A futuristic sight is greeting visitors to the Halifax waterfront: a ship powered by 515 square metres of solar panels.
MS Tûranor – or “power of the sun” in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictitious Elvish language – is stopping in various ports preceding a research mission to gather climate-related data in the Gulf Stream. The symbolic connection is that the vessel, launched in Germany in 2010, is powered without any emissions.
The ship does have backup generator for conventional fuel but it has never been used, according to a recent article in the St. John’s Telegram.
This ship was hugely expensive to build and, for now, is quite an anomaly. But part of the exercise is to suggest that possibilities for solar could be widespread – some more within grasp than powering a ship across the ocean.
The Nova Scotia government is one of many committed to identifying greener energy sources. We’ve seen a huge growth in wind farms in recent years, along with smaller, community-based wind projects.
We have the Community Feed-In Tariff program, or COMFIT, to encourage locally based renewable energy projects. Although a push was on by people in the solar power industry in the province to include solar under the COMFIT program, the idea has yet to be taken up.
An interesting observation about Tûranor – its makers say of the enormous pricetag, the components would cost much less now, only a few years later. That’s encouraging as we look for other ways to harness this power source: improved technologies and more reasonable costs.
This comes at a time of continuing debate over the Muskrat Falls hydro project. It’s apparent no way forward will be without expense, without massive support, nor are there obvious, easy answers.
Governments find themselves entwined with efforts to bring cleaner, efficient energy sources to people. But a big part of their task is to catch up with the future, recognize potential and, where support is necessary, back those with a winning chance.