Portlands Solar Park

Ted Gruetzner, the public relations man for the PEC, wrote me a lovely note just as he was announcing the solar research park that’s been so bandied about in the last few days.  He told me that I had been instrumental in making this happen as he had met the solar researcher, Nazir Kherani, at a seminar I organized in May of 2006.

I like Nazir.  His research is critically important and I’m delighted that he has a place to do it.  I’m not so delighted if this somehow greenwashes the PEC, which remains an expensive and environmentally reckless approach to a problem we shouldn’t have.  Our emissions should be going down.  Our demand should be going down.

A pig wearing lipstick and pearls.I could point out that when Ted had told me he was planning a solar park, I said this was “tarting up a pig”.  I could point out that I told him the only message people will get is that “renewables are expensive”, as solar remains the most expensive of the renewable technologies.  I could point out that I thought this wouldn’t make a dent in Toronto’s energy needs, though to be fair, the scratch it makes will at least be at times of peak demand.  I could also point out that the magnanimous gesture of “2.5 million dollars worth of land” actually represents a reduction in landscaping costs that the PEC would otherwise have to spend, as well as a correspondingly enormous tax break on land they would never in a million years have rented out to WalMart.

But instead, I’ll just mention that the featured speaker at the seminar in question was one Tim Hennessy, of VRB Power Systems, a flow battery company.  I was promoting flow batteries as a less expensive and more environmentally progressive alternative to PEC.  Batteries reinforce a renewable economy, so future solar potential fits well with a flow battery.  I’d love to give Nazir his research park, along with a flow battery facility right next to it.  It would solve our problems today and help us move into a renewable tomorrow.  And nowhere would we need the PEC.

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