Posts Tagged ‘renewable energy’

Trump, climate and us: A letter to those who won’t give up

November 16th, 2016

I am a volunteer with the Climate Reality Project – an organization dedicated to educating the world about climate change and the science behind it. Its goal is to dispel the myth that it doesn’t exist, or, according to Donald Trump, a hoax invented by China. Like many who work in some way or another trying to get greenhouse gasses under control, I have been thinking a lot about the consequences of the recent US election and what it will mean for the progress we’ve made, especially over the last year.

On November 9th, Karel Mayrand, the President of the Board of Directors of the Canadian chapter of Climate Reality Project, wrote some encouraging news. Below, with permission from the Climate Reality team, I am sharing his blog post. Thank you, Karel, for sharing your thoughts.

Trump, climate and us: A letter to those who won’t give up

Like me, you likely woke up before sunrise this morning, opening your eyes in the dark to confirmation that the nightmare is real.

Like you, last night I felt sick to my stomach. I felt a strong sense of anxiety for my sleeping children, who also went to bed anxious. What future will we be leaving them?

I’m writing to you today because I need you to know that this new obstacle will not stop us. I need you to hear the truth — that we are millions, that we will not abandon our values of justice and inclusion, or ever stop working to protect all life on Earth. » Read more: Trump, climate and us: A letter to those who won’t give up

CoPower – providing green investing options for the consumer

April 29th, 2016

Green Bonds are bonds that are designated as having some sort of environmental bent to them. The world of green bonds is still young, so there is not a lot of regulation around them yet. I have wanted to invest in green bonds for awhile, but until now they have not been available to the consumer. Enter CoPower.

CoPower was formed in 2013 when the founders identified a particular hole in the green investing and technology market. They have developed a market for people who want to invest their money in clean-tech while providing businesses who do clean tech with capital. But they are not looking at start-ups and risky investing. CoPower is providing money for a variety of businesses that install renewable energy projects and energy efficiency projects such as improving a building’s insulation and replacing lighting with LEDs. They only invest in projects using experienced designers-installers who use proven technologies.

» Read more: CoPower – providing green investing options for the consumer

Pellergy, Service and Pellet Maker all together at the Vermont Home and Garden Show

April 21st, 2016

On one of the nicest days so far this year my husband and I took a field trip to Burlington, Vermont to check out all the green exhibits at the Vermont Home and Garden Show.

The first exhibit I saw was a “tri-exhibit” of Pellergy, Vermont Renewable Fuels and Green Mountain Wood Pellets . These three companies work together to provide homeowners with a no-fuss wood pellet boiler system. I know very little about wood pellet boilers, so I imagined that every few hours you have to go down to the deep dark recesses of your home, grab a few scoopfuls of pellets and feed it to a big scary oven. I believed that having a pellet furnace would be both inconvenient and tie you down — you could never leave your house for longer than a few hours without the place freezing up. But that image is totally wrong and misguided; these boilers are like modern gas or oil boilers only with a much lower carbon footprint. They heat the water just as effectively as oil and gas, while the wood pellets are delivered to your house, directly to your storage container through a vacuum hose that looks not unlike an oil hose.


Pellergy Alpha Boiler

Pellergy Alpha Boiler

Pellergy Alpha Self-Cleaning Boiler is made in Austria and uses wood pellets to produce enough heat to boil the water that goes through your radiant flooring system or radiator system. The difference between this system and an oil or gas boiler is only the fuel source. The ignition system that is used monitors demand and temperature and adjusts accordingly. Pellets are fed through a vacuum transfer system to the heating chamber when needed. I asked the exhibitor about the insurance issues — what do home insurers think about a fuel system made from wood? He said that insurers don’t have a problem with it because oil and gas are significantly more explosive than the wood pellets. And in terms of spillage, he said, “If you have a pellet spill, you use a broom to sweep it up.” Quite a bit different from an oil spill!


Pellergy boilers keep track of how many tons of wood are burned and when it reaches a certain amount, it connected wirelessly to the pellet delivery service, which will then schedule a delivery of more pellets. While the delivery truck looks just like an oil tanker, it’s filled with wood pellets. A vacuum system feeds the pellets into the home’s storage tank.

Pellergy Boiler Cutaway

Pellergy Boiler Cutaway

Pellets are fed automatically to the boiler, so you never have to worry about feeding the system — unless of course there’s a power outage. There is a manual system available, but the company has never installed one.

What I really liked about this system was the vertical integration. Last year Vermont Renewable Fuels bought its own mill which uses local Vermont white pine — essentially a weed tree that needs to be cleared out of the forest anyway. Foresters now have a market for this tree. Another benefit is that the mix of the white pine fibers with its sap produces a “premium quality” pellet that burns at the optimal temperature for longer and cleaner than a “high quality” pellet producing less ash than other pellets. One of the issues with pellet furnaces is the amount of ash that can build up after burning. The Pellergy units are self-cleaning. Using it together with the low-ash producing wood pellets will also mean less maintenance.


The cost of the system ranges from US$9,999 (A-60 Manual Feed) to US$11699 (AV-100) Vacuum feed plus tax and installation.  There are additional costs for the storage container as well. Rebates and incentives for wood pellet systems will vary depending on where in New England you live. You can check with a Pellergy installer or look on the DSIRE website.  (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency)


Vermont Renewable Fuels delivery truck

Vermont Renewable Fuels delivery truck

 Fuel rates: there is a good cost comparison to oil on Pellergy’s website, but basically, the cost of a ton of pellets ranges between US$240-290/ton. Based on the amount used through a winter equates to $2.14 per gallon of oil.

Carbon neutrality: using wood as fuel is considered carbon neutral as it is considered the same as if it had decayed naturally in the forest at end-of-life. Carbon is stored in wood until it is released upon burning or natural decay.


Other good resources for information on financial help for renewable energy systems in Vermont are:

The Renewable Energy Resource Center and,

Efficiency Vermont.

Tips for Choosing the Right Solar PV Panels and Installers

October 13th, 2011

Ever since the microFIT program was introduced in Ontario I’ve noticed that every time I go to a home show there are more and more solar panel installers. Five years ago I used to joke that home shows were all about appliances and hot tubs. I suppose that now I can add solar panels and installers to the mix. If you’re not familiar with the microFIT program, I’ve written about it before. In short, the Ontario government will pay you $0.80.2/kWh generated, for up to 20 years.

With all these new solar installer businesses popping up, I had to wonder, How do you go about looking for a reputable solar panel installer? And what about the solar panels themselves? How do you know what the right one is? There are several different manufacturers of solar panels, so how do you choose?

I contacted Aaron Goldwater of Goldwater Solar and asked him a few questions about solar panels. He’s been in the solar water business for many years and has installed thousands of kilowatts of photovoltaic panels.

  1. What are some of the qualities that separate a reputable solar panel installer from an organization that opened up shop just to take advantage of the microFIT program? Are there any certifications available?

Currently, there are is a certification that some installers may have from NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners), however it is a more common certification in the U.S.  There are courses offered by CanSIA (Canadian Solar Industry Association) but no official accreditation offered through them.   One way to determine if the company has been in business for a while would be to check how long they have been a member of CanSIA.  Asking for references is always recommended and if you can get a referral from someone that goes a long way.  In order for any company to comply with all the rules, the connection has to be done by a certified electrician.  However, an electrician doesn’t always choose the equipment used.  I would recommend doing some background research into the equipment (panels/inverters/racking) before making a decision as there are a lot of companies out there offering panels that have only been in the business a short while.  Even though they offer a 25 year warranty on performance, they may not be around once the industry matures.

  1. Have you ever heard of any bad installations where roofs have leaked afterwards (where they affix the panel hardware to the roof?)

I have not heard of leaks caused by solar installations.   Generally the manufacturers of the racking systems have a careful method for attachment to roofs that include a flashing that is more than adequate for protecting the roof.  A solar installation can actually protect the roof and extend the shingle longevity since it is usually the heat and UV exposure which causes them to degrade with time.  The panels block the UV and lower the temperature of the roof because they are taking the sun’s energy and converting it to electricity.  A recent study in California also showed that Solar PV can reduce a building’s cooling load by as much as 38%.

  1. What are some of the main factors that make up a good quality solar panel? How much electricity should a standard-sized individual solar panel be generating?

Panels range in size up to as high as 300W each.  These days, typically installers are using panels that are between 220 – 250W.  Panels are usually rated by efficiency and the average panel is around 14 to 15% efficient. Checking the warranty of a panel is a good idea.  Most offer a workmanship warranty of 5 years (although some now offer 10 years) and a power output of 80% of their original value at year 25.

  1. Is there any way to check and see if your house is situated for maximum solar panel electricity generation? Does Google Earth have that ability?

Google Earth is a great tool for seeing if you have an ideally orientated roof for solar PV.  A lot of installers use it as an initial assessment tool to determine if a site is suitable.  Due south is ideal, but east and west can work too with about 80% overall production of a south facing roof.  A typical panel is about 3’x5′ so you can even use google earth to determine how many panels you can fit on the roof with the measuring tool.  At Goldwater Solar we use Google earth to assess orientation, potential shading, system sizing, and then we use PVWatts (an easy to use online PV calculator) to estimate production.  We then send a proposal to the customer so they can evaluate if its worth it for them to pursue it any further.  We then submit an application to the Ontario Power Authority on their behalf to begin the process (free of charge).

  1. How can you figure out how much wattage your roof can generate? Does it depend on the solar panel you choose? (Are some more powerful than others?)

I would go with the 3’x5′ (3’4″ x 5’4″ to be more exact) measurement per panel and assume 240W per panel.  Again, you can do this with google earth.

  1. Is maintenance an issue? Do you need to be able to clean the solar panels every so often?
Cleaning the panels will definitely help with production.  Panels can develop a film (dirt, debris, leaves, etc) on them that can lower performance.  I would suggest if you have trees overhanging the roof (assuming they aren’t shading the panels!!), removing any leaves that fall on the panels in the fall if possible.  Using glass cleaner in the spring can also ensure you maximize the performance in the peak summer months.
  1. Which is a better method of generating power when using more than one panel, in series or parallel?

Performance of the array and whether you string panels in series or parallel will depend on the inverter (what converts the panel’s DC electricity to AC electricity).  Their ability to convert DC to AC is what will determine how the array performs.  Whether it is parallel or series doesn’t matter though from a panel standpoint since when you string them together in parallel you add the amperage and when they are in series you add the voltage.  The power output is voltage x amperage so the total output (watts) would be the same regardless.

  1. Regarding the microFIT program: do you know if there is a long wait to get hooked up to the grid once you’ve received the approval from the ministry?

The process can take a while.  In our experience, the OPA application approval can take anywhere from 1 month to 3 months to get approval.  Once you receive approval (and actually they now request that you do this first now) you need to apply to connect to your Local Distribution Company (LDC), a fancy acronym for hydro company.  This application approval review can take anywhere from 1 week to 2 months depending which behemoth you are dealing with.  Once you have this approval the solar company can begin their installation and the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) then comes to inspect that the system was installed according to code.  The ESA then notifies the LDC and the LDC then installs the meter base (usually 1 to 2 weeks before they get in to do it).  Then the LDC then informs the OPA that the project has been done (around 1 week).  Finally the OPA then will send you a notice telling you that they will be issuing you the final contract soon.  Then in about a week to 10 days the OPA issues you the final contract which the customer has to approve online.  So you can see with all the different parties involved, it can literally take as long as 6 months to get a project finalized!

Thanks for the tips Aaron!

Goldwater Solar Services Goldwater Solar Services North
231 Fort York Blvd, Suite 716
Toronto, ON M5V 1B2
CanadaPhone and fax: +1-416-400-4747
38 Algonquin Cres.
Aurora, ON L4G 3M5
CanadaPhone and fax: +1-647-520-4942

For more information, visit Goldwater Solar’s website.

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