The Ontario Centres of Excellence Inc. (OCE) announced, along with its industry and academic partners, an investment of $28 million in the research and development of six clean energy projects. OCE will inject $13 million into the six projects with the balance of the funding being provided by the industry and academic partners. The OCE notes that these projects "promise to create cleaner and more efficient ways for Ontarians to generate, consume and manage energy."

The six projects, involving breakthrough technologies in solar, hydrogen and energy conservation and demand management, address issues critical to Ontario's energy sustainability:

  • The demand for solar power as a viable, cost effective alternative energy source;
  • The need for systems and programs to help people manage their consumption; and
  • The ability to access clean energy alternatives.

"OCE is committed to playing a significant role in transforming the energy sector to establish Ontario as a world leader in clean energy through the commercialization of innovative solutions," said David McFadden, Chair OCE of the Board of Directors and Chair of the National Energy and Infrastructure Industry Group at Gowlings.

The Minster of Research and Innovation, the Honourable John Wilkinson, added that, "Today's investment builds on the considerable talent of our world-class researchers to ensure Ontario maintains leadership in growing sectors and consistently turns global challenges, such as climate change and environmental sustainability, into opportunities for Ontario. These projects represent the strong partnerships among our top researchers, global business leaders and government that will provide Ontarians with a cleaner environment, a higher quality of life and more opportunities for success."

Before calling for project proposals, the OCE first engaged a wide range of Ontario's energy sector leaders to clearly identify gaps and market needs. The OCE received more than 100 expressions of interest for project funding reflecting the province's innovative capacity for clean energy solutions. After a rigorous selection process, the following projects were selected for their disruptive characteristics, promise of significant economic benefit to the province, research excellence and potential to transform the marketplace:

  • Energy Consumption Management System Gives Consumers Control;

The Energy Hub Management System, developed in partnership with the University of Waterloo, will enable Ontario homeowners and businesses to take ownership of their energy needs, while reducing costs and the impact on the energy grid. A smart web-based tool gives consumers control to change the way they use energy, like programming the system to switch off the central energy grid at peak times, and move to on-site alternatives like solar and wind energy. Led by the University of Waterloo, project participants include Hydro One Networks Inc., Energent Energy Solutions (Waterloo) and Milton Hydro Distribution Inc.

OCE investment: $1 million

Partner Investment: $1.45 million

  • Low Cost, High Performance Thin Film Cells Charge Solar Industry;

Despite its undeniable potential to help meet ever-increasing energy demands, widespread use of solar energy is limited due to high costs and low efficiency. The Solar Venture, a new Ontario company, will create a flexible hybrid-organic thin film material for use in solar panels that will radically reduce the full costs associated with solar generation and ensure high-performance. Fully recyclable, this new technology is expected to make solar power a competitive alternative resource. Led by The Solar Venture (Toronto), projects participants include the University of Toronto, The University of Montréal and Solaris-Chem (Montréal).

OCE Investment: $1.5 million

Partner Investment: $1.53 million

  • High-Capacity Fuel Cell Helps Meet Commercial Demand for Power;

Acumentrics is launching a pilot installation at the University of Toronto to demonstrate an innovative fuel cell system that provides low-cost, efficient, environmentally-friendly power and heating all in one package. The project aims to develop a commercial system to demonstrate high temperature solid oxide fuel cell technology as a viable, commercial alternative for utilities struggling to meet ever-increasing demand for power, by lowering power costs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing redundancy and reducing power failures. Designed to operate on conventional fuels like natural gas and propane, it will run off the existing distribution infrastructure but is also capable of operating on carbon-neutral fuels such as hydrogen, when widely available. Led by Acumentrics Canada (Kingston), project partners include The University of Toronto, Queen's University, the University of Waterloo and Direct Energy Canada Inc. (Toronto).

OCE Investment: $2.5 million

Partner Investment: $3.25 million

  • Next-Generation Solar Material to Boost Solar Production;

McMaster University and ARISE Technologies introduce a novel way to manufacture solar cells, using a proprietary silicon technology. The new material aims to be more than twice as efficient as existing solar cells and, manufactured at greatly reduced costs, making the solution suitable for use in large solar panels. This new technology has the potential to propel Ontario to the forefront of the global solar industry, reduce reliance on market incentives and make solar panels a more feasible option for Ontario homeowners and businesses. Led by McMaster Univeristy, the project partner is ARISE Technologies (Waterloo)

OCE Investment: $2 million

Partner Investment: $2.1 million

  • Decreasing Diesel Dependence in Remote Northern Communities; and

In an effort to reduce diesel dependency in remote Northern Ontario communities, this partnership aims to develop a low-carbon community energy system that combines wind turbines specifically designed for extreme northern climates, with a storage system that uses hydrogen and a fuel cell to generate electricity. This off-grid hybrid power system provides a lower-cost, environmentally friendly solution to alleviate the significant financial burden of diesel power systems on remote communities. A key element of the project focuses on developing best practice methods for community engagement with respect to mapping energy needs with the alternative resources available, resulting in customized conservation programming. Led by the University of Waterloo, project partners include Hydro One Remote Communities Inc. and the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund (Thunder Bay).

OCE Investment: $3 million

Partner Investment: $3.4 million

  • Connecting Solar Farms to the Grid.

The University of Western Ontario and the University of Waterloo are developing comprehensive solutions to help grid operators incorporate large-scale solar farms on to their networks. By developing technologies to efficiently convert solar energy to electricity, and produce innovative software for making weather-based predictions to help manage unique weather challenges, the creation of a robust solar power integration plan has the potential to encourage utilities in Ontario and around the world to adopt solar technologies. Co-led by the University of Western Ontario and the University of Waterloo, project partners include Hydro One Networks Inc., OptiSolar Farms Canada (Sarnia), Bluewater Power Distribution Corporation and London hydro.

OCE Investment: $3 million

Partner Investment: $3 million