First Nations Get $0.3M for Solar Research #skpoli

The Conservative government generously gave First Nations in Saskatchewan enough grant money to build one impressively sized solar array that could power a half dozen homes.

Ontario is going with $5,000M.

SaskPower gave 10 times the recent federal contribution, to the UofR to research how to put CO2 underground so more oil can be pumped out of the Weyburn area.

Lockheed manufactures illegal weapons, and is part of the F-35 dud stealth bomber boondoggle.

Solar is not “concentrated” in SK as explained in the article, we just have more sun hitting the ground throughout the year than most of Canada. There’s no magnifying glass aimed at Regina or Estevan, fortunately.

$300K is better than a kick in the teeth, I suppose. It’s to be used on little demonstration projects. It’s 2013, and Germany has already done a country-wide demonstration project that we can wholesale adopt here in Saskatchewan. Let’s get on with it already.

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Oil and Tobacco

It’s worth remembering that marketers should not drive scientific research.
Cigarettes are dangerous?
We’d better make them appear less dangerous so they will still sell.
I know, let’s filter the smoke. This fibre seems to do some filtering, or at least we can convince people of that.
Wait, what’s the fibre? Asbestos.

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Link dump:

What Saskatchewan and Canada should do with oil wealth.

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Something other than oil would be nice.

SK Climate Hearings talked about some of these solutions.

We Have The Technology to Stop Air Pollution

Listen to a scientist say very clearly that we have the science and technology to create 100% renewable power in the United States within my lifetime (2050).

We’re only held back by politicians who fail to implement an urgent plan to save us, as they were required to when implementing policy during WWII from another clear threat to the American way of life.

An Irrational Mixup at SaskPower

Ten years ago, SaskPower was spending money to promote education about Climate Change.

The poster contest is an important component of our efforts to educate the public about the climate change issue. There are increasing concerns that human activity – such as the burning of coal and other fossil fuels to generate electricity – contributes to climate change, which has been associated with increased risk of droughts, heat waves and storms.

Yet a decade later its CEO and President, Robert Watson, has written the Star Phoenix dismissing a good question from a Saskatoon Community Wind representative, James Glennie, to meaningfully reduce pollution. Why isn’t SaskPower investing heavily in distributed power generation from renewable sources like wind, and solar thermal and photovoltaic? Our coal-burning crown corporation last year on its website was citing a study into solar power, conducted in the year 2000, to dismiss solar as a viable commercial power generation option. It sounded suspiciously similar to Mr. Watson’s excuses given to Mr. Glennie’s good ideas. We know technology has changed significantly since 2000, not only in computers, but in solar panels and solar thermal. Saskatchewan home owners installing net metered solar arrays, now expect to make profit on their investments, in as few as ten years pay-back time.

Instead of giving ‘Can’t-Do’ excuses for why it’s more difficult to use solar and wind in Saskatchewan’s tough climate, our crown corporation’s CEO could co-opt can-do direction from Saskatchewan people, and develop renewable energy technology right here. We can sell those adaptations abroad to other places with harsh, sunny Winters. I’m also not pleased with a SaskPower VP telling me last year, there’s a high cost for “utilities in the Northern Hemisphere” to use solar. Have they not seen what Germany, Spain, Ontario, California, and other utilities in our hemisphere are investing in? Every American border station has a large solar power installation because it’s “a high cost”? I don’t think so. Judging by SaskPower’s President’s remarks in the paper, innovation and change will come from the bottom up.

Below is a re-write of Mr. Watson’s letter to the editor, which cuts through the BS.

I’d like to provide additional information on SaskPower’s plans for a power generation mix that has served to make Saskatchewan, Canada’s worst per-capita air polluter.

Unlike fossil fuel sources, which can produce power and greenhouse gas constantly, wind and solar are not sources of greenhouse gases (i.e. they don’t cause climate change) and can meet our day-to-day requirements if we change how we use electricity. We can keep fossil fuels as emergency backup only.

Wind power is intermittent and cannot be effectively stored without innovation SaskPower is not willing or able to provide. Our province’s wind conditions allow for turbines to generate electricity nearly 40 per cent of the time, which is as much time in the day as you might directly need immediate electricity. They do not produce greenhouse gas or smog, which makes them safer than coal plants. We don’t paint windmills black to naturally heat them, so when it’s too cold outside we shut them down and lose potential generation revenue.

Solar power, in various forms, is suitable for widespread generation in Saskatchewan because the technology has improved immensely and is set to become cheaper than coal within the life-span of many coal turbines already built.

SaskPower will continue to ignore innovation so it has to invest less in retraining engineers who are really good at operating coal turbines and conventional grids, but don’t seem to have a sniff about how to create a distributed smart grid of renewable energy with a fossil fuel backup system.

Now, the real, depressing letter:

A rational mix
Robert Watson, Letter to the The Starphoenix
Published: Saturday, August 31, 2013

In response to James Glennie’s letter Blown opportunity (SP, Aug. 26), I’d like to provide additional information on SaskPower’s plans for a power generation mix that will serve Saskatchewan today and into the future.

Unlike geothermal sources, which can produce power constantly, wind and solar are not sources of baseload power (i.e. stable, constant) and cannot meet our day-today requirements due to the unpredictable nature of the source.

Wind power is intermittent and cannot be effectively stored for future use. Our province’s wind conditions allow for turbines to generate electricity nearly 40 per cent of the time. They do not produce when there is too little or too much wind (for safety reasons) or it’s too cold outside.

Solar power is not suitable for large-scale generation in Saskatchewan because of its high cost and low capacity factors.

There is certainly a place for these power sources in our generation mix – Sask-Power currently has approximately 200 megawatts of wind power, enough to power 86,500 homes. By 2017, we will have doubled our wind capacity with the installation of a new facility near Chaplain and other projects with independent power producers.

Solar power is best suited for small-scale operations and SaskPower does offer programs to encourage this.

SaskPower will continue looking at every option to ensure the future includes reliable, sustainable and affordable power.

Robert Watson
SaskPower president and CEO

And here’s the letter that kicked things off:

Blown opportunity

By James Glennie, The Starphoenix August 26, 2013

I read with interest the article, Geothermal study gets SaskPower funding (SP, Aug. 20) and think it’s admirable that SaskPower is using ratepayer funds to investigate expensive new technologies such as DEEP. One might add to these costs the $1.2-billion, carbon capture scheme at Boundary Dam.

One wonders, however, whether Saskatchewan’s long-suffering ratepayers might be better served by an analysis of technologies that can achieve the same thing at much lower cost. For instance, why is $2 million being spent to investigate a technology that is

hugely expensive and buried three kilometres below the earth, when Saskatchewan has one of the best wind and solar resources in North America? No digging required and no carbon emissions.

Very detailed and highly sophisticated electrical studies have been carried out in numerous jurisdictions worldwide that show wind and solar can reliably and economically provide 25 per cent of total electricity demand on an integrated and modern electricity system. At the same time these clean, renewable technologies have minimal technological risk, enjoy overwhelming public support and can provide massive rural economic stimulus – vital for numerous small towns struggling with lack of jobs and depopulation.

Yet despite this overwhelming body of evidence SaskPower insists that wind and, one presumes, solar will never provide more than five per cent of Saskatchewan’s electricity.

Perhaps DEEP’s $2 million would have been better spent on an independent electrical study which sets out to solve the perplexing riddle of why it is that electrons behave so differently in this corner of the universe?

James Glennie

Saskatoon Community Wind

Renewable Energy Predictions Way Off

They were vastly underestimated.

Here’s info about that out of date solar power study that SaskPower was touting.

Coal Hard Truth #skpoli

The Leader-Post may be giving kudos to the Sask Party’s singular focus on Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), but I won’t be. The primary reason CCS (clean coal) is getting so much Conservative and Sask Party government funding, is because it’s a hidden subsidy to the oil industry so that they can recover more oil from otherwise exhausted oil fields.

“We have a great story to tell,” Wall said.

We need more than a fairy tale, or a Sask Party narrative to save us from climate change. We need significant improvements in energy efficiency in our homes and transportation utilization, as well as plenty of increased investment in renewable energy.

On the question of overall provincial support for the environment, the NDP Opposition correctly notes the Sask. Party government cut funding for climate change activities by 73 per cent in the past two years. This is not exactly a great record for Wall when he goes to Pittsburgh or Washington to tout Saskatchewan’s clean energy.

Friends recently told me that PARC at the UofR had been cut significantly, since I last noted on my blog that PARC was a significant admission by the Sask Party that climate change is coming, and will be a huge economic and quality of life game changer. The lack of meaningful investment in renewable energy leaves Saskatchewan behind in the global economic situation emerging.

One year ago, the opposite from the oil industry:

“Our decision was essentially based on the fact that we could not see a way to make the economics of our CCS project work as we originally intended,” said Don Wharton, vice-president of policy and sustainability at TransAlta.

He said markets for pure carbon didn’t develop as expected, and federal and provincial governments took no steps to recognize the value of reduced emissions by implementing a price on carbon, for example, or a cap-and-trade system.

In short, despite nearly $800 million in government subsidies, the company had no incentive to invest in CCS.

The “Clean Coal” lie rolls on. Now it has a new timeline for implementation. Let’s collectively watch it be missed (again).

The government boasted at last week’s Boundary Dam symposium that the project will be up and running this fall and completed by next April, on time and on budget. It will reduce CO2 emissions at the plant by 90 per cent (one million tonnes a year) by shipping emissions 60 kilometres to Weyburn’s enhanced oil recovery project.

From 2009:

“The committee will complete work on the development phase by August 31, 2009, including a full project plan, engineering design, business plan, detailed budget and construction timeline.

With the financial support of the Governments of Canada and the United States, construction of the plant could begin as early as September 2009 and the plant could be operational as early as the summer of 2011. The goal for the reference plant is to test a range of technologies in the capture of up to one million tonnes of CO2 over a four-year period.”

Mini Solar Tour in the Fog of Wood Mountain and Glentworth

I went on a road trip Saturday with my friend Adam K., down to my parents’ place, and his grandparents’ farm. On the way around southern Saskatchewan, we saw close to 150 deer and antelope, a snowy owl, a dozen hawks, a handful of Canada Geese, smaller birds, two dead raccoons, and the final resting place of four children who passed away in 1919 (Spanish Flu maybe?).
Ukrainian Catholic Church

To Moose Jaw
The road into Regina was ice, and the road to Moose Jaw was quite a bit better, but still partly covered in a thick layer of ice. There was a semi on the eastbound highway that had done a 180, and blew open its trailer door, strewing boxes across the ditch at Belle Plaine.

We filled up in Moose Jaw, then ate at the Steakhouse in Assiniboia (we had waffles). The GPS kept trying to convince us to turn off the paved road instead of going to Limerick. We went to Limerick, I took a couple photos, and on through flooded Flintof and dry Wood Mountain we continued. Many deer were along the way, and the misting rain continued through the trip after Moose Jaw’s southern hills.
Flintoft turn

Hawk landing
- A hawk about to land

After second lunch we strolled around the various energy and heating systems my parents had installed for their home.
Solar Hot water panel mount

Solar PV

Convincing SaskPower that a generator ring/link was a good idea for a Saskatchewan power meter, took some convincing. Fortunately Dad is persistent.

Wood Mountain elevator

Ukrainian Catholic Church
- 1925 built Ukrainian Catholic near Glentworth, SK

Ukrainian Catholic Church

More photos next time of the animals who made this print:
Deer tracks

Tarsand Analogy

This is an unpolished analogy of Canada’s attitude toward the tarsand/climate change problem.

Let’s say Canada is a person complaining about their weight (they think their carbon footprints are too heavy). To solve this problem they read a diet book that their friend Europa suggested to them, and they even try to get FIT in the Ontario core area, but they continue to eat at the greasy Tar Sands Cafe every day and never learn to cook their own meals in a solar oven. Canada’s friend Alberta and Tex suggest a new method of eating at the Tar Sands which will improve Canada’s bank account by next year. The only catch is that it requires hooking a food line right into a vein and causes early death. Canada isn’t totally sold on the idea, but is addicted, so this mainline seems like an option. Plus, they’re scared about not having enough money.

Canada could choose to start using their solar oven, and make meals at home, but would have to convince Tex and Alberta to join them in making healthier food. That seems like too much work, and it’s so much easier to take the mainline and watch Rex Murphy rant on TV about how things should never change. The dough rolls in, and the weight piles on.

Oiled Up

There’s a suspicious situation uncovered at the UofR, by CBC. IPAC, the CO(2) CCS project was audited, and there were apparent conflicts of interest in how some of the money was spent. The report stopped short of saying there was crime, but implied there was the possibility of it.

Only last week I saw a CCTV ad for IPAC-CO2 appear out of nowhere, and I was unfamiliar with the logo they used until I spelled it out and realized it must be for the CCS project. This is the “heart of the Saskatchewan Party’s plan to tackle climate change”, according to Geoff Leo of CBC.

CVI is an IT provider, but they were getting over half of the budget. “There was no set of deliverables.”

One apparent conflict of interest, was Malcolm Wilson for a time being on the board of CVI. He reportedly returned shares so as to not profit from the work.

The Sask Party Minister for CIC, Donna Harpauer said “it’s a conflict of interest”. Wilson, through his lawyer told CBC that when the facts are all in, there was no conflict of interest. A Mr. Fitzpatrick, in the audio interview, said there was “no impropriety”.


Side note: I’ve appeared in a Global TV report years ago with both Wilson, and Brad Wall.

Shell, along with the provincial and federal governments gave the UofR millions of dollars years ago to pursue Carbon Capture & Storage at their test facility at Estevan. I’ve toured it; they were using North Dakota’s CO2 gas, instead of gas from the coal plant the test site is built beside. To that point, in ~2008, no gas from power SK production had been stored. I assume that remains the case.

Why would Shell, which has little to do with coal power, invest millions into this R&D? CCS has the ‘side effect’ of forcing exhausted oil fields into extended opportunities of production. In short, put the gas down, and oil comes out. We then burn that oil without using CCS, further limiting the net benefits of CCS.

There are presently 0 “clean coal” plants in production in the world.

The U of R, despite saying they are a “clean energy” research facility, presently has 0 solar panels in production, and 1 VAT windmill in research & production.

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More Power Blows

There are recent solar electricity records set in Germany, and Spain has recently seen a huge increase in wind power production. Meanwhile, SaskPower has solar power research from 13 years ago on its website, claims solar isn’t viable in the northern hemisphere, and is eyeing up more coal fired generation. The U of R has 0 solar panels in productive research (or otherwise), while my parents have 15 solar panels in productive research for the Sask. Research Council. Canada, and Saskatchewan are lagging behind, we’re becoming the technological 3rd World of G8 nations.

Here’s what a Brit thinks about their country, which apparently is ahead of Canada:

The Spanish average output is 60% higher than our highest ever peak output. That’s embarrassing.

“German wind energy industry association BWE said it expects developers to add between 3GW and 3.5GW of capacity this year”

Again, comparing to your figures of UK installed capacity of 7.77GW – Germany might install 45% of our entire wind capacity in 2013 alone.

It’s about time we became serious as a country and stopped dithering.

The UK is dithering? Oh, my. What are Saskatchewan “leaders” thinking? Are they even living on this planet? When those of us who are, attempt to talk to them about it, they’re more likely to arrest people than listen, apparently.


Here’s what the UK grid looks like right now.