It’s official – Canada is going green. With a monumental $6.75 billion investment by the federal government into green energy and clean tech, Canada has committed to developing its green infrastructure and protecting the environment. This change in economic focus means a huge shift toward – and investment in – careers and jobs in the green energy sector.
Even before he was elected to the top office, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a vocal supporter of green investment with strong convictions about what it could do for Canada’s economy. In a speech made in June 2015 in Vancouver, Trudeau offered a uniquely Canadian analogy for the marriage of green interests to the economy.
“They go together. They go together like paddles and canoes. If you don’t take care of both, you’re never going to get to where you’re going,” said Trudeau. “Because you can’t have a strong economy without a healthy environment.”1
Focusing on Canada’s green interests will bring about a number of changes – chief among them, a new focus on growth sectors such as wind and solar energy. With focus comes investment, which should translate to jobs down the road. But first, a little more about these growth sectors.
Currently, Ontario and Quebec lead Canada in the development and adoption of wind energy installations. There is tremendous potential for wind energy in Canada, with the possibility of developing both onshore and offshore projects.
HOW IT WORKS
• Harnesses wind energy through the use of turbines
• Wind pressure passing over turbine blades generates lift (like an airplane wing), causing them to turn
• Kinetic energy of wind is turned into mechanical energy and then converted to electrical current via a drive shaft
• Current is transmitted to a substation for distribution
• 23 percent growth in 2015 alone
• More than $3 billion invested in 2015
• 10,500 jobs created in 2015
• $650 million in potential lease payments to landowners in Ontario alone
• Generation of 4 percent of Canada’s electricity, with a strategy outlined by the Canadian Wind Energy Association* to expand to 20 percent
(Source: WindFacts.ca (windfacts.ca/why-wind-works))
PROFILING CANADIAN POWER LEADERS
Wind energy is taking hold on a global level, with regular increases in the size and scope of planned and completed projects.
One such project, Gemini, is an offshore wind farm in the North Sea off the coast of Holland.
Gemini comprises 68 square kilometres of space in the open water, with construction well underway on the numerous turbines that stretch 88.5 metres above sea level. The company behind this impressive undertaking, Northland Power, is based out of Toronto. With solar and wind projects abroad and close to home, Northland is a Canadian company leading the way in alternative energy projects.
Each turbine is manufactured onshore, transported to the site of the wind farm, and installed. In addition to the almost-90 metres of turbine above the waterline, up to an additional 36 metres are submerged below the surface.
Teams of engineers develop and oversee each installation, supported by a small army of workers and a support crew. Barges, boats, and specialized equipment are required, and the public images of Gemini’s construction are truly spectacular.
The construction alone for projects of this nature creates massive investment in local job markets. In addition to employment growth in areas such as construction, engineering, and project management, local business also sees a shot in the arm.
When people hear the words “green energy”, solar energy is probably the first option that springs to mind. Solar energy is most common in southern British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and across the prairies.
HOW IT WORKS
• Sunlight is absorbed by photovoltaic cells made of silicon and other materials, which are arranged in panels
• Photons in sunlight excite electrons in the cells, causing them to move and generate current
• Current is transmitted to a substation and stored for distribution
• As of 2014, solar energy comprises 1 percent of total energy production, despite massive growth
• The industry experienced 58 percent growth in 2013
• Growth doubled total capacity between 2012 and 2014
• Ontario leads total solar capacity at nearly 8 gigawatts2
• 17,000 households are powered by Grand Renewable Solar Project, the largest solar installation in Canada
PROFILING CANADIAN POWER LEADERS
Like their peers in wind energy, Canadian companies in the solar energy space are taking the world by storm.
Canadian Solar, based out of Guelph, Ontario, has established itself as a jack-of-all-trades solar developer, with projects extending from its own backyard all the way to Europe and beyond.
The company started out small back in 2001, but when the German government began to implement feed-in-tariff programs in 2004, Canadian Solar found its niche as the go-to for rooftop installations.
Now, 12 years later, it’s one of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturers, and has expanded to include installation and operation services as well. The company’s rapid growth has allowed it to develop a vast number of projects, everywhere from Napanee to Thunder Bay and Germany to Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps more so than other green alternatives, solar energy has a huge impact on municipal and environmental planning. As with other energy sectors, engineering, planning, and construction jobs will be a vital part of its growth. In the years to come, research and development of solar technology will continue to push it towards greater affordability and availability.
The time is right for a solar push in Canada, and it’s sure to be an explosive market filled with opportunity.
Brighter Today, Greener Tomorrow
No matter the scale, the next step is clear – the shift in Canadian energy infrastructure to green alternatives has begun.
With the federal government on board and investing in Canada’s green future, the sector has no shortage of great jobs. As projects and initiatives get off the ground, the opportunities will no doubt only increase.
Investment is the first step in developing Canada’s green infrastructure, but it won’t be the last. The very word “infrastructure” gives a sense of how big a movement this is. For STEM students – and eventually all Canadians – the job market is about to get a whole lot more exciting.
Canada’s Greenest Employers
On April 22, 2016 – Earth Day – the editors of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project announced the recipients of their Canada’s Greenest Employers awards. Winners were evaluated on the unique green initiatives and programs they’d developed, their success at reducing their carbon footprint, employee engagement and contribution, and how their initiatives had become a part of the employer’s public identity.
What is STEM Anyway?
To some, the answer is obvious, especially if you’ve stepped into any sort of secondary or post-secondary institution in the last year.
STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It’s an education grouping, used in schools to improve competitiveness in science and technology development.
STEM Skills in the Green Infrastructure
With the shift towards a green infrastructure, Canadian companies and other local employers are going to need skilled thinkers and planners with a background in related STEM fields. But how does that degree tie in with a green job?
• Research that supports project planning and development
• Research on green energy and tech subsectors
• Innovation and development
• Serve as green energy ambassador or authority for communications or a consultancy
• Development of new technologies
• Improvement and innovation of existing technologies
• Projects to improve generation
• Design and development of projects and installations
• Oversight of production
• Development of new technology
• Development of computer science applications for use in technical systems
• Use of biomathematics in biotechnology
• Operations research that maximizes profits, minimizes costs, and determines the best possible solutions to challenges
• Financial management of projects
Check out www.canadastop100.com/environmental to view the full list and learn more!
1 “For the Record: Justin Trudeau’s Pitch on the Environment.” Macleans.ca. N.p., 29 June 2015. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.
Author Ben Filipkowski is an Ottawa-based writer interested in history, technology, and politics, and can usually be found wandering around a museum.