Toronto Start-Ups Are Going Green
Sustainability As problems like energy usage and climate change are quickly becoming more urgent.
The need for increased efforts dedicated to the development of new clean energy technologies is greater than ever. While a lot of ground-breaking research, sadly, never makes it to the implementation stage, organizations like Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) specialize in ensuring that innovative technologies move out of the lab and into the global marketplace. In the past two years alone, this not-for-profit has funded 243 clean-tech related projects, creating close to 900 jobs and helping some of Ontario’s best innovators get off the ground — and occasionally into the water.
In conjunction with Toronto Hydro and support by OCE, start-up company Hyrdostor ventured on a two-year pilot project to build the world’s first underwater compressed air energy storage method. This one-of-a-kind system, located off Toronto Island, is connected to Toronto Hydro’s electricity grid and will be used to power the homes of some 350 island residents during power outages and periods of high demand.
At a depth of 55 metres, Hydrostor’s patented system utilizes compressed air, which can be converted into electricity. The air is pressurized to the surrounding water depth pressure and stored in balloon-like accumulators. Once the energy is needed, the weight of the water then pushes the stockpiled air back to shore where heat is added, before it powers an expander that creates the electricity.
Hydrostor’s groundbreaking technology marks a significant advancement in energy storage. It produces zero emissions and circumvents certain intermittency issues underlying other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The system can also operate for a staggering 30 years without
Blue skies ahead
The installation of ubiquitous devices like streetlights, pipeline sensors, and security cameras often require deep trenches to be dug in the ground, before positioning extensive lengths of cable. This process is laborious, accounting for up to 80 percent of the capital cost for putting them in place. On top of that, many of these devices are situated in remote locations and require expensive labour to maintain.
Offering a clean-tech solution to this problem is Toronto-based company Clear Blue Technologies. Their mandate is two-fold: utilize solar panels and wind turbines as power sources, which are then partnered with cloud software technology to wirelessly deliver highly reliable off-grid power, and autonomy to the devices in question. The software can then also provide real-time monitoring and control from the web, removing a large amount of the maintenance costs.
OCE initially supported collaborations between Clear Blue Technologies and local colleges, Centennial and George Brown, to develop a prototype and conduct in-field testing. With this approach, start-ups like Clear Blue can not only utilize the facilities at these institutions but also get a fresh set of eyes from both students and lecturers. In turn, the students then gain valuable, practical experience.