Net-zero

Lithium Producer in Central Alberta Aims for Net-Zero Facility

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Lithium Producer in Central Alberta Aims for Net-Zero Facility

Chris Doornbos has always been interested in energy systems, but it was hard to find opportunities in clean energy for geologists like him. Until he started thinking about lithium.

Lithium – soft, silvery-white alkali metal, similar to potassium or sodium – is one of the main components of batteries, and a crucial resource for the energy storage industry.

In 2014, Chris began looking for lithium projects, first in South America, which supplies about 75 per cent of the world’s lithium, as well as in the U.S. and Australia. Then, he came across a report from the Government of Alberta about lithium, and discovered the availability of an unexplored, underappreciated asset right in his own backyard.

Decentralized energy is the future, and that will need efficient batteries.
— Chris Doornbos

“The ground wasn’t owned by anyone, so we went in and picked it up,” said Doornbos, who went on to found a lithium development company, now known as E3 Metals Corp, where he is the CEO. “We have literally developed this project from nothing.”

The Leduc Formation was first explored for oil and gas in the 1940s and led to the oil rush in central Alberta. Over the past 70 years, more than 3,000 wells have been drilled in the area. Because of the existing wells – as well as collaborative relationships with other companies working in Leduc Formation reservoirs – no further drilling or land disturbance has been needed for E3 Metals to develop their lithium project.

“As a mineral company, the biggest expense you have is drilling and we haven’t needed to do that,” said Doornbos.

Based on their sampling, the company estimates there is 6.7 million tonnes of lithium in the reservoirs of the Leduc Formation, making it one of the largest sources of lithium in the world.

The standard process for extracting and producing lithium relies on huge evaporation ponds, taking 18 to 24 months to concentrate lithium to a point where it can be refined. What makes E3 Metals unique is that, using a chemical filter process called Ion Exchange, they have developed a method to concentrate lithium in only three hours. Not only is it fast, it is also likely inexpensive compared to the evaporation process, and removes 99 per cent of the impurities found in lithium brine.

In addition to speed, the lithium brine extracted is hot, and could be used to produce geothermal power to run the process. E3 Metals hopes to make their facility net-zero, and in doing so create the an environmentally friendly source of lithium.

“We have the potential to be a near zero-greenhouse-gas lithium producer,” said Doornbos.

The company is still in the development stage, to date achieving a 20x concentration in lithium with their process. They hope to soon have a demonstration of this process and then plan to build a pilot plant facility in the field this year.

With an increase in electric vehicles and energy storage, global lithium demand is expected to triple by 2025.

“Decentralized energy is the future,” said Doornbos. “And that will need efficient batteries.”


Learn more about E3 Metals Corp here.

For more information on clean tech projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Welcome to the Mosaic Centre

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Welcome to the Mosaic Centre: Alberta’s first net-zero commercial building

The gap from net-zero houses to large-scale net-zero commercial buildings has been bridged. The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce in Edmonton is the first commercial net-zero office building in Alberta. In a net-zero building  the amount of energy used is equal to the amount of renewable energy generated on-site on an annual basis, allowing the Mosaic Centre to use 65% less energy than a conventional commercial building. What was once just a dream of co-owners Dennis Cuku and Christy Benoit has become reality.

“We said it was going to be beautiful. Check. Sustainable. Check. And affordable. Check,” says Benoit.

This 30,000-square-foot building cost $10.5 million dollars. It’s bright and roomy with beautiful exposed wood beams, feature stairs and a three-storey living wall in the foyer. It has large south facing windows, thermally massive concrete floors and as low an electricity demand as they could get away with.

They reduced that demand by getting rid of as many overhead light fixtures as they could. Instead, the workers get copious amounts of natural light and use task lighting when necessary.

There is much more energy demand per square metre in a bigger, commercial building than a net-zero home. The owners put together a team led by Vedran Skopac of Manasc Isaac Architects that used lean processes and integrated project delivery to build this first-of-its-kind building.

Typically, tradespeople just show up, do their job and leave it to the next crew to finish their part. With the Mosaic Centre crews collaborate to help eliminate the wasted time and materials that happens on a typical build. As a result, there were no change orders during the project, which is almost unheard of in a modern construction project.


“Sustainable and beautiful can co-exist. When you put affordability in there that’s where the real challenge occurs. But this is, I think, a living example of how the three can co-exist”


Mosaic’s heating and cooling system is a fully electric ground source heat pump system. The parking lot on the north side of the building is a geothermal field with 32, 70-metre deep boreholes.

With all of the south-facing glass and concrete floors, the building actually has a much larger cooling demand than a typical Edmonton office building. If the sun is shining brightly the building even has to run its cooling system in February.

Unusually for a commercial building, the windows can be opened. These help regulate the temperature in the summer and gives workers a measure of control over their environment.

The building achieved LEED platinum certification, the highest possible level of recognition for environmental stewardship on a construction project.

“Sustainable and beautiful can co-exist. When you put affordability in there that’s where the real challenge occurs. But this is, I think, a living example of how the three can co-exist,” says Benoit. Due to high savings on energy costs, the net return on investment, over 5 years, is the same as that of a conventional building. 

They want to inspire other builders to follow in their footsteps and to make commercial buildings closer to net-zero. To that end the engineering and research reports on the building are publicly available. If you are a builder and you want to make sure your next commercial building is closer to net-zero, the recipe is out there.


Read the full story on Green Energy Futures here

For more information on how to undertake your own energy efficiency project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.


The Age of Affordable Net-Zero Homes

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The Age of Affordable Net-Zero Homes

Welcome to the future, a time when your home is energy self-sufficient and produces almost no utility bills.

Landmark Homes of Edmonton has announced a net-zero home that sells for just under $400,000. This new price point means the goal of making all new homes net-zero by 2030 is now a potential reality.

With plenty of natural light and its own garage, The Pisa is a beautiful 2-storey, 1,230 sq. foot home built to specifications beyond the building code.

Leading a tour of the home, Tanya Rumak, Landmark’s sustainability manager, places her hand on the basement floor and suggests we do the same. It’s warm to the touch.

“Insulation under the floor,” Remak says. Yup, foam insulation encases the home.

“We have an R80 attic insulation. We have an R27 above grade exterior wall, and that includes exterior rigid insulation that minimizes thermal bridging. And in the basement, we have R36, which is a fiberglass and mineral wool combination. And then underneath the basement floor, we have two inches of insulation which is R8,” explains Rumak. All that insulation does a great job of keeping heat and air from leaking.

To provide fresh air the home uses a heat recovery ventilator that recovers 75% of the heat in the air before exhausting stale air outside. A similar system recovers heat from water exiting the home.

As you shower, hot water goes down the drain. The solution is heat-recovering copper tubes that retain up to 15 degrees C from hot water.

The Pisa is so efficient it requires 60% less energy than a code-built home. In fact, it doesn’t even need gas for heating.

“We don’t have gas coming to this home. This is an electrically-powered home that is run off the solar panels on the roof,” says Rumak.

The heat-pump furnace, heat-pump hot water heater and ventilation system all run on solar power. So, no gas bill.

The only bill you get is for power. “For the majority of that year, you may actually even be running on credits, which means you’re not paying anything. But there may be those few months out of the year in the winter where you have a small bill,” says Rumak.

A net-zero home has no drafts, no cold spots, is super quiet and very comfortable. And there is another kind of comfort. “It’s the comfort of mind that I’m talking about, not having to worry about what’s going happen to my bill next month,” says Mananni.

The timing of Landmark’s affordable net-zero couldn’t be better. In Edmonton, work has begun on Blatchford, the city’s carbon-neutral neighbourhood. It will someday be home to 30,000 people.


Read the full story on Green Energy Futures here

Learn more about this project on the Emissions Reduction Alberta website here

For more information on how to undertake your own energy efficiency project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.