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Saskatchewan, P.E.I. best spots for solar panels; not worth it in Manitoba, Quebec, NEB says




Installing solar panels already makes sense for most homeowners in Saskatchewan and Ontario, but the National Energy Board says an abundance of cheap hydroelectricity means solar power may never make much economic sense in Quebec and Manitoba.

In Canada, long, dark winters mean it’s unlikely solar will ever become the sole source of electricity anywhere.

“The country cannot run solely on solar panels in the future,” said NEB chief economist Jean-Denis Charlebois.

The NEB today is releasing a study of the costs of solar compared to current electricity prices. It has an online site where Canadians can plug in their city name and find out whether there is an economic case for solar for them now or in the future.

There are 20,000 communities across every province and territory included in the study that looked at both capacity to produce solar based on hours of sunlight, as well as the cost.

The main finding of the study is that no matter the amount of sunlight, the only places where installing and running solar panels is already cheaper than paying for power from the electricity grids are the places where power rates are already really high. That is in Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and most places in Ontario.

In provinces where power is still pretty cheap — mainly Manitoba and Quebec — the NEB says solar can sometimes cost more than twice as much as traditional power sources.

In Saskatchewan, for example, where electricity costs are among the highest in the country, the break-even price for solar is already 93 per cent of the current average cost of power for homeowners. But next door in Manitoba, where hydro costs are among the lowest in the country, the solar price for homeowners is 176 per cent of the current cost of electricity. In Quebec, it’s 223 per cent.

Ontario’s time-of-day electricity rates make the cost of solar about 95 per cent of the average cost to buy power from the grid.

Charlebois said the average cost for a 5-kilowatt solar installation is about $16,000 and that price is predicted to go down as much as 30 per cent in the next five or 10 years.

The price to buy power from the grid is going up about two per cent a year. Between those increases and rebate programs for solar installations available in some provinces, over the next decade solar will start to beat the power grid price in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Alberta and British Columbia, the NEB predicts.

The price for power in Manitoba and Quebec is still so low that even once the cost of solar drops significantly, it is not expected to become competitive.

The B.C. coast and the eastern edge of Newfoundland are among the worst places to generate solar power because they don’t get a lot of sunshine. The territories have higher costs to install solar because of the remoteness of most communities, but the high cost of power, often generated by diesel, makes solar significantly cheaper in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Long term, even homeowners who use solar will need access to power grids for some of their power because the sun isn’t always shining and batteries can only store power for between four and 10 hours.

The case for solar for businesses is slightly different because of differing power rates. Businesses in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Ontario may already find it cheaper to add solar panels than continue to buy power only from the grid. The NEB says rebate programs in Saskatchewan and Alberta will make solar more economical than traditional power over the next few years.


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla




Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm




Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover




KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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