Initiatives are sparking across province for more efficient and sustainable energy
With a long history of isolation and economic hardship, those on the island of Newfoundland understand the importance of self-reliance and sustainability.
The province’s current government recently set an initiative to increase self-sufficiency in food production by 20 per cent. And the province is seeing some innovation in the field of food production. In September, a group of Memorial University students beat more than 1,700 other teams to win the Enactus World Cup. The competition highlights post-secondary projects that improve people’s lives through entrepreneurship.
Abbie Ricketts is part of the team of students behind Sucseed, a food security project that uses nutrient-filled water instead of soil to grow produce more efficiently and without sunlight. They have teamed with 12 co-operatives across Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut, and 25 families in the province have also purchased their own Sucseed containers from the university.
“Sometimes it’s people that want to grow their own food for their family and save on grocery bills,” said Ricketts. “But we have had more experience with co-operatives where we’re helping them set up food sharing and contracts with grocery stores.”
The technology benefits isolated communities where fresh produce can be limited and often overpriced. There has also been interest from urban areas such as St. John’s and Grand Falls-Windsor, as well as areas outside of Canada.
“If they grow produce through the system and sell it to local grocery stores, the prices will be marked down considerably compared with food that is shipped in,” said Ricketts.
Jack Parsons of Flatrock has been building homes in Newfoundland for the pasts 40 years. In 2014, he began construction on a net-zero home for his daughter.
Net-zero homes are built with air tight and thick insulation to prevent heat loss, with installed Energy Star appliances, LED lights and solar panels to create a home that needs very little energy to sustain it.
“Energy efficiency has always been critically important to us,” Parsons said, who co-owns K&P Contracting Ltd. “My daughter is an engineer interested in environmentalism, and she wanted something up to net-zero standards.”
Although, in its current condition, the house is technically labelled as a near net-zero home. When the house was built it was prepped for solar panels, but Parsons ultimately decided not to install them. He says the cost of the solar panels strongly outweighs the energy that is reaped from them in Newfoundland.
“One of our goals was to make this house pay for itself,” he said. “Solar doesn’t come to pay for itself until 20-25 years into its use, and when you factor in the installation and additional maintenance costs – it’s not worth it.”
Despite the lack of solar panels, the house has proved to be energy efficient.
“We had this house independently analysed by Newfoundland Power,” said Parsons. “Typical houses use about 10 watts per square foot, but the near net-zero house we built uses around one. For a 3,400 square-foot house, we pay about $800 a year for appliances, lighting, and heating and cooling. I know people with the same size house that will pay that in a month. The efficiency involved speaks for itself.”
Building a net-zero home, Parsons says, costs on average of eight per cent more than the average home.
Parsons is now at work on renovations to create a second net-zero home. They are looking to improve on
the challenges of his daughter’s home by incorporating a sunroom that is being designed by a Memorial University engineering student.
“We’re looking to utilise passive-solar energy, and turn it into active solar energy very cheaply,” Parsons said. “This sunroom will capture the energy coming into the room which should equate to about $600 in one year.”
Parsons hopes to continue building net-zero homes well into the future. He believes projects like these are more beneficial and practical environmental projects than government initiatives like the much-debated carbon tax.
“Government needs to come forward into the 21st century and see what can really be done to protect our climate, and part of that is changing the way we build houses,” he said. “This is something that, in my opinion, will be the future.”