Trees We Know and Love….

Canadian Provincial Trees (and Birds)

We found this chart interesting, learning about the symbolic trees of our beautiful country of Canada. We have randomly picked a few trees to feature this week, not only because trees are incredibly amazing from a carbon capture standpoint, and not just because our blog is generally about trees, but because trees have so much history and so many purposes not to mention stunning beauty. Lucy is a birder too, so we thought, why not list the provincial birds as well.

  • British Columbia- Western Red Cedar and Stellar Jay
  • Alberta- Lodgepole Pine and Great Horned Owl
  • Saskatchewan-White Birch and Sharp Tailed Grouse
  • Manitoba- White Spruce and Great Grey Owl
  • Ontario- Eastern White Pine and Common Loon
  • Quebec- Yellow Birch and Snowy Owl
  • New Brunswick- Balsam Fir and Black Capped Chickadee
  • Nova Scotia- Red Spruce and Osprey
  • Prince Edward Island- Red Oak and Blue Jay
  • Newfoundland/Labrador- Black Spruce and Atlantic Puffin
  • Yukon- Subalpine Fir and Common Raven
  • Nunavut- possible candidate is Willow and Rock Ptarmigan
  • North West Territories- Tamarac Larch and Gyro Falcon

Source: Wikipedia at:

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

To watch this pine tree blow in the breeze is a thing of beauty so Lucy was not surprised to be told it is the subject of paintings by the Group of Seven. The Eastern White Pine is the Provincial Tree of Ontario and is known as the “tree of peace”. (These tree facts make Ontario resident Catherine very happy to know now; she would agree that this favourite tree does indeed evoke feelings of peacefulness and is aptly named.)

According to Wikipedia, this pine is only seen in the eastern part of North America from Newfoundland to Manitoba and south along the Appalachian Mountains as far as northern Georgia. It can live over 400 years and grow over 200 feet tall. The seeds of this tree came from England to Maine in 1605. It is somewhat resistant to fire, and mature survivors are able to re-seed burned areas. It is a tree of low maintenance.

This pine tree has been overly forested in past for lumber for paneling, floors and furniture, as well as for masts, and for turpentine, so only one percent of these trees remain. It has also been used for medicine like to treat dandruff and for food for the native Americans who use its inside trunk for flour, and pine cones in stews, as it is loaded with vitamin C. (Allan is now worried that Lucy is going to serve him pine tree stew, but luckily for him it is a protected species). Smaller trees are used as live Christmas trees and the branches for wreaths and garland because of their soft feathery needles. This beautiful pine tree provides food and shelter for numerous forest birds, such as the red crossbill and small mammals such as squirrels

Birch (Betula)

We want to credit Allan (Lucy’s partner), who suggested right from the start of our co-blogging adventure that the heading of our blog’s home page should feature the Birch Tree as it is a beautiful northerly species with which all Canadians can identify. Birch groves, as seen above, are becoming far less common. The White Birch is the tree of Saskatchewan and the Yellow Birch, as seen at the start of the blog, is the tree of Quebec.

Wikipedia describes that the Birch tree contains 60 varieties of a thin leaf deciduous hardwood that is found in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in northern areas of temperate climates and in boreal climates (including northern Europe). The characteristic bark is white which separates into thin papery plates. There are many uses for the birch including: plywood, leather oil, wintergreen fragrance, diuretic tea, lightweight canoes, bowls and wigwams, firewood that does not “pop”, sap for syrup, writing paper (in India), speaker cabinets (with Baltic Birch), and for drums, guitars and mallets.

The birch is the national tree of Finland and Russia. In Celtic cultures it symbolizes growth, renewal and stability because the birch are often the first trees to appear after fire. Unfortunately many hay fever sufferers are sensitive to birch pollen grains

The Ontario government’s website provides more information and photos to help Readers distinguish the White Birch at, from the Gray Birch and the Yellow Birch

The US Forest Service website ( offers a wealth of tree information, including this piece on how to grow and maintain a birch tree,

Oak Tree (Quercus)

Wikipedia tells us there are 600 species of Oak with New World Oak in North America and Old World Oak in Eurasia. The mighty Oak has many religious, cultural, political, historical, and regionally important meanings, all throughout the world.

Given its density, the Oak is a strong, hard wood, and, with appealing grain markings, it has many uses including: panelling, fine furniture, building frames, veneer, wine and brandy barrels, Japanese Yamaha drums, and leather tannin, to name just a few.

Unfortunately, many species of oaks are under threat of extinction in the wild, largely due to land use changes, livestock grazing and unsustainable harvesting. For example, over the past 200 years, large areas of oak forest in the highlands of Mexico, Central America and the northern Andes have been cleared for coffee plantations and cattle ranching. There is a continuing threat to these forests from exploitation for timber, fuel-wood and charcoal. In the US, entire oak ecosystems have declined due to a combination of factors still imperfectly known, but thought to include fire suppression, increased consumption of acorns by growing mammal populations, herbivory of seedlings, and introduced pests. In a survey cited on the Wikipedia page, 78 wild oak species have been identified as being in danger of extinction. Further, the proportion under threat may be much higher in reality, since insufficient information about over 300 species makes it near impossible to form a judgement of their status. In the Himalayan region of India, oak forests are being invaded by pine forests due to the increase in temperature.

Here is a cool fact about Oak Trees: mature Oak trees shed varying numbers of acorns annually. Scientists suggest that shedding excess numbers allows the oaks to satiate nut gathering species which improves the chances of germination. Every four to ten years, certain oak populations will synchronize to produce almost no acorns at all, only to rain them down excessively the following year, known as a “mast” year. The year preceding the mast year is thought to starve off the mammal populations feeding on the supply, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the overproduction in the mast year that follows. This is necessary to the survival of any given oak species, as only one in 10,000 acorns results in an eventual tree

Thanks to the Ontario government’s website, Catherine was able to learn about, and start to see differences among, the Black Oak leaf, the Burr Oak, the Pin Oak, the Red Oak, the Swamp White Oak, and her favourite leaf of all – the White Oak

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

The Sequoia is one of the three species of coniferous trees known as Redwoods. Lucy recently visited a grove of these trees in Yosemite National Park. They are the most massive trees on Earth growing up to 280 feet tall, with a diameter of 26 feet and a bark 3 feet thick. Sequoias are found only in the 70 scattered groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The oldest known Giant Sequoia is about 3200 years old making the sequoia the oldest living organisms on Earth.

We learned from Wikipedia that this huge tree may have as many as 11000 cones a year and the winged seeds may fly as far as 600 feet from the tree. Their bark is unusually fire resistant and their cones will normally open immediately after a fire. The cones also open after beetles or squirrels damage them. Sequoias are principally used for tourism and horticulture as they tend to break apart on impact when cut down, making them poor sources of lumber

Catherine, too, has been fortunate to experience the magnificence of the old growth Redwoods, in her past travels to Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco. The awe-inspiring and ‘spiritual’ moment she witnessed in the morning stillness as rays of sunshine beaming through “Cathedral Heights” lit up individual droplets of morning mist hovering between these graceful giants, stays in her mind’s eye to this day.

This image from the Muir Woods website conjures up treasured memories of the amazing quality of light and tranquility that she recalls from her time spent among these Sequoias. She relates to this quote by Charles Darwin posted on the website — “Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of humans…no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel there is more in humans than the mere breath of his body.”

We found this cool site – Mother Nature Network – that features photos of 10 of the world’s oldest trees, including “General Sherman,” the world’s oldest Sequoia

Readers may want to try out tree identification Apps when out hiking or walking in Nature. LeafSnap is one such App created by Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institute, as a tool to help curious nature explorers identify the trees they are encountering. The App includes information on 185 species that are native to northeastern United States and Canada, and offers a three-day trial for free Learn more about LeafSnap and two other Apps in this review posted on the Evergreen Aborist Consultants’ website at

Tree Challenge: Can you name this tree?

Next week our Blog post will delve deeper into the climate change and food connection.

Ready for Earth Day 2020 on April 22nd ?

We are inspired by the optimism and energetic call to action by the Earth Day Network organizers, as expressed on the official website in preparing for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2020 –

“The world needs you and your actions….There is much you can do to help protect and restore our planet, from joining a cleanup or climate strike, taking part in the world’s largest citizen science initiative, to hosting an event in your own community…”

Earth Day 2020 can be the catalyst that galvanizes an unparalleled global collaboration.”

As we learn more about the history of Earth Day, which started by the actions of just three people, leading to 20 million Americans (10% of the US population at the time) lending their voice and their actions for the inaugural Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and growing over fifty years to a movement that now involves 1 billion people worldwide in 193 countries, the longstanding global Event is truly awe-inspiring we feel. This history,  impact and growing reach holds much promise for realizing this year’s goal that indeed “Earth Day 2020 can be the catalyst that galvanizes an unparalled global collaboration” to protect and restore our planet.

Let’s join forces with one billion global citizens who care. In our personal and local spheres of influence, on April 22nd, let’s assert our influence, in whatever way is personally meaningful and relevant, and take personal action, united with fellow global citizens for Earth Day 2020’s common theme of “climate action.” Who knows – with enough momentum worldwide, maybe Earth Day 2020 will be just the tipping point we all need. We won’t get there by holding back….unless of course, it’s green house gas emissions we’re curtailing!

Read more about the Earth Day Network’s vision for change at: and their mission for all to benefit, at

John Heritage, one of three founding members of the first Earth Day in 1970, shares his thoughts and aspirations for Earth Day 2020 here,

Readers may want to learn more about Earth Day Network’s successes across fifty years, including 2.6 billion acts of green,

Our first post and overall blog purpose focuses on Why Trees Matter. Watch this three minute video clip by Greta Thunberg and George Montbiot on the same topic –

Maybe video games and Hollywood are more your thing. Fan of Matt Damon? Hear how he and other celebrities such as Danny Devito, lend their voices through Champions for Earth – Angry Bird Friends, on this quick video clip –

We’ve brainstormed some ideas that you may wish to consider as you make your personal plans for marking Earth Day 2020 on April 22, 2020 –

Some Suggestions for Possible Earth Day 2020 Personal Action

Take a moment for yourself and to appreciate Nature’s offerings to us all. Breath in deeply.

Survey your surroundings and stop for a moment to look at, e.g., a tree bud, the blue sky, a bird in flight.

Plant a tree, gift a tree, tribute a tree.

Learn about the Earth Day Network Tree Canopy Project at and/or how you might get involved in supporting your local municipality’s tree canopy projects.

Plan your spring garden. Start germinating those tomato and pepper seeds.

Learn more about trees that are very efficient “carbon sinks,” tree species that contribute needed diversity in your region and/or about tree pollinators, trees, soil, ecosystems, and low carbon foods and production methods.

Check out Earth Day Network’s world map and event list

Check out Earth Day Canada’s event list   and  at

Check out opportunities to participate in local Earth Day 2020 activities in your community. In Toronto, these include, for example, free “family friendly, earth ball making workshops” at the Gardiner Museum on April 22 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., various activities on April 25 from 12 pm to 4 pm at the Toronto Botanical Gardens (e.g., helping to plant the teaching garden, tours of the ravine), and a whole day of Earth Day activities on Sunday, April 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Downsview Park, e.g., nature art activities, campfire singalongs, live music, meet a beekeeper, free book swap and more,

In Edmonton, learn more about ‘forest bathing’ on April 21 at Spruce Grove’s Kiwi nurseries’ Intro to forest bathing

Or, perhaps read an article or a report. Do some online research into a topic that interests you.

Deepen your understanding about global warming and climate change, including what scientists identify as  impactful actions that individuals, groups, corporations and governments can do to make a difference. Some websites to get started on, include, for example, Suzuki Foundation Climate Solutions, UN Climate Change, The International Council for Science and Climate Change and Nasa: Global Climate Change at

Have your say. Let your voice be known, by, for example, joining a campaign and/or emailing your elected representative of Parliament to let them know your views and priorities for government investments on Canada’s climate action plan. For example, letter writing tips are offered in the Take Action section of the Suzuki Foundation Climate Solutions website at and various campaign links are profiled on Earth Day Network’s official site

Calculate your carbon footprint using this carbon calculator or one of the others in our Blog’s Resources section, and consider steps you might take to reduce it.

Calculate your carbon “foodprint” using one of these three calculators and decide what if any action you might be motivated to take to reduce food-related carbon emissions based on this new information and awareness Low carbon tips to eating choices are offered here

Enlist a buddy and start to plan your own Earth Day 2020 event. Join EarthRise and receive updates and download the free Earth Day 2020 posters and logos available at

Register your event so others may know about it at

Add a shout out or comment to our Blog and let other Readers know your ideas for marking Earth Day 2020.  Together, let’s join forces with one billion other concerned global citizens on April 22, 2020 to show our children, our grandchildren and all the young people in our lives that we care about their futures, and that each one of us matters and our individual and collective actions can make a difference!

Next week’s Blog post will start to feature specific trees. We invite you to let us know about your favourites. Some of ours are birch, oak, white pine, sequoia and eucalyptus trees.

We are intrigued to learn that there is such a thing as Celtic Tree Astrology. You might want to check this fun link to see whether your “tree personality” is, for example, Birch – The Achiever, Ash – The Enchanter, Hawthorn – The Illusionist, or Willow – The Observer. Enjoy!

Will Canda Find a Way to be a Global Climate Action Leader?

Transportation: EV-ZEV-PHEV-iZEV

Canada wants to be a global leader in carbonless transportation – with a federal Canada-wide target of 100% zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2040, according to this Transport Canada website

And, apparently, Canadians have a big “drive” for being early EV adopters -bad pun intended 🙂 .

ZEVs include EVs (battery electric vehicles), hydrogen fuel cell elecric vehicles and PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles).

 iZEVs (Incentives for Zero Emission Vehicles) are rebates funded by the federal government that are intended to accelerate progress toward the 2040 target.

Two types of incentives are offered, to a maximum of $5000 for eligible electric vehicles, and $2500 off for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The rebates apply to new car purchases and/or leases made on or after the program launch date of May 1, 2019.

This Global News article outlines what consumers need to know about the iZEVs, and lists the 9 eligible EVs and 12 eligible PHEVs as: EVs – Chevrolet Bolt, Ford Focus Elecric, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Nico Electric, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model 3 Standard Regular, Volkswagon e-Golf; and the 12 eligible PHEVs – Audi A3 e-tron, Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Ford Fusion Energi, Honda Clarity PHEV, Hyundai Sonata PHEV, Kia Niro PHEV, Mini Cooper S E Countryman, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Toyota Prius Prime We were encouraged to learn how many ZEVs are already on the market here in Canada.

Readers who are seriously considering buying or leasing a ZEV in the future would be best to consult the official list plus application forms, at Transport Canada’s website at:

For lucky Quebec citizens, the federal rebates are in addition to provincial incentives of up to $8K offered by Quebec

British Columbia is the only other Canadian province currently offering its citizens incentives to adopt ZEV technology, although their incentives  of up to $3000 (EV) and $1500 (PHEV) are less than Quebec’s

This Globe and Mail business article notes that Canadians are among the fastest adopters of EVs, and warns that the $300 million  iZEV program funding is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and might run out before its intended three-year span. The article says that the federal government indicates that almost 50% of the fund has been accessed in the first eight months of the program

Building Innovations – Deep Water Cooling Systems

In our research for this Blog, we gravitate toward innovation stories, particularly if they are by and/or about, Canadians. For us, they are a source of optimism and Canadian pride.

This Globe and Mail article profiles some ground-breaking (literally) and “revolutionary energy and carbon-saving techniques” that are being implemented in the design and building of The Well in downtown Toronto, on a site that was formerly the headquarters for the Globe and Mail.

The seven-storey building will serve a projected 11,000 people daily, in a mix of residential, retail and office space.  The core of the project is its innovative heating and cooling system, powered by a “giant thermal battery” (i.e., “the well”) which is “a multi-million litre underground hole that extends into the bedrock from below the lowest parking level to a few metres above sea level.” Very cool

Another “cool” feature, is that the company has designed a way to use heat pumps to capture heat that is drawn away from cooling systems (needed to keep computer systems cool by, for example,  nearby companies with large data centres and cloud computing providers) and reuse it for space heating, rather than dissipating the warm air into the outdoor air. According to the article, heat pumps also can be three times more efficient in their use of electricity over baseboard heating.

Wood High Rises – Really?

Innovations in “cross-laminated timber” (CLT) by researchers in Austria and Germany according to this CBC article have set the stage for stronger, fire-resistant wood panels and beams that will enable an “engineered wood product for building on the scale of cement and steel.” Proponents of CLT identify two green benefits for adopting such building innovations: “the wood stores carbon for the lifetime of the building…; and, it would reduce emissions linked to steel and cement production…”.

Lowering carbon emissions in building construction is an important part of moving toward a zero-emissions world, since the article notes that cement production is currently “the second-largest industrial emitter in the world, after the fossil fuel industry.”

Building code restrictions in Canadian provinces are beginning to be updated, to allow for previously prohibited high rises constructed of wood. Acton Ostry Architects in Vancouver got special exemptions to build the Brock Commons Tallwood House in the University of British Columbia. The 18-storey student residence was the tallest wood building in the world when it opened in 2017. The article goes on to profile additional Canadian wood tower projects  in Victoria, Vancouver Island and Toronto. It also notes that Alberta and the federal government will be amending building codes to remove the existing six storey height limit on wood buildings.

Last week, Randy shared his family’s experience with installing a solar panel roof on their home in Edmonton. Thank you, Randy, for being such a terrific and generous guest blogger!

That got us curious to learn about any incentives for adopting solar energy.

We have not found information about Canadian solar energy incentives for individuals, unfortunately.

However, we did find this federal fund that is available to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Federal Solar Energy Incentives

More acronyms. Climate Action Incentive Fund (CAIF) launched in May 2019, offers eligible SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick federal funding for energy efficiency projects. Got us wondering, why not Alberta which seriously needs support to develop alternatives to oil and gas?

According to this article, “eligible projects include building retrofits, improved industrial processes, cleaner transportation, fuel switching, and the production of renewable energy, including solar energy projects…” Projects could be eligible to receive up to 25 percent of costs, ranging from $20,000 to $250,000

In next week’s Blog post we will start planning ahead for Earth Day 2020 which is only two months away on April 5, 2020.

Solar Panels

Welcome and thank you to our second guest blogger Randy Mikula.

Buying Solar:   One family’s experience:   by Randy Mikula

Solar is not for everyone, and to find out if it is for you, it might be useful to hear our experience.   I think that the first myth that needs to be dispelled is that going solar makes economic sense.   It does not.   When investigating a solar purchase, you will be confronted with a bewildering variety of claims for payback periods and return on investment calculations.    My advice is to ignore all of them…….they are based on assumptions and predictions, typically going out 15 to 20 years.    With that time scale, even small changes in predictions about the future cost of electricity will have significant impacts on any estimated payback periods.   It is really best to ignore those graphs and charts that dominate the information package you will receive from companies that will be bidding on your installation.  There is a reason that solar installations have significant government subsidies…….because they don’t make economic sense. Why then, would anyone consider a solar installation?    Answer:   I don’t know!    I can, however, tell you why we installed solar panels.  In Alberta, a significant portion of our electricity is from coal powered generators, and there is a significant level of air pollution associated with burning coal.   We were lucky enough to have some disposable income, and rather than leave that for our children, we thought we would do our bit to reduce some of the environmental downside of coal fired power plants.    We did not believe any of the 15 to 20 year return on investment claims by the suppliers.   

Our Solar installation.  Twenty-four 320watt panels for a total capacity of 7.68kWatts.

Whatever your motivation for going solar, once your decision is made, the real fun begins.    Our adventure began with an internet search of local companies and at the time (late summer of 2018), we quickly narrowed our list down to what we thought were a top 6.    Each of the companies presented different options in terms of the type of solar panel (watts per panel) and the number of panels.    A fairly complex spreadsheet evolved to determine cost per watt generated, panel manufacturer and associated reputation, and finally installation cost.   On top of this, there are two main technical considerations around how the power is delivered to your home and out to the grid.    The solar panels are producing DC (direct current) voltage, while your house and the grid feeding your house are AC (alternating current).   In order to convert your solar panel output to useable electricity, the DC power has to be converted to AC power.    In 2018 there were two options available to achieve this conversion:  microinverters or power optimizers.   The microinverters do the DC to AC conversion at each solar panel, while the power optimizers allow for reasonably efficient transfer of DC power from each panel to a DC to AC inverter installed near your electrical panel inside your house.     There are lots of interesting geeky technical reasons why we went with the power optimizers and the single inverter inside the house but getting into those details is not the intent of this particular soap box tirade.     

My July energy usage broken down by day.   Making way more energy than I am using.

Once you have made that decision about a distributed or single power inverter, it will surprisingly do nothing to limit your choices about which company to do the installation.   That is because most of them will offer either system, although they may have preferences as to which they might recommend to you.    So, now we are down to looking at cost per watt based on the output of the solar panels and their associated costs, including installation.   Sorry…..still no help from me on this because this is a pretty competitive industry and each company will have similar performance and trying to figure out the pros and cons of things like polycrystalline panels versus single crystal panels and output per panel can drive you crazy…….I know I still have a bit of tic from my experience in trying to sort out the best deal.    In the end I determined that it is like buying a TV.    There are quality issues that are largely determined by the price, and once you have determined your price range you might as well make the purchase, cross your fingers,  and then quit looking at the market.   Just like TV’s you will find companies offering say LG or Canadian Solar brand panels, same output, same general description, but different prices….. look closely and you will see that just like TV’s even for the same brand  it is a different model #, so good luck with any head to head comparisons. 

I have to admit that I spent way too much time looking technical details and splitting way too many hairs before I realized that there is no point sweating over a few pennies per installed watt.   In the end I literally just went with the guy I liked the best when I met him on the site visits…..probably not the best advice but after months of calculations I was finally ready to get my system installed and just assumed the industry is pretty competitive in terms of equipment quality.  For my installation, I was lucky because I needed new shingles, so I had my solar panels installed on a new roof.    With the solar panels protecting my shingles, I am expecting this roof to last forever.

Here is the PWRView output for December broken down by day.   Even with my steep roof, it can take time for the snow to fall off the panels. Using way more energy than I am making.

Now for the fun part….saving the planet.    The installation will include an internet link so the company can monitor your system performance and of course so can you.   I have a SolarEdge inverter and it is hooked to the web via my home internet.   You can look at my system performance by going to and typing “mikula” into the monitoring section.   You won’t get the detail of information that I get, but it gives you an idea of my system performance and you can get a sense of the data that is available.   I thought that checking this site would be interesting for about 4 months before the novelty wore off.   After about 16 months it is still fun, but only because a good friend across town has a similar system installed and we are constantly monitoring each others performance and bragging or not depending upon our relative solar output.   Note that if you look at my system data it says that since installation, I have saved over 3400kg of carbon dioxide or planted the equivalent of over 11 trees.   My 7.68 kW of installed power (24x320watt panels) is almost an ideal installation because I have a steep roof slope facing south.   At the equator, an ideal solar panel angle would be flat on the ground…… you move north, the ideal panel angle gets steeper in proportion to your latitude (the angle of the sun).    My steep roof slope is almost optimum in terms of panel angle for Edmonton and furthermore the steep angle means that snow doesn’t accumulate, but will slide off the panels, allowing me to create power even throughout the winter.    My friend’s installation is on a conventional roof and once the snow falls, his panels are essentially off line, so it is no fun comparing performance for at least 4 months out of the year.   

My total output from the solar edge system data.  Over time, I will see how the solar panel output might deteriorate due to age.   This shows that with my steep angled panels, I can make power in the winter months because my panels are not always covered with snow.

But wait….there is another technology that will help keep you interested in your energy and planet saving efforts  even when the panels are covered with snow.    This is an electricity monitoring device that is often available as an option from your solar installer.   It can be installed and be fun whether you have solar panels or not.   Mine is called Generac PWRVIEW (see above chart).   You can install this in your electrical panel and it will monitor your electrical usage.    With time, some systems can identify what appliance is on line and output what your electricity use is for each identified appliance.   This can be great fun for me and a huge annoyance to the family when I can identify that lights have been left on and can quantify the vampire power draws in the house.   This is also on the internet so power use can be monitored even while on holiday in Saskatchewan  or Hawaii (now you see why it can be a huge annoyance).    That monitoring system cost about $400, and is way more fun than just looking at solar panel output.   After all, you can’t do anything about the solar power, but you can keep lights off and monitor daily electricity use for your lights, computer, washer, dryer, etc.    I would recommend that any solar installation include the add on monitoring system and in fact, the monitoring system might be a good investment even without a solar installation.    The monitoring system will measure solar input as well as household use, and if you are looking at the monitoring system as a start, the solar monitoring option is an easy addition later.   

Here is my power usage and generation for July 22.   Making way more than I am using and you can see two spikes where we were probably doing laundry.   This data can be looked at in real time at much higher resolution and I can see when the tea kettle is turned on, or even a laptop!   Notice that the power generated is chopped at 6kWatts.   That is the limit of my inverter, while my rooftop has the potential to make 7,68kWatts (some wasted production there).   Note the notch in generation where some clouds blocked the sun for a time. 

 Finally, I will share some financial estimates.    My solar installation cost about $22K for 7.68kW of panels, and with $6K in rebates, my cost was $16K.   In 2019, my Generac data showed I saved $747 (and don’t forget the 3400kg of carbon dioxide and 11 trees).  That’s not bad, but less than a 5% return on my $16K.   Take a close look at your electrical bill and you will see that most of the cost is transmission, and not power, so don’t expect any months with no power bill.   And remember, my installation is almost ideal.   As they say, “results may vary”, but be assured they probably will not be as good as mine.   Another surprise (is was for me) is that during a power outage, your solar system will shut down and you will not have power along with your neighbors.   This is because in the event that technicians are working on the grid, they don’t want to be shocked by power coming from a solar system.

Obviously, a lot of this is just my opinion and you need to do your own research, but you should be able to get a lot of satisfaction from reducing at least a small portion of the pollution associated with coal fired power generation.  I think you will be unhappy if you think going solar is a financial investment, but very happy if you see it as an investment in the environment.    

My 6kWatt inverter mounted beside my electrical panel.  The white antenna unit connects the solar edge inverter to the home wifi, and the black antenna just above that connects the PWRView electricity monitor to the home wifi.

Thank you, Randy, for generously sharing and educating us on what a solar panel installation involves, looks like, and yields in terms of benefits at the household level, including fun intangibles such as the pleasure of being able to monitor the family’s energy production and consumption remotely.

Morocco’s Solar Farm – Noor (meaning “light” in Arabic)

That got us curious to learn more about leading solar energy projects, at the country level.

According to a 2019 article by the National Geographic, Morocco is among three “Top of Class” countries on path to meet or exceed their Paris Agreement targets  and in keeping with an overall 1.5C global warming maximum rise. (FYI, the other two countries are The Gambia and India; the full report card article is here

According to the article, Morocco is already at 35% of its electricity production through renewable sources, on path toward its National Energy Strategy goal of 42% by 2020 and 52% by 2030. The Noor Ouarzazate complex is credited with being the main reason why Morocco is in this enviable position, through the country’s foresight and $9 billion investment in the largest solar farm in the world, currently.

We found this 6-minute PBS video clip on Noor to be fascinating and most instructive – it illustrates how solar energy is captured and converted into electric power, and, previews the latest in solar technology that will enable the farm to keep on working an additional seven hours after the sun sets, once phase three is implemented –

Next week’s blog post will look into some of the research informing the recent 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), held at Davos, Switzerland at the end of January 2020, where a large part of the Agenda was focused on the global risks, and a call to action by all — nations, companies, local governments and citizens — to step up the world’s efforts on mitigating climate change.