The race to build net-zero homes across Canada is on. Natural Resources Canada has a program that's helping five builders build five net-zero homes each to support a rapid evolution to affordable net-zero homes. And the prize is one everyone can appreciate: a home that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. A net-zero home is not a passive consumer in the energy system -- it is a clean and green participant.
You can almost set your watch to it: Every time a new and disruptive technology begins to take hold, the backlash follows. So it is with "The Darker Side of Solar Power" -- an article that appeared last week in The Globe and Mail. Nobody ever called solar perfect. But when we look at how the technology stacks up against its fossil and nuclear peers, there's simply no contest. Solar remains a safe, reliable, scalable, and increasingly affordable solution to our energy challenges. That might not make for a provocative headline, but it is the truth.
The gap from net-zero house to net-zero commercial building has now been bridged. This 30,000 square foot building cost $10.5 million dollars. It's three months ahead of schedule and five per cent under budget. It's bright and roomy with beautiful exposed wood beams, feature stairs and a three storey living wall in the foyer.
Banff is famous for its beautiful mountain views, its diversity of wildlife and its many, many tourists. Canada's most popular national park gets more than three million visitors a year. Located within the national park, the town of Banff has branded itself as an environmental role model both for its eco-conscious citizens and its visitors.
We have done stories on the rise of solar before but these were based on growth in installations in Germany, Bloomberg predictions and the amazing reductions in the pricing of solar. This is something else entirely -- the cold, hard, impersonal hand of the market is now making the case for the rise of solar.
While some might turn their noses up at the current economics of solar thermal hot water systems less developed countries without our huge natural gas grid are jumping all over the opportunity. China has by far the most installed capacity with 117,600 megawatts of domestic solar thermal hot water systems as of 2010.
It's one thing for SolarShare to get $3 million worth of solar projects going in Ontario under that provinces feed-in tariff program but it's quite another thing altogether to start a community solar program in small town Alberta with no government support. And yet that's exactly where some pretty amazing green energy innovation is occurring.
The Ancient Pueblo peoples got free heating and cooling at the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings in what's now Colorado and they did it without electricity, insulation, natural gas, air conditioning or modern building techniques. Contrast that with modern homes built in Edmonton, Vancouver or Toronto today.
China's aggressive push to "green" its economy and become the world leader in renewable energy is admired by many commentators in the West. Those admirers need to look again; after years of over-development in the face of decreasing demand, China's renewable energy market is on life support, barely kept alive by government subsidies.
Soon, it won't make sense to not have solar on your house, on your office or on any spare building that faces South. It's simple math. The cost of electricity is going up while the cost of solar is going down. Way down. Thirty-five years ago a watt of solar photovoltaic power cost $75. Now it costs $0.75.
With the right technology, solar energy can be stored during the middle of the day and shifted for use whenever it is needed. In remote microgrid and island grid systems, PV energy generation combined with energy storage can become the primary source of power, relegating diesel generators to a back-up role and resulting in an energy ecosystem that is more reliable, sustainable and affordable.