Solar Matters: Moving forward

  • May. 11, 2017 12:30 a.m.

“Costa Rica ran 250 days in 2016 entirely on renewables,” down from 2015 when 98.8 per cent of their electricity was from non-carbon sources. Most of their power is produced by hydro-power plants, geothermal, some wind, solar and biomass. Costa Rica’s population is 4.9 million and their main industries are tourism and agriculture. The only hydrocarbon they use is for heating and transportation.

Renewables are a logical choice for the small country that has little hydrocarbon reserves. They produced 300 barrels of oil in 2015 and in 2007 they announced their decision to become carbon neutral by 2021. What is interesting is that this relatively poor country, that faces twelve hours of darkness daily, has been able to achieve what the 117 countries of the world with no oil reserves, aspire too.

The world is changing. Oil, the current lifeblood of industry, manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals, is becoming less of a necessity and more of a pariah. Alberta and its current petroleum fixation, which provides a good living for most of it inhabitants most of the time, would do well to have a close look at its place in the worlds market.

Our saving grace is our entrepreneurship and our ability to innovate. Government, by definition, is a massive elephant in a Serengeti mud hole. There is a lot of trumpeting, mudslinging and hullabaloo, but little distance is gained. Relying on government for the advancement of business ideas pertaining to the mandate of reducing carbon output, requires an enormous undertaking, a seriously major effort in patience and persistence. Unanswered phone calls, text, voice and email messages, are the norms in a giant bureaucracy.

Historically, entrepreneurship has taken the leading role in development of any new technologies. Small business does not depend on government assistance in most instances as it tends to shackle the mobility of the innovative. Generally small business either sinks or swims on its own merit, and when it sets a speed record in the pool, governments shows up to usurp some of the credit.

Albertans have the distinction of having the second highest rate in Canada of small business start-ups, second only to Saskatchewan. It is this get it done attitude that lend hope for the province in finding innovate techniques for using existing infrastructure to generate energy. Well-sites no longer productive should be allowed a new lease on life by exploiting the connections to major electrical and energy exporting utilities.

Geothermal electrical generation potential is being investigated in the province by a company called Borealis GeoPower. Air mining company Carbon Engineering is looking at processing CO2 from the atmosphere. Hydrostor is a Canadian company pursuing compressed air storage technology. Oil and gas formations are becoming unproductive, dry “reservoirs” could be utilized for this pioneering, alternative energy storage business, by using existing oilfield facilities which are already in place.

The technological will is there; government should get out of the way, assist by reducing red tape, provide tax incentives for the repurposing of defunct energy infrastructure and facilitate growth.

Find Lorne Oja at lorne@solartechnical.ca

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