Clean tech is Canada's fastest-growing industry and perhaps its best-kept secret. According to Ottawa-based Analytica Advisors, which tracks and benchmarks the space, clean tech currently consists of about 700 companies in Canada, employing 41,000 people and generating $11.3-billion annually. Most of these companies are exporters, with 52% of sales outside of Canada and 42% outside of the U.S.
Export Development Canada (EDC) has launched a clean-tech strategy to help ensure the growth trajectory continues by helping these companies gain access to much-needed funding to commercialize their innovative new technologies. In October, the EDC sponsored the International Financial Corporation's second annual Climate Business Forum in Hong Kong. Rod Lever, EDC's clean-tech lead, was on hand to help connect Canadian tech companies with potential funders in China, the world's top investor in renewable energy.
"It's a pivotal time for many companies, which have to scale in order to survive," says Mr. Lever. "One of the key reasons we have a clean-tech industry is because of Sustainable Technology Development Canada, which is the largest single clean-tech fund in the world. It has seeded more than 200 clean-tech projects through grant funding of more than $600-million. These companies are now ready to commercialize, but if they don't have access to capital they will die or be acquired by multinationals and disappear from Canada. We want more of these companies to grow from here."
Here's a look at some of these companies and their game-changing technologies:
Alter NRG Corp.
Based in Calgary, Alta., Alter NRG is working to replace landfills with the most energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable waste-to-energy solutions. Westinghouse Plasma, its industry leading plasma gasification technology, converts a variety of waste into clean syngas which can be used to create electricity.
Based in Burlington, Ont., Anaergia converts the biogenic portion of organic waste into renewable natural gas for distribution in municipal power grids or for fleet vehicle fuel. Its proprietary technologies are being used in more than 1,600 renewable-energy projects around the world for municipal, industrial, commercial and agricultural markets.
Based in Halifax, CarbonCure has developed a breakthrough technology that recycles waste carbon dioxide generated in the making of concrete, which accounts for more than 5% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions each year. Together with concrete providers, it uses this waste carbon dioxide to make greener concrete products by chemically converting it into a limestone-like mineral.
Based in Richmond, B.C., Corvus designs, engineers and manufactures a proprietary advanced lithium energy-storage technology that can provide sustained power to hybrid and full-electric heavy-industrial equipment.
Based Vancouver, B.C., dPoint develops and sells membranes and energy recovery technology that significantly improve the energy efficiency and air quality in buildings. It has adapted its patented fuel-cell heat and humidity exchanger technology for use in energy recovery ventilator systems, which transfer heat and humidity between the intake and exhaust in a residential or commercial building's ventilation system. More than 20 of the leading HVAC companies in North America, Europe, China and India, including Honeywell, Daikin and Goodman, are using dPoint membranes.
Based in Mississauga, Ont., Electrovaya manufactures lithium ion batteries and systems for electric vehicles, portable power for industrial electronics and energy storage for smart grids. Its unique manufacturing process is toxin- and emission-free. All other manufacturers use toxic chemicals in their production process.
Based in Toronto, Hydrostor converts electrical energy to compressed air that is then sent to a series of flexible accumulators located between 50 metres and 500 metres underwater. Once in the accumulators, the energy can be stored until required by the grid. When the energy is required, the weight of the water pushes the air back to the surface where the Hydrostor system directs it through an expander driving a generator. This fast, low-cost adiabatic system uses non-toxic substances and does not require additional heat from fossil fuels.
Based in Toronto, Morgan is an advanced-stage startup that is reinventing how we harness and track solar energy. The company holds more than 60 granted and pending patents worldwide on multiple innovations. The two technologies currently on the market are the Sun Simba 4 concentrated photovoltaic module, which features the industry's most advanced optical designs and is up to 15% more efficient than conventional solar panels, and the Savanna two-axis tracker, which offers significantly higher ROI compared to conventional fixed-track systems because it can be set up and serviced manually rather than having to use cranes and heavy machinery.
Nexterra Systems Corp.
Based in Vancouver, Nexterra has developed the most commercialized energy-from-waste gasification technology in the world. It has completed seven commercial projects in North America and is currently delivering its first project - a renewable energy power plant - in the United Kingdom. Nexterra systems are designed to be cost-effective at a community level while meeting stringent emission regulations.
Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies
Based in Vancouver, Ostara helps protect water resources by changing the way cities manage excess nutrients both in wastewater streams and due to fertilizer runoff. The company's proprietary technology, the "Pearl Process," recovers excess phosphorus and nitrogen from municipal and industrial water streams and converts them into a slow release, eco-friendly high-performance fertilizer marketed as Crystal Green. Ostara operates facilities throughout North America and Europe and has several projects in development, including the largest nutrient recovery facility in the world in partnership with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Saltworks Technologies Inc.
Based in Vancouver, Saltworks is an advanced water treatment solutions provider. It designs, manufactures and assembles systems for desalination, brine management and chemical recovery applications based on its patented "ElectroChem" and "SaltMaker" technologies, conventional reverse osmosis and hybrid systems. Clients include global players in the oil, gas, mining, industrial discharge, landfills, aerospace and defence industries.
Solantro Semiconductor Corp.
Based in Ottawa, Solantro's chipsets and platforms turn solar panels into integrated power generators and allow for the management and storage of renewable energy. The chipsets are designed and built specifically to measure, process and drive complex power architectures from distributed energy resources - a game-changer in the utility industry.
Based in Mississauga, Temporal designs, manufactures and services the world's leading flywheel energy-storage technology. Using an all-steel flywheel in combination with proprietary bearing technology, Temporal offers a high-performance energy storage solution that is made of 100% recyclable materials, holds the highest amount of energy of any flywheel in the world and does not degrade with age. The systems are used in megawatt scale projects around the world to improve power quality and lower costs by more accurately balancing energy on power systems.
Woodland Biofuels Inc.
Based in Toronto, Woodland is expected to be the lowest cost producer of automotive fuel globally, producing cellulosic ethanol at less than half the cost of producing the gasoline its biofuel hopes to replace. Its proprietary process can produce ethanol from any kind of biomass, including municipal, agricultural and wood waste. Its currently making ethanol at its $12-million demonstration in Sarnia, Ont. No corn or other food source is used.