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189 sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All

Electric car demo centre--and 8 charging stations--now open in the GTA

The California-based company Better Place, who promote the use of electric vehicles, officially opened their Toronto operations earlier this month.  As of March 4, the company is operating a electric vehicle demonstration centre at Toronto's Evergreen Brick Works in the Don Valley just east of Rosedale, where members of the general public can learn more about electric vehicles and see a sample of a charging station.

The project, which received $1 million in funding form the provincial government, also includes eight GTA charging stations that will mostly serve participating corporate partners for now, located in Barrie, Toronto, Bowmanville, Markham, Vaughan and Ajax.

Better Place's North American VP, Jason Wolf, says in a statement that this type of project is part of setting the stage for "mass adoption" as the first-generation of electric vehicles rolls off the assembly lines. "This project highlights some of the key building blocks to get there: government leadership; public education; and a smart network system that scales and delivers benefits to the grid, rather than strains it." In addition to the provincial government, Better Places is working with the City of Toronto and regional utilities in the suburbs.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: John Proctor, Better Place; Leigh-Ann Popek, office of the Minister of Economic Development

$83,000 grant helps Durham Region with innovation and cleantech job creation programs

The GTA region of Durham--including Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa--has traditionally had its employment anchored by the Oshawa GM plant. As the economy around car manufacturing undergoes a massive global transition, so is the regional economy.

To help that transition along, the provincial government recently announced an $83,000 grant aimed at job-creation projects in the region that will focus on driving the local economy into new sectors around innovation and cleantech. The funding will go to four specific projects: developing a strategy to attract clean technology investment; hosting a manufacturing expo aimed at attracting and showcasing innovation; launching a local business development website; and strengthening the "supply chain" in the local energy sector.

Roger Anderson, the regional chair, said that this investment will give companies a better look at why local municipalities are good places to invest, by promoting "economic development opportunities," letting employers "see what Durham Region has to offer."

Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, said in announcing the grant that "Helping Durham region evolve its economy" will ensure the region's municipalities remain "globally competitive."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Melissa Bies, Region of Durham; Tim Weber, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Trade

Canadian Tire measures green: cuts emissions by 7,800 tonnes, expects to save $6M per year

Canadian Tire -- the Canadian retailing institution based in Toronto -- has embarked on an innovative sustainability strategy that measures both the environmental and business impacts of its green initiatives. The company says in an announcement that it introduced measures in 2010 that it expects will save the company $6 million per year in costs, while also diverting 610 tonnes of waste from landfill and produce 7,800 tonnes fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Tyler Elm, VP of business sustainability with the company, says that going green is key to profitability. "In fact we see it as a business strategy  that has environmental benefits rather than as an environmental initiative," he says. "This is based on innovation, value creation and generating organizational enhancements. We want to integrate it into our business operations."

At the same time, the company has announced the results of its energy production efforts: between 2008 and 2010 Canadian Tire claims to have generated enough energy to reduce greenhouse emissions by 41 tonnes through geothermal and solar installations. The 389 initiatives that the company has undertaken under the program include aspects that touch on transportation, lighting, heating, cooling and waste reduction.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Tyler Elm, VP Business Sustainability, Canadian Tire

York region opens first of 11 stations on its Viva rapid transit bus network

York Region's so-far-successful bus network, Viva, launched the next innovative faze of its development with the opening of Warden Station in downtown Markham on March 6, the first of 11 stops on its planned 35.8 kilometer Bus Rapid Transit Network. Branded VivaNext, the network features buses running on dedicated, separated lanes that could at some future time be converted to light rail if York Region decides it would be advantageous.

The entire network is expected to cost $1.4 billion, and the construction process is expected to create more than 11,000 jobs. Viva's bus service has consistently featured innovation since the launch of its conventional bus service in 2004 -- it was launched as the province's first transportation public-private partnership and from the start featured GPS navigation and real-time scheduling information for riders as well as the province's Presto card fare system, features the larger Toronto Transit Commission is only now implementing.

The entire network is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dale Albers, York Region Rapid Transit Corporation

GE Canada will open $40 million sustainable energy innovation centre, hiring 146 over 4 years

GE Canada announced last week that it will open a new $40 million "Grid IQ Innovation Centre" in Markham. The 200,000-square-foot centre will be devoted to developing and manufacturing sustainable energy products to modernize the electrical grid. It will also contain a global testing and simulation lab.

This is the second major innovation centre in the GTA announced by GE this year. Just last month, we reported that the company would be opening a Digital Pathology Imaging research centre. As in that case, the new Grid IQ centre draws on provincial government investment -- the Government of Ontario will be contributing $7.9 million towards the project.

GE General Manager of Smart Substations Juan Marcias said the project would create approximately 146 new "innovation-related jobs" over the coming four years, and would also have an even greater indirect job creation effect through design and manufacturing, which are scheduled to begin within months. Marcias said that Markham's population of "highly skilled, educated and multi-lingual workforce" were a contributing factor to the planned location, which he expects to engage in significant global collaboration. The facility should be completed by July 2012.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Sarah Triantafillou, GE Canada

Oakville's Smart Energy Instruments attracts funding, prepares to launch smart grid measurement tech

Experts seem to agree that a "smart grid" is on the way -- a key to the sustainable energy picture in the future. But as it stands, an important mechanism for managing the smart grid, a reliable way to manage and monitor power flow, has been missing from the picture. At least one estimate puts the annual cost of "power quality events" resulting from this hole in the system cost $180 million per year in North America.

Enter Smart Energy Instruments (SEI) of Oakville, Ontario, formerly known as ANI Technologies Corp. Incorporated in 2004, SEI has developed a technology that measures power flows, allowing utilities and grid operators identify problems in the grid and better regulate the energy supply. According to CEO Jeff Dionne, who has been developing the technology for the past 15 years, the company's device facilitates the type of management that is "the very definition of the smart grid."

SEI began life with a $600,000 investment from its founders and has raised additional funds from two rounds of angel funding -- one $150,000 round in 2010, and an $850,000 round announced in early February. The three-person shop will use the funding to file patents on its proprietary technology and to run pilot products with its existing prototype, as well as hire some additional significant employees, Dionne says.

The company's business plan calls for deployment of the technology through licensing arrangements with large multinational partners in North America and Asia.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jeff Dionne, CEO, Smart Energy Instruments

Cleantech startup MMB Research looking to hire 6 new staff in next 6 months

Yorkville-based cleantech startup MMB Research recently closed a deal to secure $1 million in angel financing, which will be used to expand its sales and development staff to build its business in North America, Europe and Asia. According to MMB Director of Business Development Kevin Downing, the financing will mean adding six new technical and sales employees over the next six months.

The company, founded in January 2008, specializes in smart-grid products. It has developed a software and hardware platform called RapidSE that allows manufacturers of home appliances and electronics devices to communicate better in a smart-grid energy saving network. Downing says that the platform is already being used by "several multinational organizations" to build smart appliances and devices.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Kevin Downing, Director of Business Development, MMB Research

SunEdison gets the go-ahead for new solar plants in Mississauga, Whitby, will create 250+ jobs

Late last month, the Ontario government approved five new solar installations for SunEdison across the province that total 31 new megawatts of projects. Two of the projects are located in the GTA -- 500 kW rooftop projects in Mississauga and Whitby.

Jason Gray, SunEdison's Canadian manager, says the recent approvals increase the company's total solar production (either completed or in the pipeline) in Ontario by a little more than one-third. Since arriving in Toronto in 2007, the company has quickly taken advantage of the province's Feed-in-Tariff program to grow.

Gray says that since each installation employs roughly 125 people at its peak of construction, the two GTA projects will create 250 construction jobs locally. But he points out that the job benefits in the GTA are greater than that. "This really reinforces our relationships with suppliers that we've set up," he says, "and sustains the manufacturing jobs we've set up here." He points specifically to the arrangements SunEdison signed last year with auto parts manufacturer Samco to provide racking equipment (creating 60 jobs) and with Newmarket's Flextronics to supply the panels (creating 100 jobs).

Gray says, "this points to the continued success of the FIT program to create a solar industry here in Ontario, in that it reinforces the manufacturing investments we've made in the province."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jason Gray, Canada Country Manager, SunEdison

Enviro social game My Green City, innovation award winner, partners with MEIC to move to market

We reported last year after the inaugural Green Innovation Awards, co-sponsored by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Community Foundation, that Robert Kori Golding was the big winner -- his My Green City concept took home $25,000. His plan was to create a social game (similar to FaceBook giant Farmville) that encouraged people to take real-world steps to help the environment in order to earn points in the game.

A little less than a year later, his idea seems absolutely prescient, as "gamification" -- using games and game-design theories to encourage better behaviour and performance in the real world -- has become a hot subject, as demonstrated most emphatically last month with the publication of Jane McGonical's book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

During a recent check-in, Golding reports that he is progressing well towards creating the game -- he and his company Albedo Informatics have now partnered with OCAD University's Mobile Experience Innovation Centre to begin the serious development of the game for multiple platforms and devices.

In fact, last month the federal government announced a commercialization grant to OCAD to fund several projects, including My Green City. This is planned as the first of several projects for Albedo Interactive, which Golding says will be focused on creating games that are not designed simply to addict people and generate revenue, but to inform and connect people.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Robert Kori Golding, Albedo Informatics

Province's energy directive means 12,500 new wind industry jobs over next seven years, assoc. says

Last week, the provincial government issued a directive to the Ontario Power Authority regarding the mixture of generation sources the agency should be aiming for. The directive drew notice for its commitment to both nuclear power and its renewed commitment to sustainable energy.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association was among those who were quick to welcome the directive. By their math, the directive should mean roughly $12.5 billion in new investment in the province in wind energy over the next seven years, and will create 12,500 jobs in construction and operations of wind farms.

Association president Robert Hornung said in a statement that if the province follows up its renewed commitment by quickly granting contracts under the province's feed-in-tariff program, it will shore up investor confidence in the region's sustainable energy industry. There are currently 700 wind turbines in Ontario now. The Association estimates that a typical 100W wind farm creates 100 construction period jobs and 33 full-time permanent positions.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ulrike Kucera, CanWEA

Green Mantra Recycling turns waste plastic into sellable wax, wins cleantech award

At the recent CIX conference, Green Mantra Recycling Technologies was honoured as Canada's Hottest Innovative Company in the CleanTech sector. That's high praise, but to those who have long followed the recycling industry, it will appear completely justified.

Green Mantra has developed a proprietary technology that can recycle products such as plastic bags and bottles -- they've long been thorns in the side of recyclers because plastics are made of different compounds that cannot be recycled together -- and turns them into waxes and greases. The products are commercial quality and can be sold for uses such as industrial lubricants, car and floor waxes and candles. The process produces no greenhouse gases.

Founded by Indian-born Pushkar Kumar, the company is currently headquartered at MaRS. "I bring a unique international perspective to GreenMantra -- having grown in Indian business environment, I have an acumen to successfully run operations in cost effective manner," Kumar writes in his profile. A graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business, he says that, "Canada is my new home and I want to work towards improving the place."

The company's business model sees municipal recycling stores (through which less than 5% of plastics currently wind up recycled) as a resource for materials to supply a manufacturing business that sells wax on the market to manufacturers of consumer and industrial products.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Pushkar Kumar, Founder and CEO, Green Mantra Recycling Technologies

Innovative Composites Int. file three new patents, see 600% growth potential rebuilding Haiti

Toronto's Innovative Composites International was born in 2007 when some former Magna engineers struck out to find applications for a new type of thermoplastic material they had developed. The composite compound they developed, suitable for building things (shipping containers, houses) is lightweight, fireproof, hurricane-proof. As company spokesperson Clive Hobson says, the composite can be used to build "virtually anything" and is "virtually indestructible."

Now up to 22 staff members at the Front Street office and the Michigan manufacturing facility, the company brought its product out to market last year. Since then, it's started to see tremendous growth -- their materials have been used to construct a 125-foot pedestrian bridge in Chicago, and they just signed another contract for storage containers last month. All the while they've continued to innovate with their product line, as evidenced by their late-January announcement of three new patent applications.

But Hobson says the potential for growth an order of magnitude larger is on the horizon: the company is on the list of six finalists for contracts to rebuild the shattered country of Haiti in cooperation with the Clinton Foundation. While Hobson says there are a lot of "ifs and buts" remaining in the tendering process there, but the firm is optimistic that they and their partners may soon be constructing 5,000 or more homes using ICI's materials. "I'm trying not to use hyperbole, but that would be represent a 'home run' in terms of growth in revenue." Hobson says ICI would need to construct a new manufacturing facility to accommodate such an order -- and hire approximately 100 more staff (representing a sixfold increase in employees). A decision on the Haiti rebuilding contract is expected within the next 60-90 days.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Clive Hobson, Innovative Composites  International Inc.

237 solar panels from GEMCO deliver hot water sustainability to the city

Solar panels installed by GEMCO (Glennbarra Energy Management Company) at three city-run agencies will provide hot water through solar power. The zero emissions water heating is expected to meet almost half the hot water needs of the Toronto Zoo, Birchmount Community Centre and True Davidson Acres. The truly inspired touch is that the installations and the water will cost the city no more than regular hot water usage would have, thanks to an innovative financing arrangement through the Toronto Atmospheric Fund.

"The innovation we provide is a utility-style service -- we install and maintain the solar system and the city facilities get hot water at the same price as fossil-fuel heated water, without up-front capital costs, operations and maintenance responsibilities or pollution," Darren Cooper, President and CEO of GEMCO, said in a statement.

The 237 solar panels that will provide the power were financed through the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, who expect to get a competitive return on their investment. The city agencies have contracted to pay rates equivalent to what they would pay a carbon-based utility for their water usage for the next 20 years. Glennbarra expects to see a profit as a result of that contract. Everyone wins.

Tim Stoate of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund says that this type of financing arrangement represents a new model for clean energy companies and users that offers both financial return and environmental benefits.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Tim Stoate, Toronto Atmospheric Fund; Darren Cooper, GEMCO

Mississauga's Hydrogenics leads alternative fuelling world, gets Turkish fuel station contract

Recently Jon Dogterom, the resident cleantech expert at MaRS, wrote a blog post about the consistent superiority of hydrogen fuel cells as a sustainable energy source, and noted that "Canada has long been regarded as the worldwide leader in hydrogen technology -- a position we will need to maintain as the rest of the world starts to recognize hydrogen as a superior energy carrier." Dogterom singled out Mississauga's Hydrogenics as a likely key company in helping us maintain that position.

The GTA company is a world leader in the hydrogen fuel industry -- they've been at it for over 50 years -- with offices in five countries. In mid-January Hydrogenics announced that they had landed the contract for a hydrogen fuelling station in Instanbul, Turkey, the first in that country. Hydrogenics has landed five such contracts in the past year, and Hydrogenics President and CEO Daryl Wilson says that the number -- such stations are competitive in price with traditional gas stations at $500,000 to $2 million each, plus architecture and construction -- will likely continue to grow. "There's a hype cycle for new technologies," he says, when they become trendy in the press. Wilson notes that when that cycle arrived for hydrogen fuel in the 1990s, the industry was not yet developed enough to deliver on its promise. "Now we've reached the point where the cost side and the performance add up to commercial application that are viable. That's taken the past 10 years." Unlike conventional stations, of course, hydrogen stations, once built, manufacture the hydrogen on the premises from water and electricity.

Wilson points to a European transportation study announced in November 2010 that concluded hydrogen fuel cell technology was a key part of the continent's car production future -- and significantly, predicted that the cost of hydrogen fuel would be equivalent to gasoline and electricity by 2025. Wilson says the industry has already seen the infrastructure being set up for a hydrogen fuelling network in some locations -- Germany plans to construct 1,000 such stations across the country, of which Hydrogenics have built both of the two so far completed, while Hydrogenics has built eight refuelling stations in the Los Angeles area. Of the 220 hydrogen fuel stations in the world, Hydrogenics has build or is building 40 of them.

"This highlights the strength of Hydrogenics," Wilson says, "and the respect we have when it comes to hydrogen generation technology and hydrogen fuelling stations."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Jon Dogterom, MaRS; Daryl Wilson, Hydrogenics

$21.4 million green reno project at Toronto Community Housing will create jobs for residents

Roughly 6 per cent of Toronto's population lives in buildings owned by Toronto Community Housing -- that's 164,000 people with low and moderate incomes, making it Canada's largest social housing provider and the GTA's biggest landlord. So when TCH embarks on a large-scale renovation project, it provides an opportunity not just to make the quality of its tenants' lives better, but to make a difference in the jobs and training atmosphere for low-income people across Toronto. That latter mission is a component of a forthcoming announcement from TCH.

According to information provided by TCH communications representative Keesha Abraham, an initiative soon to be announced will see the city invest $21.6 million in renovating and retrofitting 49 social housing buildings across the city. The work will be aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the buildings, in some cases through the installation of solar panels that will generate revenue for TCH.

Abraham notes that a community economic development component of that project will include guaranteeing jobs and training opportunities for tenants of TCH buildings. Since the installation of solar panels and energy efficient retrofits is one of the fastest-growing employment markets in Ontario since the introduction of the province's Feed-in-Tariff program, the jobs and training provided through this project provide the potential for real employment stability for the residents who participate.

Work is scheduled to begin this year, and will continue through 2012, according to Abraham.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Keesha Abraham, Communications Consultant, Toronto Community Housing
189 sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All
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