Solar: a great long-term investment

solarAs oil prices go down, so do solar energy stocks.

Oil prices have fallen by about 40% since mid-June, while solar stocks have fallen about 20% in that time.

This is not new, solar stock prices have reacted to rising or falling oil prices in the past. Investors fear cheap oil will bring down demand for alternative energy.

Fears unfounded

But in reality, those fears are completely unfounded. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Solar energy and energy from oil are used in very different ways: Oil is used mainly for transportation fuels, while solar power gives us electricity to power, for example, our machines and electronic devices, and to provide lighting in our homes and businesses.
  2. As the costs of solar energy production go down, it becomes a better choice as an alternative to other types of electricity generation– which means better returns on investment (ROI) in the long term.
  3. Public utilities and big businesses are increasingly turning to solar to feed our massive need for electricity. The agreements that they sign with solar providers often span decades and are therefore unaffected by oil price changes.
  4. As an economic and jobs driver, the clean energy sector – which encompasses hydro power, as well as wind, solar and biomass – is a much better long term bet. In that sector, employment is up 37 per cent to 23,700 people over 5 years in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec. That compares with 22,340 employed in the oilsands. (Solar ‘farms’ are even being planned in oil rich Alberta, where sunlight is intense and plentiful.) Wind, solar, run-of-river, and biomass energy has grown by 93 per cent since 2009.

The bottom line for investors? Solar is here to stay and the future for solar ROI keeps getting brighter (so to speak).

Premier Wynne ends electricity separatism

Quebec-Ontario alliance underscores lack of leadership in Ottawa…

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, left, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne sign a memorandum of agreement, one of four inked after a daylong Ontario-Quebec joint cabinet meeting.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, left, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne sign a memorandum of agreement, one of four inked after a daylong Ontario-Quebec joint cabinet meeting.

Last Friday Premier Wynne signed a breakthrough agreement with the Premier of Quebec that will end Ontario’s 100-year old policy of electricity separatism.

Starting next year Ontario will provide Quebec with 500 megawatts of electricity supply in the winter when Quebec power demand peaks, while Quebec will provide Ontario with the same in the summer when air conditioning drives up our electricity usage.

Even more importantly, the two provinces have agreed to investigate the potential for a long-term electricity supply contract, which would allow Ontario to import water power from Quebec instead of re-building some or all of its aging nuclear reactors.  Water power imports from Quebec could save Ontario consumers $14 billion over 20 years by allowing Ontario to phase-out Darlington’s aging reactors.

With notes from Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Batteries (and other energy storage) – the next big challenge

We are in a period of transition with renewables. With prices coming down and research ramping up, it feels like are starting to turn a corner.

We need a flexible grid

One of the biggest puzzles is how to store electricity, as we shift to using more and more renewable energy sources. The electricity grid needs to be able to be more flexible to the fluctuations in supply of wind, solar, etc.

image courtesy of the Independent Electricity System Operator.
image courtesy of the Independent Electricity System Operator.

Larger institutions are starting to seriously look for answers to that question. In the US, there are are investigations in a number of areas, including the Long Island Power Authority, The Hawaii Electric Company and the California Public Utilities Commission:

Ontario is also working setting out on this quest. The province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) recently chose five companies to work on demonstration projects designed to capture and release energy.

The technologies that will be tested include advanced batteries, systems that store power in the form of hydrogen, and even flywheels that hold energy as kinetic energy in a spinning rotor.
The test projects will be distributed at various locations around the province, and will be connected to different parts of the grid to see how effectively they can help balance supply, demand and other transmission issues.

Dimplex helps out

One of the companies chosen is one that we work with here at SNDI…

Dimplex North America Ltd. will install thermal systems in apartments in Hamilton, Ont., that store electricity as heat in special bricks, releasing it later when the building needs to be warmed.

For more information on this fascinating subject, here are some resources:

Clean Technica

The Globe and Mail, and

Ihe IESO website

Wind Turbines: A look at who builds the blades

wind-turbineClean Energy Review recently published a great photo essay by Joan Sullivan looking at how wind turbine blades are built. Here’s an exerpt:

Birth of a Blade

PowerBlades opened last year in Welland, Ont, to support the growth in renewable energy in Ontario spurred in turn by the province’s Green Energy Act. As of October, the company will have fabricated 78 fiberglass blades, each 45 meters long and up to three meters wide, for dozens of 2.05 MW Senvion turbines. Each turbine generates energy to light up about 1,000 homes.

Inside PowerBlades, overhead cranes move girders and blades from one part of the building to the next. Here, 136 production workers, machine operators, and office staff work on various stages of blade production, including lay-up, lamination, curing, sanding, painting, inspection, repair, finishing, loading, and transport.

Blades begin their lives in the plant’s Main Shell Area, where workers lay sheets of fiberglass mat and resin into a pair of side-by-side proprietary molds each about 50 meters long and four meters wide. Each blade is built up in two halves, split down the long axis like a pea pod….

Visit their website for more photos and info.