Parliament Should Go Solar

Following up on my 2010 blog post on solar for the White House, it takes almost 3 years to get solar added to a historic national building.

Ottawa 2011

That’s why we should all get started with pressing Parliament Hill’s renovation to include commercially available PV solar panels to the south facing slopes of Canada’s iconic government building.

Simply put, solar panels mean less carbon pollution, and more jobs for Americans – jobs that can’t be outsourced. They’re good for our energy future, and they’re good for our economy.

Time to follow America, again.

SaskPower Says Bigger Is Better, Even Losses? #PowerToGrow

As a followup to the Star Phoenix’s article on the hugely expensive, and (public) money losing CCS plant at Estevan, comes word of further cost overruns. The overruns, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, would have been sufficient to buy Regina its Stadium II, outright, fix its pension shortfall, or replace its Waste Water Treatment Plant.

SaskPower has apparently been misleading people by saying we need coal for “baseload” power, when Saskatchewan’s abundant wind source, coupled with Manitoba’s hydro, could safely provide a reliable power supply to homes, schools, etc.

And it appears that viable, cleaner, lower-cost solutions are readily available. According to a recent New York Times article, the cost of utility scale wind energy is now as low at 3.7 cents a kilowatt hour (without subsidies), well under the price for conventional coal, let alone CCS.

Emissions-free wind energy could have generated the same amount of electricity as the coalfired Boundary CCS power plant at a fraction of the cost.

SaskPower argues that wind can’t replace baseload coal because electrical generation from wind is intermittent. But numerous studies have found that installing substantial amounts of variable wind energy does not require additional backup capacity.

All types of power generation require backup, even coal. All utilities, including SaskPower, have substantial backup supply. New wind capacity would rely on the backup provided by existing “idle capacity,” which in the case of SaskPower is about 40 per cent.

Most authorities agree that incorporating at least 25 per cent variable power sources like wind or solar is feasible right now, and many jurisdictions are doing just that.

But SaskPower seems committed to a fading 20th-century paradigm of large-scale generation using fossil fuels. The 21st century paradigm being adopted by progressive utilities involves a shift toward conservation, efficiency and multiple sources of renewable energy, often provided by private industry, and in some cases by thousands of small co-operatives and community investors.

In the 21st century model, the utility becomes more the manager of power supply, demand and transmission. This emerging model – which in some ways resembles the Internet – is more nimble and resilient than a traditional utility.

CCS is an attempt to keep the old model alive.

Premier Wall owes Saskatchewan at least $1,500,000,000 in renewable energy investment after gifting billions of dollars to Cenovus for oil development through CCS. It’s time to stop letting money blow through our fingers, and stop burning coal like we’re from the 19th Century.

SaskPower, How’s That 14 Year Test Going?

Head Office at Night, 1965

Dear SaskPower,

I’m interested in seeing the statistics regarding the electricity generated by the test panels installed on the Saskatchewan Science Centre, in the attached picture, and as mentioned in the below quote from your website a couple years ago.

May 2013 solar panels

Solar research:
In 2000, we installed a photovoltaic array at the Saskatchewan Science Centre for research purposes. Results showed that the cost savings realized from the solar energy system cannot effectively offset the capital costs for installation. As a result, this technology is better suited to niche applications where connection to the grid is uneconomical or when passive solar enhancement is desired. For the purposes of scientific demonstration, this project continues to be in operation.

At present (2012), solar power is not suitable for large-scale generation in Saskatchewan because of its high cost and low capacity factors.

Given technology has advanced somewhat in the ensuing 14 years, what is SaskPower’s present outlook regarding large scale solar on the grid? The New York Times, and Forbes note that large-scale solar generation appears to be a cheaper means to generate power than coal, despite its inability to provide overnight baseload power (barring some designs of solar power towers).

Notable author Chris Turner says that installed PV costs in Alberta have declined more than 90% since 2000, without government support. What is SaskPower doing to capitalize on this fact, since less than 1% of our electricity is presently solar based?

Regina panoramic

Also see SaskPower’s earlier predictions.

Good news in Saskatoon
, unless the Council stops it from happening.

Janson Anderson, director of customer programs for SaskPower, said that, despite lost revenue, the organization supports homeowners powering their houses with alternate energy sources and that about 260 SaskPower customers across the province currently use solar power as part of the company’s net metering program. Despite dropping prices of solar panels in recent years, Anderson said there remain “significant upfront costs” in installing solar systems and so anything cities can do to ease that burden will help more people utilize solar power.

One way to think of this stat is that it takes the equivalent solar power of 50 homes to power ~50 gas cars.

Equipping 50 homes with solar panels is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 260 tonnes a year. the equivalent of getting 51 cars off the roads.

Are Gore, Suzuki, and Neil Young Hypocrites for Using Oil?

No. They are victims of circumstance, and despite their wealth and fame, they alone cannot change ‘the system’.

A voice from the Facebook-sphere intones: “I appreciate your commitment and respect what you are trying to achieve but bashing fossil fuels while you continue to use them adds no value to your cause.”

Not true. As Shane’s made plain, there’s no means for someone to hop off the oil bandwagon, because we’ve built our society around it for generations. It will take generations to leave it behind (completely), but that isn’t an argument to stop trying. Quite the opposite, it’s time to get started in a more serious way than the last generation.

I’m sick to death of the people mindlessly attacking people like Gore, Young, and Suzuki for “using oil” while speaking against it. Obviously they have to use mass transportation and mass communication presently available to reach people. To command that they stop today, or be hypocrites, is a very thinly veiled attempt to outright silence them.

The Blue Dot Tour

There’s a particularly nasty and brainless bunch on Twitter who earlier this year said I should shut up because I owe my life to oil. Bow down, and tremble like them before thy oily god. They owe their lives to a stable climate and clean water, so why then do they work against the availability of those supposed ‘commodities’ while using what’s left of them? These same twerps are the sorts who claim that “CO(2) isn’t a pollutant because plants eat it“, except they’d never agree to be trapped in a contained environment with “too much” of it, or contemplate its greenhouse effect.

Here are solutions to the problems we all face:

Order Your Opportunities

My job, trying to change the world, is at least twice as hard as a conservative’s. I have to overcome others’ instinctual fear of change and new technology. Monday evening I proposed my condo board “investigate” using solar energy, if the association’s Winter expenses don’t exceed our budget. 2 Board members opposed the idea! The motion passed anyway, but why would someone oppose an investigation of saving money on electricity? They stated it was an opportunity cost. Let’s look how that claim stacks up:

They suggested raising property value by installing carpets as a competing example. If we spent $10K on carpets, property values rise, but owners never get that $10K back to spend again (except, potentially, through selling their condo).

Consider the other way. Buy $10K in solar PV panels. This will unquestionably raise property values. In ~10 years we have ~$10K saved through offset power bills to SaskPower. Then buy carpets & have both new carpets and solar power!

There is some sort of mental or political block involved to recoil from solar energy, and to even call it a “pipedream”, while it’s real technology available on store shelves and roof tops now. It’s no pie in the sky, but it may as well be if we make defensive reactions against smart changes that reduce pollution in our world and improve our energy generation options.

Solar Tour 2014

Cowessess Wind Developments Ltd. turbine.
800kW at 32mi/h
tailless, computer controlled.
Has Li-ion batteries.
Solar Tour Regina

Solar Tour Regina
Solar farm and home system of 10kW
Inverter anti-islanding. Prevents electrifying the grid while grid is down.
Isolation ring for the meter can be installed so you can attach a generator to the house to let the inverter keep working during a grid failure.

A Canadian report of a 2008 study of cities over 200,000 people around the world, listed Regina as sixth best in the world for solar energy generation potential.

Kelln has a system for pumping cattle water, that motion detects cattle, pumps up water to a bowl, and then lowers it below the frost line after the cattle have left.

Solar panels have passed the $1/Watt holy grail.
$500/Watt at the beginning.

250W panels on Toronto St. install.
Pool inside.

Solar Tour Regina
Namerind put a system on a rest home. The Resting Place south of The Serbian Club.
Namerind has a power generation update on their website.
Check out 1100 block Winnipeg in a few weeks.

Battery Depot which we drove by, has no apparent interest in marketing their products to solar users. Why aren’t they making money by putting solar panels on their south facing roof?

Tour’s poster designed by anti-nuke artist Richard Vicarious [sp?].

Picked up a few more people at Candy Cane park, then at Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw.

Mitchell’s thermal hot air system. Pop can design.
Solar Tour Moose Jaw

2.7kW grid tied system next on the south west corner of Moose Jaw. There are two arrays mounted on the ground, and their angles can be changed.

Next was a hybrid system to heat a stable. GAIT equestrian centre.
$1500 for the excavation of a geothermal cooling/heating system seen in photo.

Radiant heat presentation.

Saw a real moose behind Mac the Moose.

5.7kW building integrated solar on a car port in Belle Plaine.

More detail and photos to come soon.

Solar Power for all Saskatchewan households

A recent poll has shown that nuclear power doesn’t have majority support in Saskatchewan, and I think that’s fine. My own family has mixed attitudes toward it. My parents, who own 17 solar panels, wouldn’t mind seeing nuclear power in Saskatchewan, while I oppose the waste-producing nuclear technology available today.

A 2010 study by the CCPA shows “nuclear power has the potential to triple current electricity rates for Saskatchewan consumers.” If we’re going to pay more than we do for Estevan’s coal and Manitoba’s hydro, I want us to invest in solar power.

The massive Ivanpah solar power facility that opened this year for California consumers should be considered as an option for sunny and vast Saskatchewan. Smaller solar plants such as this type could be constructed with mostly Saskatchewan and Canadian materials, knowledge, and labour. Built at the 3 year pace set by California, we could jump to having solar power overtake some fossil fuels as our electricity provider, before 2020.

Given that there are about 410,000 households in Saskatchewan, we’d need about 3 Ivanpah style solar power plants to provide electricity to every home in the province. We can do it, and we should.