New SDTC round in the works…

It’s still a couple of months away, but the next funding round from Sustainable Development Technology Canada will likely be announced the first week of July.

Vicky Sharpe, CEO and president of SDTC, told me in a recent e-mail exchange that she had a “stellar round” of applications and there are a number of clean technology types in the mix. I’m a big fan of this program, as each funding announcement provides me with a wealth of information about emerging Canadian cleantech companies and interesting project proposals. Companies I’ve discovered in the past through this program include plasma waste disposal specialist Pyrogenesis Corp., lighting efficiency company Fifth Light Technology Ltd. and biodiesel innovator Biox Corp.

Sharpe pointed out something quite interesting. She said there’s been much celebration of the $200 million (U.S.) that’s been earmarked for clean technology investments by the public employees pension fund in California (CalPERS), but people seem to overlook the fact that the SDTC program has already allocated and is managing $322 million (Can) worth of cleantech investments, about $89 million of which coming directly from SDTC itself and the rest from the private sector.

“We believe, and are trying to confirm, that this (SDTC fund) is the largest cleantech fund in North America and likely globally,” said wrote.

Putting the wind in the hydrogen village

Hydrogenics Corp. and the province of Prince Edward Island have announced a $10.3 million project that will result in clean hydrogen production and storage of wind power.

About 5 per cent of PEI’s power supply comes from wind. This project reminds me a bit of what’s being done in Iceland, a place I had a chance to visit last June. Renewable geothermal and hydro dams power most the country, making it an idea place for clean hydrogen product. Iceland wants to use its abundant renewable energy resources to create hydrogen infrastructure that will support the transition to fuel-cell vehicles and, further down the road, hydrogen-powered boats and planes.

PEI, like Iceland, is a small island community, making it an ideal place for experimentation and demonstration. A number of homes and buildings will be powered by a combination of wind and hydrogen fuel cell storage as part of the three-year project. Eventually they’ll set up a hydrogen fuelling station in Charlottetown, similar to the one in Reykjavik, Iceland. That station will be used by three hydrogen shuttle buses and utility vehicles. Near the end of the project a farm operation will be powered and a hydrogen-powered tour boat will be put in service.

You’ve got to hand it to Hydrogenics for pushing these projects along and creating awareness of fuel cells through high-profile demonstrations. The company perhaps over-relies on these government-funded experiments, but these demonstrations are needed to prove that the technology works in different scenarios and applications.

Randall MacEwen, vice-president of Mississauga-based Hydrogenics, said in a company release that PEI’s decision to play a role will help lessen its dependence on imported power, in addition to the obvious environmental and local economic benefits.

“PEI’s strong wind regime, geographic size, political will, skilled work force and committed academic community make PEI a perfect location to demonstrate and deploy wind-hydrogen technologies,” said MacEwen. We believe this initiative will position PEI to become a model for future wind-hydrogen deployments globally, particularly for island and off-grid communities.”

I will watch this project with great interest.

Segway faces hurdles in Toronto

Robyn Reisler, founder and president of Segway of Ontario, is a little worried these days. He e-mailed me last week pointing out that the city’s pedestrian committee has voted to recommend to the city council Works Committee that Segway Human Transporters been banned from city sidewalks.

I wonder how many people on this city committee have actually taken a Segway for a ride? I wonder if they’ve seen a report on the Segway that was released last September by the Centre for Electric Vehicle Experimentation in Quebec, which states “Segways are very stable, run quietly and smoothly, and give users a feeling of being in control. They are easy to manoeuvre, accelerate gently, run silently and can stop quickly in case of emergency”? I wonder if they realize that we’re never going to deal with the downtown smog problem unless we encourage the use of low-polluting vehicles and offer residents a variety of alternatives?

I’ve taken a Segway for a spin, and there’s no question in my mind that you have more control over these two-wheel vehicles than roller blades, skate boards and other non-mechanical wheels being used on sidewalks today by kids who have no concern over safety or the people around them. I’m hoping the Works Committee is more open minded about the Segway and will reject the Pedestrian Committee’s recommendation…

A car that makes you Feel Good

As mentioned, I had a story published today on a Toronto-based company called Feel Good Cars Inc., which is getting ready to manufacturer its first batch of 2,000 low-speed electric vehicles. These little cars kinda look like Smart cars but you can plug them into your wall and charge them overnight. They only go 40 km/h but that’s not bad if you only use them for sidestreets and urban driving. Unfortunately, they’re banned for public use in Ontario. I wish the politicians here would wake up and start promoting, rather than rejecting, these clean driving alternatives. I say offer purchase incentives, and give these cars a right-of-way on busy downtown streets during rush hours, similar to taxi and transit lanes. Maybe then more people will be encouraged to buy them and over time we’ll see less downtown smog and haze during summer rush hours.

The how, what and why of transitioning to a post-Paris world