Nexterra, GE Energy partner up on commercial-scale biomass power systems

It’s a match made in renewable heaven. After two years of collaboration Vancouver-based Nexterra Energy, developer of biomass gasification systems, has partnered with GE Energy to create modular biomass combined heat and power (CHP) plants of between 2 and 10 megawatts in size. Nexterra has optimized its system to work with GE’s Jenbacher high-efficiency gas engines. Specifically, it has upgraded the syngas that comes out of its system so that it meets the fuel specifications of the Jenbacher engine.

“We believe the combination of biomass gasification and internal combustion engines is a breakthrough for biomass power generation,” said Prady Iyyanki, CEO of GE’s Jenbacher division.

The biomass CHP system is ideal for on-site heat and power applications at universities, hospitals, and other government facilities, as well as food and beverage plants, waste management facilities and forest product mills. Independent power producers — perhaps part of community co-ops — could also use the systems as standalone power generators for their communities. Continue reading Nexterra, GE Energy partner up on commercial-scale biomass power systems

Morgan Solar improves low-profile concentrator design

I’ve written about this Toronto-based solar concentrator company recently, but the Morgan boys have since been busy improving their design and, I must say, it’s pretty cool. Check this MIT Technology Review article on Morgan Solar for an update.

What’s changed, basically, is how the company’s Light-Guide Solar Optic is packaged. The original design had two triangular acrylic optics packaged as a square. Each triangle captured, directed and concentrated light to a single corner where a tiny solar cell was positioned. The new design is a full square that directs light to the centre where it is concentrated in a secondary glass optic. In this secondary optic, concentrated light is bent at a 90-degree angle and hits a small cell bonded to the bottom. The effect is essentially the same, but the new design lowers the quantity of materials, reduces steps in the manufacturing process and, as a result, means lower manufacturing costs. The end result is the lowest-profile solar concentrator I’ve seen that has commercial potential.

Ontario aims to set continental standard with Green Energy Act

Tomorrow — Monday — is a big day in Ontario, and potentially across Canada. The Ontario government will be tabling comprehensive green-energy legislation that, if it lives up to promises, will blow open the market and make Ontario *the* place in North America to develop renewable-energy projects and establish manufacturing and supply chains to support them. It will equally emphasize energy conservation, putting Ontario potentially in the league of Denmark, Germany and California.

What to expect:

  • The act will amend at least 15 existing statutes, including the building code, to put greater emphasis and priority on renewables and conservation.
  • It will upload zoning authority regarding wind-turbine placement to the province, which will set an Ontario-wide standard. The government essentially wants to pre-screen areas considered “environmentally sensitive” and will establish firm set-back distances from residential areas that will fast-track projects that are often delayed at the municipal level, on a project-by-project basis, by NIMBY groups.
  • Establish a “one-stop, one-window” approvals process so developers don’t have to navigate through so much red tape. Also, a guarantee to grant permits to project developers within six months.
  • The standard offer contract, which pays a set feed-in tariff for small-scale renewable projects (under 10 megawatts), will be replaced by a more ambitious program that sets no limits on project size but will set tariffs based on the specific technology being used and size of the project.
  • For the first time, the province will aim to eventually set feed-in tariffs for offshore wind in the Great Lakes and pump storage projects.
  • Homeowners will soon have access to direct grants and low-interest loans to help pay for technology and appliances that make their homes more energy efficient.
  • New policies will flow from the legislation that support co-operatives of farmers, homeowners and businesses that want to invest in renewable-energy projects.
  • All homes being sold — resale or new — will have to have an energy audit conducted so buyers know the energy efficiency of the home up front.
  • There’s also talk, not yet confirmed, that the government aims to socialize the cost of feeder lines that need to be built to enable renewables. Local-content requirements are also being considered, though this is very preliminary. The government is also looking at possibly supporting the bulk purchase of turbines and solar panels to make it easier for individual community co-ops to get product at competitive prices and without having to wait in line behind bigger projects that are given higher priority by manufacturers.

The bottom line is that the government — and particularly Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman — appears quite serious about turbo-charging Ontario’s renewable-energy sector in a way that will attract investment and jobs. In a speech he gave on Friday, Smitherman used the word “certainty” several times, with emphasis, to get across the point that Ontario through this legislation will be the place for development, manufacturing and investment.  “If passed, it will propel Ontario forward to be the North American green energy leader,” he said. “With this single bold move, we join global green power leaders like Denmark, Germany and Spain.”

In an interview after his speech, Smitherman said the goal is about “making sure we’re moving in a way that gives Ontarians the opportunity for jobs in the green economy. The jurisdictions that get there first and have certainties associated with the processes are going to benefit first. We’re taking Ontario to the front of the pack.”

It’s a good target to have. All eyes will be on the details released Monday, and the policies that will flow from this framework over the coming months. Ultimately, however, it’s about putting words into action.

Report recommends “Made-In-Ontario” cleantech procurement strategy

Ontario, as you know from this blog, has many innovative clean technology companies within its borders. They’re mostly small. Mostly having a difficult time raising capital.  If they are getting money, it’s mostly from the United States and Europe. We’ve got a problem in Ontario — in Canada, really — and it’s not unique to cleantech. With respect to all technology, we do a good job of investing in and supporting R&D and we even provide decent public funding for one-off demonstration projects. But when it comes to late-stage support, the time when companies really need capital to commercialize their products, and customers to buy them, we fall flat. Lacking this crucial support, companies end up stalling. They’re stuck with inexperienced CEOs. They can’t afford to hire sales and marketing, product development and public relations executives. They either die on the vine or get picked by a foreign company that, in the end, benefits from all our taxpayer-funded R&D and creates jobs outside of Ontario.

Ontario has a chance to break this cycle, according to a new report on the province’s budding cleantech sector — the first comprehensive study of its kind looking into the size and makeup of Ontario’s cleantech market and the challenges companies face.  (See Toronto Star story here). Continue reading Report recommends “Made-In-Ontario” cleantech procurement strategy