Getting Our Act Together
The province’s proposed Green Energy Act will spearhead Ontarians into a greener future, and pave the way for renewable energy sources.
It’s an exciting time to be alive. Every once in a while throughout history, a major revolution takes place. It happened at the turn of the 18th century when industry sprung into action using chemicals, gas and steam power. We recently witnessed another one, as the dawn of technology came to pass, unleashing a newly digital and computerized world. Now one more major transformation is being born. Countries all over the globe are going green by looking at new eco-friendly technologies and ways to preserve Mother Earth – something we might see sooner than later in Ontario.
The Green Energy Act is the McGuinty government’s solution to an ecological and financial mess, caused by years of pollution and a current economic downturn. If passed later this June, the legislation will create over 50,000 green jobs, establish province-wide renewable energy sources, and reduce overall power consumption for Ontarians. The initiative is expected to change the way we live and breathe, and surround our landscapes with sprouting green technologies as coal-fired power is eventually phased out.
Solar panelling, for starters, will become an increasingly familiar sight. “You’re going to see them blending into homes so that you don’t even notice,” says CEO Vern Sherwood of Excess Energy, a company that specializes in making houses energy-self-sufficient. “There are a variety of solar arrays that match your shingles or blend into your landscape. They’re actually quite attractive and aesthetically pleasing.” Sherwood, who has experience outfitting northern cottages and Toronto homes, points out the environmental benefits. “The average homeowner can, in good conscience, be less of a strain on the system. You don’t have to worry about turning down your air conditioning because you’re making your own energy and you’re not polluting.”
Another useful source of renewable energy is finding its way into the construction of new buildings. As one of the world’s most under used natural power sources, geothermal energy is becoming increasingly popular. “We’ll pump a median down into the ground in a pipe typically, at 45 degrees and it’ll come back up at 50 degrees,” says John Lobb, vice president of GeoLogic Heating. “In a nutshell, it’s using Earth’s low-differential temperature to gather heat from the ground.” His company is currently working on two major projects in Ottawa that will operate using the technology. “You can either generate more electricity or use less. This is approximately 50 percent cheaper than natural gas, and is more affordable than any other conventional heating and air conditioning system,” Lobb admits.
Of course, one of the most popular technologies spawned centuries ago. Wind turbines effectively convert mechanical energy into electricity, and can be seen anywhere from farms and coastlines, to the middle of open seas. The Green Energy Act will expedite the growth and construction of wind turbines, which has caused somewhat of a stir from NIMBY (Not in my Backyard) activists, who argue about noise and size. Other objections are based on possible side-effects cause by infrasound – sound that isn’t picked up by human hearing. But according to Brian Howe of HGC Engineering, a consulting firm specializing in environmental and industrial noise control, “There’s no evidence that wind turbines are creating infrasound.” Howe’s research is based on extensive measurements taken at a number of the province’s wind farms. “And the Ontario Ministry of Energy has increased the criteria for wind turbines, along with their setback distances,” he says.
Overall, there are a series of gains when it comes to the Green Energy Act. According to Kristopher Stevens, executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, “The Green Energy Act hopes to create a network that heals itself, using a number of small generators as opposed to a big generator, that might cause problems if it goes down.” Also known as a Smart Grid, the concept will set the stage for green technologies like the plug-in electric car. This spring marks the release of a government study on how to advance its introduction, through a partnership with Silicon Valley’s Better Place. The California company will look at building a network of charging posts and battery swapping stations throughout the province, providing a standardized automotive infrastructure for electric vehicles.
In the grand scheme of things, the Green Energy Act looks like a promising idea that will offer a better, cleaner tomorrow. It seems humanity is once again stepping through a portal of historical change, which will alter the very thread of our daily lives. And it all comes not a moment too soon. Amidst an environment that screams for cleansing and rejuvenation, it’s about time we invest our every effort in going green and getting our act together.