Marc McArthur heads Ottawa’s Cleantech Initiative, which has identified four subsectors, or “ verticals,” presenting the greatest commercial opportunities: converting waste residuals to energy, green buildings, ICT applications and water technologies.
Waste to energy
Three of Ottawa’s top clean-tech employers are involved in generating power from unconventional sources. Plasco’s gasification technology uses municipal solid waste, Iogen
Corp. turns straw and agriculture waste into ethanol, and Ensyn Corp. produces liquid fuel from forestry waste.
“ These companies are world-class in their specific verticals,” says Mr. McArthur, noting they’ve forged alliances with some of the world’s largest firms. Ensyn, for example, works with UOP, a Honeywell company, and Iogen is a development partner of Royal Dutch Shell.
Ottawa’s geography gives the region an advantage in this sector. Its urban centre supplies Plasco with municipal waste for its demonstration facility on Trail Road, while the surrounding rural areas provide other forms of alternative fuel.
“ We have the real opportunity to be the best … We can be the No. 1 region in the world in the conversion of residuals to energy,” says Mr. McArthur.
Ottawa firms benefit from the presence of a pair of building technology research facilities that are unique in Canada and the world. The National Research Council Canada’s Institute for Research in Construction and Natural
Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY both attract considerable talent to the region.
Profiting from this expertise takes engineering and project management abilities, which can be found in companies such as Windmill Development Group, a leader in green building construction, and DAC International, which exports high-performance pre-engineered homes. On the engineering side, firms such as
Golder Associates and Stantec both have a significant local presence.
“Some of our expertise doesn’t have Ottawa origins, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have that expertise here,” says Mr. McArthur.
Convergence of ICT and clean tech
Ottawa’s information and communication technology base is building the next generation of smart energy grids and automated building solutions.
Triacta produces hydro submeters for multi-tenanted buildings, allowing utilities to bill each user individually. Empowering and providing additional information to tenants typically results in a drop in power consumption, says Mr. Mcarthur.
Other firms to watch include Energate, which develops systems that allow home heating and cooling systems to communicate with the user and utility to better manage energy use, and smart-grid specialists Gridpoint.
On the research front, the National Research Council Canada is developing building performance software that reduces energy consumption. For example, by equipping employees with radio frequency identification tags, building systems can light the path the individual is most likely to take, rather than illuminating the entire building.
While there are many alternative sources of electricity, there is no substitute for clean water. The increased prevalence of extreme weather is increasing the demand for water treatment