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The Innovation Station


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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Solar energy developer Etrion seeks Canadian exposure

Etrion Corp., a solar energy developer partly owned by the Lundin mining conglomerate, plans to add Canada to its global network within a couple of years. 

The company, which trades on the TSX and the Stockholm exchange but is headquartered in Switzerland, has solar installations in Italy, Japan and Chile. But it wants to expand dramatically, particularly in the Americas, said chief executive officer Marco Northland, and Canada will be part of that growth.

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The Weissflog's Zero Carbon Home

Technological advancements through the mid to late 20th century have led to a rapid increase in carbon emissions that are having a devastating effect on our atmosphere and the environment as a whole. As seen last week during the United Nation's Climate Summit, governments and companies alike are scrambling to figure out how to reduce carbon output and develop strategies to adapt as the impacts of our fossil fuelled mess increase. 

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Toyota hybrid exceeds 7 million mark in global sales

The cumulative global sales of Toyota Motor Corporation’s hybrid vehicle have exceeded the 7 million mark as of September 30.

According to Toyota, the mitigation of the environmental effects of automobiles is a priority. In line with this, Toyota believes that environment-friendly vehicles can only truly have a significant positive impact if they are widely used, hence the company’s push to encourage the mass-market adoption of hybrid vehicles.

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Working towards a renewable future

Ontario’s diverse energy mix has helped to create a robust power system that provides the province’s homes and businesses with affordable, reliable, and clean electricity.  

The landscape of Ontario’s energy supply mix has changed considerably over the past decade. In excess of 12,400 megawatts (MW) of fresh supply has been added to the province’s grid, mainly consisting of renewable resources like wind, hydro, nuclear, and solar. Renewable infrastructure is being created and renewed, while coal generation is close to being completely phased-out.

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Chris Hadfield: The Way To Clean Energy Starts With Education

The retired astronaut and inspiration to thousands of Canadians is confident that our country can continue to be a leader in finding ways to create clean energy.

“Our necessity to be able to produce and compete is vital to Canada, economically and politically,” Hadfield says. “I think it’s absolutely critical. Providing the workforce that we need starts with education.”

While the planet has obviously managed to sustain us thus far, there’s a lot more to explore in order to keep things on track.

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Wood Gasification, What's That?

Gasification is most simply thought of as a process of staged or choked combustion. It is burning solid fuels like wood or coal without enough air to complete combustion, so the output gas still has combustion potential. The gas produced by this method goes by a variety of names: “wood gas”, “syngas”, “producer gas”, ““town gas”, “generator gas”, and others. It’s sometimes also called “biogas”, though biogas more typically refers to gas produced via microbes in anaerobic digestion.

Watch this video to learn more on how you can run your vehicle on wood!


The Canadian Electricity Association (CEA), in partnership with Plug'n Drive, was pleased to present Canada’s first-ever Electric Vehicle Dealership Awards to three Canadian car dealerships demonstrating leadership in the promotion and sale of electric vehicles in Canada.

The award was presented at EV 2014 VÉ Electric Vehicles Conference and Trade Show in Vancouver, Canada’s biggest annual electric vehicle event. 

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Lessons From Off-Grid Living

The Mathers, who have been living off-grid for 20 years, use diverse renewable energy sources, including several solar panels and a Bergey wind turbine, to power their 150-acre off-grid homestead in eastern Ontario.

After a five-year search for rural property, they found 150 acres in the woods of eastern Ontario and struck out in 1998 to build their farm and homestead.

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A Paycheque Reality Check: Clean Energy Jobs Stack Up Against Oil Sands Jobs

Globally, a staggering 6.5 million people are employed in renewable energy.

Thanks largely to provincial leadership, Canada’s clean energy sector is gaining steam. As our new shareable graphic reveals, in 2012 more people were directly employed in clean energy than in the oil sands.

To us, this statistic tells a story: If you think the oil sands are important to Canada’s economy, then you should consider the clean energy sector important, too.

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Electric vehicle technology packs more punch in smaller package

Using 3-D printing and novel semiconductors, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a power inverter that could make electric vehicles lighter, more powerful and more efficient.

At the core of this development is wide bandgap material made of silicon carbide with qualities superior to standard semiconductor materials. Power inverters convert direct current into the alternating current that powers the vehicle. The Oak Ridge inverter achieves much higher power density with a significant reduction in weight and volume.


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Offshore Wind Farm, From Under The Blades

Baltic I Offshore Wind Farm is Germany's first commercial offshore power project located in the Baltic Sea. It has an installed capacity of 48.3MW which is sufficient to power 50,000 homes. It is owned and operated by EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg of Germany.

Watch this video about Zachary Shahan, CleanTechnica director/chief edition, experience taking a boat out to the Baltic I in the Baltic Sea.

The Only Grid-Independent Village In The World?

A little village in Germany, Feldheim, claims to be the only 100% grid-independent village in the world. It is a rural community that switched to renewables for financial reasons, but is now visited by thousands and thousands of people.

The village does not use coal, natural gas, or nuclear energy in any way.

Note, however, that this does not included transportation, as villagers do use conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.

Other than for transportation purposes, though, the only things this village uses for energy is what nature provides to it within 5-7 kilometers. The village has its own micro grid and does not take electricity from the German grid at all.

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The 10 things we can learn from Europe about energy efficiency

Across Europe a green building revolution is under way. Germany and Austria, the home of the Passive House standards, may be leading the charge but there is a reassuringly pan-European feel to Powerhouse Europe challenge – a project that aims to boost the number of "nearly zero energy" homes across the continent by sharing ideas and expertise between social housing professionals.

Run by Cecodhas-Housing Europe, with partners including the National Housing Federation, the project is at the halfway stage. It's a good time to take stock and understand what our neighbours can teach us about boosting energy efficiency in our own housing stock.

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Solar may be largest global power source by 2050: IEA


Solar power might become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050 as falling costs boost installations, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photovoltaic plants may provide as much as 16 percent of global electricity, and concentrating solar facilities could generate another 11%, the IEA said in an e-mailed statement. The Paris-based organization details what is required to reach these figures in two scenarios it sets out to reach the goal.

“The rapid cost decrease of photovoltaic modules and systems in the last few years has opened new perspectives for using solar energy as a major source of electricity,” Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said.

The technologies are expensive to develop, so lowering the cost of capital is of primary importance to achieve this vision, she said.

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Canfor to build two wood pellet plants in B.C.


Canfor Corp. plans to construct pellet plants at its Chetwynd and Fort St. John sawmill sites in British Columbia. The pellet plants will be built and operated in partnership with Pacific Bioenergy Corp., a Vancouver-based pellet producer.

The two plants will have a combined annual production capacity of 175,000 tonnes of wood pellets which will be sold via long term agreement with a power utility customer.

The total investment of $58 million will include electrical self-generation capacity of three megawatts supported through BC Hydro’s Power Smart Load Displacement Program.

“These investments enhance our utilization of sawmill residuals and contribute to our Company’s overall sustainable value proposition,” said Canfor president and CEO Don Kayne. “We are pleased to continue our strong partnership with BC Hydro on renewable energy, and contribute to the Province’s goals of sustainable power generation.”

The pellet plants are scheduled to commence production in the third and fourth quarters of 2015.

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IBM’s solar concentrator can produce energy, clean water and AC


IBM Research and Switzerland-based Airlight Energy today announced a new parabolic dish that increases the sun's radiation by 2,000 times while also producing fresh water and air conditioning.

The new Concentrator PhotoVoltaics (CPV) system uses a dense array of water-cooled solar chips that can convert 80% of the sun's radiation into useful energy.

The CPV, which looks like a 33-foot-high sunflower, can generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day — enough to power several average homes, according to Bruno Michel, the project's lead scientists at IBM Research in Switzerland.

The mirrors concentrate the sun on the chips to produce electricity. Normally, the chips would ignite, since they reach temperatures of 1,500 degrees Celsius. But IBM scientists are taking a page from the supercomputer playbook to keep them at a relatively cool 105 degrees with a water radiator system.

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Rockefellers to switch investments to 'clean energy'


Heirs to the Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune from oil, are to sell investments in fossil

fuels and reinvest in clean energy, reports say.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn (£31bn) in fossil fuel assets.

The announcement was made on Monday, a day before the UN climate change summit opens on Tuesday.

Some 650 individuals and 180 institutions have joined the coalition.

It is part of a growing global initiative called Global Divest-Invest, which began on university campuses several years ago, the New York Times reports.

Pledges from pension funds, religious groups and big universities have reportedly doubled since the start of 2014.

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Organic battery hailed as cheap renewable energy solution... Harvard team uses material similar to molecules in rhubarb to store energy


A cheap rechargeable battery that harnesses energy by using the electrochemistry of organic molecules rather 

than metals is being touted by Harvard researchers as a breakthrough for renewable energy.

The Harvard team reports that the battery, which they say can be applied on a power-grid scale, uses naturally abundant and small organic compounds called quinones rather than electrocatalysts from costly precious metals such as platinum.

Quinones would be inexpensive to obtain and can be found in green plants or synthesized from crude oil. The battery designed by Harvard scientists and engineers used a quinone molecule that's almost identical to one that's found in rhubarb.

The technology is outlined in the Jan. 9 edition of the journal Nature.

Unlike solid-electrode batteries, flow batteries are recharged by two chemical components dissolved in fluids that are kept in separate tanks. 

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Mayors have the power to influence local policies that impact urban energy use the most

Our new research, the Special Envoy’s Report to the UN Secretary-General, completed in partnership with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Stockholm Environment Institute, shows that if all cities took on aggressive new efforts to reduce building, transportation and waste energy use, they could potentially reduce the world’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an additional 3.7 Gigatons (Gt) CO2e by 2030 over what national policies and actions are currently on track to achieve. By 2050, cities could cut annual GHG emissions by 8.0 Gt CO2e over what national policies are currently on track to achieve, the equivalent of cutting annual global coal use by more than half. Cumulatively, cities have the potential to reduce emissions by more than 140 Gt CO2e by 2050.

The first time that cities’ collective GHG impacts have ever been quantified, the Report underscores the importance of including cities’ climate efforts as nations set GHG reduction targets—something nations have rarely done–to prevent the world’s temperature from rising more... Read More

From toilet to table, overcoming the ‘yuk’ factor

Human excrement spread by poor sanitation was to blame for over 9,000 cholera deaths in Haiti, but now, thanks to a simple measure to transform it into nutrient-rich compost, cleanliness has improved - and some enterprising Haitians are able to grow their own fresh food.

Like an oasis in the middle of the desert, Frantz Francois' garden is probably the greenest area in Cite Soleil, the biggest slum in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

In an area where it is hard to find even a tree, Francois grows carrots, peppers and callaloo - a leafy vegetable traditionally used for soups - in his garden.

But it was not easy for him to tempt his neighbours to eat them, as he uses human waste as a fertiliser - something of a taboo in these parts.

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