Canada left behind in global solar race

You’ve got the space race, then the arms race, and now the solar PV race. Seems countries around the world are trying to one-up each other when it comes to building solar PV farms. Last week PowerLight Corp. of Berkeley, Calif., and GE Energy Financial Services announced that they will be building an 11-megawatt solar PV farm in Portugal dubbed as “world’s largest.” The installation will be done on 150 acres of south-facing hillside and will require 52,000 PV modules. Costing an estimated $75 million (U.S.), if all works out well the farm will be generating power for Portugal’s grid within the next 9 months.

Not to be outdone, the state of New Mexico and two solar startups said last week they would be building the world’s largest solar plant — this one a $1.6 billion, 300-megawatt farm spread out across 3,200 acres in New Mexico. The group, which didn’t release much detail or any information about who’s going to finance the project, said the overall cost includes construction of a $650 million factory to build the panels. The project could take up to 5 years to complete.

To date, a 10-megawatt solar park in Bavaria, Germany, stakes claim to the “world’s largest” designation, but that park is composed of different projects. Within the park, it’s really a 6.3-megawatt farm that ranks on top. Interesting to point out that PowerLight also did that installation. In the U.S., the largest right now is a 5-megawatt farm in Springerville, Arizona.

For a list of the top installations around the world, click here.

And Canada? Well, we’ve yet to crack the 1-megawatt barrier. Exhibition Place in Toronto will be doing that soon, and with the province’s Standard Offer program it now expects to expand that project to more than 2 megawatts. Mind you, we don’t have thousands of acres of desert on which to build these PV farms, but this hasn’t held back Germany, which has a very similar climate and terrain as Ontario (particularly Bavaria).

Question is, does this solar race — and the increased volumes of solar modules hitting the market — mean we’re going to see economies of scale kick in and prices fall? Or is it going to create an even larger polysilicon and module shortage crisis, further driving up costs because supply can’t meet demand?

Advanced Glazings snags $6 million

Advanced Glazings, the Nova Scotia-based innovator of an insulating glaze for windows that smooths the glare of natural light, has raised $6 million in venture capital from The Walsingham Fund and GrowthWorks. The funds will be used to expand the company’s sales force and develop new products for the architectural and greenhouse markets. Expect an official announcement Monday.

I’ve written about Advanced Glazings a few times on this blog and wrote a feature in the Toronto Star (check here, here and here). Earlier this year BusinessWeek recognized one of the company’s customers: A hockey arena in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., that wanted to let natural light in the building.

Wired’s eco hat-trick

Wired magazine has a green streak this issue, starting with an in-depth and quite insightful story about Al Gore as a man on a mission to save the world from global warming. There’s great background on Gore’s retreat from the public spotlight after losing to Bush, and his “ressurection” as anti-global warming crusader and successful cleantech investor through his investment firm Generation Investment Management LLP. They also mention his upcoming documentary about global warming, titled An Inconvenient Truth, which is co-produced by Davis Guggenheim and billionaire Canadian (and ex-eBay exec) Jeff Skoll through his company Participant Productions.

I’ve always been a fan of Gore, and am moreso today given his personal interest and sense of duty on the climate change front. What I like about Gore is he’s an optimist who is convinced that innovation will get us out of this mess and that the market — if poked and prodded the right way — will wake up to the opportunity. The philosophy of Gore’s firm, according to the magazine, is to “draw capital away from the fossil-fueled economy and direct it toward new and profitable centers of the sustainable economy.” As more and more money flows toward sustainability, more and more companies will begin to “get it” and will follow the flow.

Gore’s been labelled dull and robotic, but he seems to be loosening up and appears more comfortable with himself. My wife and I were thinking tonight about what the past five years would have been like (globally) if Gore actually was president. Now that’s a docudrama I’d like to see. Perhaps Gore will take another run at the job and attempt to put his convictions to work at the White House.

The other two Wired stories  (here and here) take a look at how the neo-green movement differs from the old environmental movement. Treehugging hippies, hemp, and sandals are out. The new greens — the “eco chic” — are interested in style and aren’t anti-business. They seek sexy organic clothing, drive Prius hybrids, install solar panels on their homes, and otherwise exercise their consumer dollars to make a point. Yeah, it costs more — but so do expensive cars. This is about making a statement and wearing your values, and that comes with a premium that a growing number happily pay. “Hemp ponchos and vegan sandals are butt-ugly, and most people who wear them look ridiculous,” the magazine says. “For a twentysomething on Friday night, a nubby brown sackcloth just doesn’t cut it.” Amen.

The magazine concludes: In a world awash in choice yet wary of race-to-the-bottom-line capitalism, more shoppers will pay a premium to know the source of ingredients and the practices in the supply chain. Yet a funny thing happens when consumers pay a little more for something: Producers rush in to give it to them. Which shrinks the premium and eventually makes the product widely attainable. After all, even Wal-Mart now sells organic food.

Wired’s eco hat-trick

Wired magazine has a green streak this issue, starting with an in-depth and quite insightful story about Al Gore as a man on a mission to save the world from global warming. There’s great background on Gore’s retreat from the public spotlight after losing to Bush, and his “ressurection” as anti-global warming crusader and successful cleantech investor through his investment firm Generation Investment Management LLP. They also mention his upcoming documentary about global warming, titled An Inconvenient Truth, which is co-produced by Davis Guggenheim and billionaire Canadian (and ex-eBay exec) Jeff Skoll through his company Participant Productions.

I’ve always been a fan of Gore, and am moreso today given his personal interest and sense of duty on the climate change front. What I like about Gore is he’s an optimist who is convinced that innovation will get us out of this mess and that the market — if poked and prodded the right way — will wake up to the opportunity. The philosophy of Gore’s firm, according to the magazine, is to “draw capital away from the fossil-fueled economy and direct it toward new and profitable centers of the sustainable economy.” As more and more money flows toward sustainability, more and more companies will begin to “get it” and will follow the flow.

Gore’s been labelled dull and robotic, but he seems to be loosening up and appears more comfortable with himself. My wife and I were thinking tonight about what the past five years would have been like (globally) if Gore actually was president. Now that’s a docudrama I’d like to see. Perhaps Gore will take another run at the job and attempt to put his convictions to work at the White House.

The other two Wired stories  (here and here) take a look at how the neo-green movement differs from the old environmental movement. Treehugging hippies, hemp, and sandals are out. The new greens — the “eco chic” — are interested in style and aren’t anti-business. They seek sexy organic clothing, drive Prius hybrids, install solar panels on their homes, and otherwise exercise their consumer dollars to make a point. Yeah, it costs more — but so do expensive cars. This is about making a statement and wearing your values, and that comes with a premium that a growing number happily pay. “Hemp ponchos and vegan sandals are butt-ugly, and most people who wear them look ridiculous,” the magazine says. “For a twentysomething on Friday night, a nubby brown sackcloth just doesn’t cut it.” Amen.

The magazine concludes: In a world awash in choice yet wary of race-to-the-bottom-line capitalism, more shoppers will pay a premium to know the source of ingredients and the practices in the supply chain. Yet a funny thing happens when consumers pay a little more for something: Producers rush in to give it to them. Which shrinks the premium and eventually makes the product widely attainable. After all, even Wal-Mart now sells organic food.

Wood pellets a Canadian success story

Catherine Lacoursiere over at EcoLog has an insightful post about the demand for wood pellets in Europe — and increasingly the United States — and how Canada is among the handful of benefactors.

“Canada, with its vast forestry resources, is shipping upwards of 500,000 tons of wood pellets to Europe,” she writes, adding:

The Forestry Products Association of Canada says that once Canadian companies become more focused on meeting CO2 reduction targets it will need to keep the bulk of its shipments of carbon neutral wood pellets at home. In the U.S., wood pellet demand has taken off over the last year. New England states are now negotiating with Canadian wood pellet suppliers in an effort to divert some of the European supply their way.

Interesting is that if you visit the Web site for the Wood Pellet Association of Canada you’ll be told they are “revamping” their Web site, brand and name, as well as changing their mission, reach and focus. Perhaps with oil reaching new highs, as EcoLog points out, the industry is repositioning itself to take advantage of even greater growth and opportunity at home and abroad.