 30-centimetre steel pipe extends deep underground before jutting out into Lake Ontario. The pipe stretches nearly four kilometres to a series of unworldly fabric balloons packed full of compressed air.

An old marine salvage technology, the balloons, or airbags, have found a new function anchored under 70 metres of water.

“They’ve been making them for decades to lift shipwrecks and planes and different things off the sea floor,” Curtis VanWalleghem, CEO of Hydrostor Inc., said in an interview.

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New record for wind energy capacity installed in Canada: CanWEA

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) says 2014 was another record for the installation of wind energy capacity in the country. According to the group, this is the second consecutive year of record new capacity, with a total of 1,871 MW installed in five provinces. The most growth was reportedly in Ontario where 850 MW was installed.

 

The addition brings the total installed wind energy capacity in Canada to nearly 9,700 MW, which the non-profit says could produce enough electricity to meet the needs of over three million average Canadian homes.

 

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OPG, Moose Cree First Nation mark milestone at new hydro project

A major hydro project hailed as a new way to do business with First Nations is now at full production.

The Lower Mattagami project is the largest hydro build in the north in more than 50 years — and it's a partnership with the Moose Cree First Nation.

The $2.6 billion project is a redevelopment of a series of old generating stations about 70 kilometres north of Kapuskasing.

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7 Interesting Global Renewable Energy Trends From NREL (Charts Galore!)

Accurately assessing renewable energy growth, especially compared to fossil fuels, is one of the biggest challenges facing our clean energy transition. After all, how can you measure progress without adequate benchmarks?

Industry tallies and analyst updates provide the quickest summaries, but they’re either piecemeal or criticized for being slanted. Government data is more reputable and comprehensive, but often lags behind. 

Most of the trends highlighted in NREL’s data are already known, but still this is among the most comprehensive resources available and many of the charts within are incredible reference points. 

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Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium awards contract to build innovative agriculture and energy pilot project at Masdar City

Based on ground-breaking research at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) announced it is awarding a contract to International Mechanical & Electrical Co. L.L.C. (IMECO) to construct the world’s first bioenergy pilot project to use desert land – irrigated by seawater – to produce both bioenergy and food. The pilot project is expected to be operational by late summer.

“This remarkable research has enormous implications for harmoniously producing food and fuel in water- and arable land-constrained regions,” said Masdar CEO Ahmad Belhoul. “Considering that about 20 percent of the world’s land is desert and 97 percent of the world’s water is salt water, this approach turns a land and water resource scarcity problem on its head by creating a bioenergy solution applicable in countries around the globe. “As the UAE enters the Year of Innovation, bioenergy research will continue to be a key area of focus for Masdar and will help to position our nation as one that incubates and exports knowledge,” Dr. Belhoul added.

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10 cities aiming for 100 percent clean energy

Scientists have been fairly unequivocal in their warnings that we must ditch fossil fuels entirely if we are to have any hope of reversing climate change. Yet despite significant progress in the last year, historic announcements like the China-U.S. climate pact are still pushing a less ambitious, more incremental approach to cutting our emissions.
 
That may be why many activists are focusing on the local, community level to push a more radical approach. 
 
For a complete list of the 10 countries and to read what they are doing, click here.
 
Watch this short video to see what Sydney, Australia's goal is by 2030:
 


 

Most Earth-Friendly Home Ever Built?

The group Habitat for Humanity is building six homes in Washington, D.C., that are not only affordable but also energy efficient. Known as passive houses, these homes meet rigorous standards through low-energy construction practices and energy-efficient appliances. Whereas the average household in the area spends up to $1,500 annually on energy, passive-house owners can expect to reduce those costs by up to 90 percent.

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Hot Times North Of The Border: Canada Tops Previous Record For Installed Wind Capacity

The Canadian wind energy market has set a record for the installation of new wind energy capacity.

According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), more than 1.8 GW of wind energy capacity was installed in five provinces in Canada in 2014, with most growth centered in Ontario (850 MW), Quebec (439 MW) and Alberta (350 MW). Canada ended 2014 with nearly 9.7 GW of installed wind energy capacity, producing enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 3 million average Canadian homes every year.

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Biomass boiler saving Cowichan school district big bucks

They came from all over to gather in the library of Lake Cowichan School.

Officials from various Island governments plus a big group from various sectors of the business community.

Four jars on a table told the story.

They contained various kinds of wood chips and a promise that they could be used to heat buildings and even communities, cutting greenhouses gases and heating costs and offering a boost to many aspects of local industry.

The Cowichan Valley School District showcased its new $490,000 biomass boiler heating system, now up and operating at the sprawling Lake Cowichan School complex, which houses students from Grades 4-12.

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REBOUND IN CLEAN ENERGY INVESTMENT IN 2014 BEATS EXPECTATIONS

World clean energy investment rebounded strongly in 2014, boosted by demand for large-scale and rooftop solar photovoltaics on the back of its greatly improved competitiveness, and by the financing of a record $19.4bn of offshore wind projects.

Authoritative annual data, published this week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, show that global investment in clean energy was $310bn last year. This was up 16 per cent from a revised $268.1bn in 2013, and more than five times the figure of $60.2bn attained a decade earlier, in 2004, albeit still 2 per cent below the all-time record of $317.5bn reached in 2011 .

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The year ahead: Top clean energy trends of 2015

For the past 13 years, Clean Edge has published the annual Clean Energy Trends report that has sized the global market for solar, wind and biofuels and tracked everything from venture capital and stock market activity to total global investments. In the report, we also pick our top trends to watch for the coming year. Here are the trends that will matter in 2015: 

  • Moves toward 100 percent renewables will expand
  • Energy storage will carve out a competitive advantage
  • Low-cost oil could affect clean transportation, but not clean electricity
  • Other regions will follow New York's fracking ban 

 

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