I’ve been a little preoccupied this past week finishing up the first draft of my book so that I can actually enjoy some R&R, my family, food and wine (ah yes, wine) during the holidays. Now that I have a bit of a breather, here are some recent news items that caught my eye:
Let’s start with today: the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory came out with an interesting study that suggests wind turbines in farmed fields could be boosting crop yields. The giant, sweeping blades of wind turbines, says Ames, might “help corn and soybean crops stay cooler and dryer, helping them fend off fungal infestations and improve their ability to extract growth-enhancing carbon dioxide from the air and soil.” The researchers behind the study emphasize that their results are preliminary but believe beneficial effects are likely.
In other news, Toronto-based Riverbank Power, which has a large pipeline of innovative pumped-storage projects, is getting more seriously into run-of-river hydroelectric projects. The company has just acquired Symbiotic Energy Corp., a developer and operator of hydroelectric projects based out of Portland, Oregon. The deal boosts Riverbank’s pipeline of run-of-river projects to 1,100 megawatts and gives it three shovel-ready projects. In addition to the acquisition, Riverbank has raised $25 million from Caisse de Depot et placement du Quebec. The money will go toward development of the three run-of-river projects. This complements Riverbank’s pumped-storage business, which boasts a 16,000 MW project pipeline in North America. Riverbank has a unique underground approach to pumped storage based on a system design it calls AquaBank. You can read about it here.
Also in Toronto, Nissan Canada has committed 500 of its electric LEAF vehicles to the Toronto Atmospheric Fund’s FleetWise EV300 Initiative, meaning fleet operators participating in TAF’s program should have no problem getting first-generation LEAF vehicles when they go on sales at the end of 2011. On the topic of EVs, hotel owner Starwood Canada has installed the first hotel-based EV charging stations in Canada at its Sheraton Centre Toronto hotel and at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal. ” Coulomb Technologies is supplying the chargers, which will be part of the company’s growing ChargePoint network, which EV drivers will be able to access through their mobile devices to find charging stations closest to them. It’s a standardized charging station, so everything from cars and buses to bikes and Segways can use it. Could this be the beginning of a cell-phone like network and service for electric vehicles? Meanwhile, Canada Post has started using all-electric Ford Transit Connect delivery vehicles in its fleet.
But let’s not believe for a moment that electric vehicles are going to steal the entire show, as Energy Innovation Corp. announced it will soon open the first biodiesel fuel production facility in Toronto. The 10-million litre a year facility will be based in the city’s Portlands area. The facility will use flaxseed from southern Ontario as its feedstock and, as a byproduct, will produce high-grade animal feed. That’s because only 40 per cent of the flax seed is used to produce fuel. The rest is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The Globe and Mail has a story here.