31 July 2007

Research in the solar space

Last week's OCE session on solar energy was a very good discussion/brainstorming session that brought together industry and academic researchers on how to structure an upcoming $15m OCE call for proposals on solar energy. The session was structured as a "future workshop," a staple of participatory design, which is a good way of involving stakeholders in design processes.

Many good ideas and gaps were discussed at the session, including the need to train highly qualified people in the trades that will support the installation, maintenance and retirement of solar equipment. This is one area where our applied research can excel.

As we are in the process or working out some R&D in the solar space, I've been paying attention to news items on solar energy, of which there have been a few of late. Yesterday, for example, there was an opinion piece on what government can do to better enable investment in solar technology. Overall this piece provides some interesting ideas, but does sidestep the issue that Canada does not spend as much on R&D as our OECD counterparts (a point made by a speaker at the Polytechnics Canada conference a while back). Solar can be viable even in rainy climes, though the power buy-back scheme in Germany (as in Ontario) are supporting the initial investment.

The OCE is working to address the R&D issue in Ontario with a targeted call for research, starting with an expressions of interest call, expected in early August, with two page EOIs due on 31 August.

And while we're on the topic of alternative energy, here's a fascinating take on harnessing the kinetic energy of crowds that brings new meaning to the term "crowdsourcing."

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