56. Best stories of 2013

Category: Biofuels, Electric Vehicles, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

Published: December 11, 2013

By David Dodge and Duncan Kinney

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

Best of all the audience for renewable energy and energy efficiency stories is larger and more engaged than ever before. We’re grateful for the chance to tell these stories and since it is the season for retrospectives here is a list of our favorite green energy stories from 2013.

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

Ashley Lubyk of Dirt Craft Natural Building being interviewed next to a rocket mass heater.

Ashley Lubyk of Dirt Craft Natural Building being interviewed next to a rocket mass heater.

has more than 70,000 views, is our most popular video by a long shot and it 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 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 with a Sun Country Highway charging station at Peavey Mart in Red Deer, Alberta.

Kent Rathwell with a Sun Country Highway charging station at Peavey Mart in Red Deer, Alberta.

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

James Callaghan's 250 head dairy operation collects manure from the dairy cows, creates methane and burns it for heat and electricity.

James Callaghan’s 250 head dairy operation collects manure from the dairy cows, creates methane and burns it for heat and electricity.

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

The Cowichan Biodiesel Cooperative has gone from selling biodiesel at the farmer's market to fueling a bus line in Victoria.

The Cowichan Biodiesel Cooperative has gone from selling biodiesel at the farmer’s market to fueling a bus line in Victoria.

We just keep running into cooperatives 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 farmer’s 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 their buses with Cowichan Biodiesel Cooperative product.

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

Reza Nasseri, CEO of Landmark Homes a company determined to build every home net zero by 2015.

Reza Nasseri, CEO of Landmark Homes a company determined to build every home net zero by 2015.

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 their 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 to see the workers and their machines working together in a climate controlled environment that produces almost no waste.

Landmark makes their 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 they’ve got big dreams, they’re planning to make all of their homes net-zero by 2015.

Thanks for reading and have a happy new year. Please tell us your favourite story in the comments.

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