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.
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.
#1 Best of 2013: Rocket Stove – Ashley Lubyk with a very efficient rocket stove built out of recycled cans that was developed to make much better use of fuels and to help prevent illnesses in the third world. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#2 Best of 2013: Sun Country Highway – Kent Rathwell, CEO of Sun Country Highway makes a level 2 electric car charger that is more technologically advanced that the cars they charge. Rathwell created the world’s longest green highway of electric vehicle chargers. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#3 Best of 2013: Biogas – James Callaghan outside of the biogas digester that is 20 metres in diameter and produces methane from manure and waste fats, oils and greases. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#4 Best of 2013: Biodiesel – Brian Roberts, president of the Cowichan Biodiesel Co-op stands outside of their facility in Duncan B.C. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#5 Best of 2013: Netzero homes – Reza Nasseri CEO of Landmark Homes in their manufacturing plant in Edmonton, Alberta. Nasseri says all new Landmark homes will be net zero by 2015. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#6 Best of 2013: Solar T’Souke – T'Sou-ke Chief Gordon Planes amongst a sea of solar modules on the canoe shed on Vancouver Island. For Planes using solar energy is like returning to his roots: “Our people were dependent on the elements that the creator gave us, and that is the wind, the sun, the tides.” Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#7 Best of 2013: Nanaimo Energy from Waste – Slip sliding away. The gooey mushy, compost waste is collected and made into high quality compost for sale. Nanaimo also makes energy from landfill gas and have even installed a digester to produce biogas at their sewage treatment facility. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#8 Best of 2013: Car Sharing – John Wycoco Location Manager of Car2Go in Calgary, Alberta demonstrates how easy it is to find a car, swipe his member card to start a car rental. Carsharing appears to be catching on in several Canadian cities. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#9 Best of 2013: MaRS Cleantech Fund – Tom Rand is an entrepreneur and cleantech buff. He's a senior advisor with the MaRS Clean Tech Practice and a managing partner of the MaRS Cleantech Fund in Toronto, Ontario. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
#10 Best of 2013: Morgan Solar – John Paul Morgan is determined to make a cheaper, more efficient solar module. The idea has already attracted $40 million in investment to Morgan Solar. Their goal is to commercialize a solar tracking concentrated solar system that is twice as a efficient and half of the cost of conventional solar PV. Photo David Dodge, Green Energy Futures
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