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Green Energy Futures Top Five Stories of 2013

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We spent 2013 crisscrossing the country finding inspiring stories of Canadians engaged with green energy solutions in their homes, businesses and communities: we met everyone from Kent Rathwell, the inspiring owner of Sun Country Highway in Saskatoon, to farmer James Callaghan in Lindsay, Ontario.


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"Kent Rathwell with his Tesla electric car."
(Photo David Dodge)

Best of all the audience for renewable energy and energy efficiency stories is larger and more engaged than ever before. Here is a list of our favourite green energy stories from 2013.

1. Biggest viral story of the year: Episode 47 - Rocket Stoves

The video has more than 80,000 views, is our most popular video by a long shot and was originally a story we almost didn't do. The green energy angle wasn't immediately apparent to me but after a bit of convincing from editor Duncan Kinney we went down to Calgary and shot the episode. It turns out the do-it-yourself set is really interested in these clean-burning, super-efficient stoves.

It's the fascinating story of Rob Avis of Verge Permaculture and Ashley Lubyk of Dirt Craft Natural Building actually building a rocket mass heater. Not only were they interesting, engaging interviews, but they built a very cool half-done mock-up of a rocket stove to help us understand how it works.

2. Favourite story of the year: Episode 52 - Sun Country Highway

Kent Rathwell was, hands down, the best, most inspiring interview I did all year. The co-founder of Sun Country Highway is an audacious serial entrepreneur with big plans and a lot of charisma.

Sun Country Highway built a 10,000 km cross-Canada network of electric charging stations, the world's longest green highway. To prove that you could drive cross-country in an electric vehicle Rathwell did it in a Tesla Roadster, getting a boatload of press for his new company along the way.

But this isn't Rathwell's first rodeo; we also learned about his bird seed company Sun Country Farms and his efforts to create a zero-carbon value chain. It was the feel-good story of the year.

3. Poopiest story of the year: Episode 31 - Biogas: Closing the loop on cow poop

While our story on recovered waste heat from a sewer in Vancouver came a close second, our story on biogas in Ontario won the prize for poopiest story of the year.

Walking around James Callaghan's dairy farm near Lindsay, Ontario, was inspiring. The manure from his herd of 250 milk cows is collected and put into an anaerobic digester. After that fats, grease and even old donuts are added to the mix. No it's not the grossest Tim Horton's ever, it's a biogas operation and the methane that's generated from this process is collected and burned to produce electricity and heat.

Biogas is far more successful in Ontario than other parts of Canada due to their feed-in tariff. Worldwide, there are more than 10,000 biogas operations producing more than 5.000 megawatts of energy.

4. Co-op story of the year : Episode 36 - Micro-brewed biodiesel

We just keep running into co-operatives in the course of producing Green Energy Futures.
One of the coolest is the Cowichan Biodiesel Cooperative based in the city of Duncan on Vancouver Island. This plucky little group has gone from selling biodiesel in small containers at farmers' markets to selling 200,000 litres a year.

A lot of the vegetable oil that makes up the biodiesel comes from the cruise ships that dock in Victoria. And in a nice loop-closing relationship, a major tour bus company that takes cruise ship tourists around Victoria powers its buses with Cowichan Biodiesel Cooperative product.

5. Most robotic story of the year: Episode 37 - Landmark Homes: Home of the house building robots

Not only are Landmark homes built indoors with the help of robots but each home comes with energy efficiency as a standard feature. The company churns out more than 800 precisely crafted homes from its house factory each year, a giant indoor facility where homes are assembled in pieces and shipped out to a site to be assembled like Lego.

It was amazing walking through their facility and seeing the workers and their machines working together in a climate-controlled environment that produces almost no waste.

Landmark makes its homes energy efficient as a matter of course. Each house features R-24 walls, a 96 per cent efficient furnace, on demand water heaters, triple-paned windows and air and hot water heat recovery systems.

And Landmask has big dreams; its planning to make all of its homes net-zero by 2015.

Thanks for reading and have a very happy new year. Share your favourite green energy story of 2013 in the comments.

Green Energy Futures: The top 10 stories of 2013
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