Support from RBC creates a new pathway to a career in IT for Indigenous students while expanding mentorship and hands-on learning for students in business and IT programs at RRC Polytech

Winnipeg, Manitoba on Treaty No. 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis Nation – Today, Indigenous leaners interested in pursuing a career in Manitoba’s IT sector will have access to a new Information Technology program offered at RRC Polytech as the result thanks to a $450,000 gift from RBC. This most recent gift alongside funding for other programs and platforms that connect diverse students to their ideas, potential, and one another, make for a million-dollar friendship.

“When community partners like RBC connect with RRC Polytech to create globally needed program, we’re ready to answer the call,” said Fred Meier, President and CEO, RRC Polytech. “This new pathway program is designed to equip Indigenous Manitobans with the skills and support required to transition into selected programs at RRC Polytech. With the move to remote and hybrid work and heavy reliance on technology, the world of IT Operations is growing everyday and RRC Polytech’s students are in high demand.”

RBC has been a longstanding partner of RRC Polytech and today both organizations are celebrating over $1M in support. These gifts have provided mentorship and internship opportunities for students through Ten Thousand Coffees and Riipen, sponsored the Directions Conference as well as the Reaction by Collision series, where today’s announcement is being made and today will launch the Pathway to Information Technology programs.

We at RBC are delighted to support the new Indigenous Pathway Program to IT Operations with this gift. Representation in industry, access to education, and tapping into the incredible talents of Indigenous people matter to all of us. We are so proud to further deepen our longtime friendship with RRC Polytech while helping give space to new and innovative ideas in areas of information technology.

Kim Ulmer
RBC Regional President

Pathways are exploratory and preparatory programs that provide Indigenous Manitobans with the skills and supports required to transition into selected RRC programs by increasing their academic, personal, social and financial readiness.

This is the fourth Pathway program added to RRC Polytech, showcasing the success of this model and the demand for these types of programs that increase opportunities for Indigenous students in various sectors. Pathway to Information Technology will prepare and empower students to participate in IT Operations, Information Security and Business Information Technology.

When students have selected a career path and are ready to transition into a RRC program, Pathways offer the added benefit of dedicated seats for Indigenous students, in an effort to remove the barrier of long program wait lists.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s innovative new Sustainability-Led Integrated Centres of Excellence (SLICE) is empowering a better Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech) engages in applied research, drawing on faculty expertise to support innovation by employers and providing students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. The institution’s new Sustainability-Led Integrated Centre of Excellence (SLICE) is an industry-centric, solution-oriented development and deployment centre that’s bringing sustainable development to Saskatchewan and Canada through local technology solutions with global application potential.

Turning waste into something useful

“SLICE is a new Sask Polytech applied research centre advancing sustainable resource management with a full life-cycle lens approach,” says Dr. Robin Smith, Academic Chair of Applied Research Operations at SLICE. “Our focus is on key sectors of Saskatchewan’s economy including energy resources, manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry. SLICE is really about delivering solutions to applied research partners in support of a circular, bio-based economy.”

The circular economy prioritizes reusing, recycling, and upcycling of materials and resources to minimize waste and promote sustainability, and two of SLICE’s recent projects highlight innovations in the field.

The ecological soil reclamation project was undertaken after Sask Polytech was approached by Andrew Carpenter, a freelance Environmental Consultant and President of Reclaimit, a company focused on forest and land restoration.

“I was doing a soil reclamation project up in Northern Saskatchewan and it failed,” says Carpenter. “I realized that I’m not a researcher — I’m a practitioner. I needed some horsepower from the research end.”

Carpenter went looking for support and came upon Sask Polytech. Together, they’ve been exploring how to restore soil using biochar, a charcoal produced by the thermal decomposition of biomass.

“Biochar is made from repurposed waste, so we’re taking a waste product that would end up in a landfill and repurposing it into solid carbon, which is now considered sequestered carbon, so we’re using sequestered carbon to help repair the soil,” says Carpenter. “It’s really cool.”

One of the benefits of partnering with SLICE is that it’s a single-entry point to multiple areas of expertise at Sask Polytech. Sustainability issues are complex and we recognize that through our collaborative approach.

Supporting a bio-based circular economy

Another exciting project being undertaken by SLICE is the Waste Not, Want Not project, which aims to develop a biocarbon masterbatch, a solid additive used to impart colour and other properties to plastics, that could replace traditional petroleum-based carbon black. This project is with Titan Clean Energy Projects.

“We’re working with Sask Polytech and looking at how we can use materials that might be considered waste from another segment of the economy to improve processes and cycle back into the system,” says Jamie Bakos, President and CEO of Titan. “In this case, we’re looking at developing a product that could assist in making compostable bioplastics. We have the potential to export this material worldwide.”

SLICE’s collaborative, integrated, transdisciplinary approach is focused on understanding the relationships required to address complex issues related to sustainability. “Our partners have access to exceptional facilities, faculty expertise, and an amazing pool of student talent,” says Smith. “One of the benefits of partnering with SLICE is that it’s a single-entry point to multiple areas of expertise at Sask Polytech. Sustainability issues are complex and we recognize that through our collaborative approach.”

The first step to learning what Sask Polytech and its applied research team of expert faculty can do for your business is reach out. “All it takes is a phone call or an email to get started,” says Dr. Susan Blum, associate Vice-President, Applied Research and Innovation. “We’ll work with you — whether you’re just starting out or in a large organization — to determine what you need to accomplish and how we can help you get there.”

RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre (VTEC) will continue to lead the charge on the shift to zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), thanks to support from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

The federal government, through NRCan recently announced a $225,000 grant for Enhancing Workplace Charging across Canada’s Prairie Region through Emphasizing Strategies for Cost-Effective Adaptation of Charging Infrastructure (Enhancing Workplace Charging), an initiative RRC Polytech will lead alongside partners Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech). This grant was provided along with funding for 22 organizations across Canada to undertake ZEV awareness projects.

Through this partnership, the College is extending its reach from Manitoba to throughout the Prairies to build public awareness of charging options for electric vehicles (EVs).

Our VTEC team at the College is excited to build on the momentum of EV projects we’ve completed over the last decade. This initiative is particularly important because it addresses a major challenge of making the shift to EVs on the individual level, and how organizations can support charging infrastructure for the general public.

Jojo Delos Reyes
Research Program Manager, VTEC

The overall aim of the collaborative initiative is to address one of the most significant barriers to EV adoption, “range anxiety” due to lack of access to charging infrastructure. RRC Polytech and project partners have identified that the Prairie region presents a major opportunity to implement charging stations to meet workplace charging needs. Throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, there are numerous existing plug-in-points (nearly 500,000 in Manitoba alone) due to the cold climate, which can be adapted in a cost-effective manner for Level 1 charging.

To support EV adoption, RRC Polytech’s VTEC team, NAIT and Sask Polytech will leverage collective expertise to research and distribute informational material to build awareness of charging options and how to adapt current infrastructure for Level 1 workplace charging.

RRC Polytech is a founding member of Accelerate and member of Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2), and the Enhancing Workplace Charging project goals directly align with the mandates of these alliances to support a greener future, highlighting the College’s commitment to sustainability.

In addition, the project will help build a future workforce trained for clean-tech jobs, through student participation in applied learning. RRC Polytech researchers, technicians, and students will also help build the College’s capabilities for new zero-emission technology initiatives.

RRC Polytech remains on the leading-edge of the drive to zero-emission vehicles, growing the province as a hub for EV innovation and adoption. To learn more about the College’s past vehicle technology projects, visit

As leaders, the Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) coalition is actively engaged with the federal government to demonstrate how we can quickly respond to complex training and applied research challenges from coast to coast to coast. C2R2 is a coalition of highly aligned institutions from across Canada with an established commitment to sustainability, that have come together as a driving force, providing the skills required to transition to a clean economy in Canada. Our institutions are positioned to develop thousands of training and applied research opportunities to help Canadians access new careers, support the transition to a low-carbon economy, and foster inclusion, diversity, and equity.

We will ensure we are at the forefront of the transition by:

  • Rapidly implementing and scaling curriculum initiatives focused on training workers for a resilient recovery to meet federal targets
  • Demonstrating new and existing research expertise and facilities to innovate technology, techniques and products to drive the low-carbon transition and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Utilizing the C2R2 pan-Canadian network to collaborate and expand the reach of training and research abilities to better support women, underrepresented populations, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples
C2R2 can support federal priorities. With government awareness, support and funding C2R2 can rapidly respond to the training and research opportunities needed to support an inclusive low-carbon economy.

In its November 2021 Speech from the Throne, the federal government said, “As a country, we want to be leaders in producing the world’s cleanest steel, aluminum, building products, cars, and planes. Not only do we have the raw materials and energy to do that, most importantly, we have skilled, hard-working Canadians to power these industries.”

Canada must become a leader in producing these clean materials if Canada is to meet its net-zero targets and build a more resilient, sustainable, and competitive economy. However, the federal government cannot meet these commitments alone. It requires the collaboration of provinces, communities, industry, and educational institutions to ensure we have the trained workers required to fill jobs in an emerging economy brought on by the opportunities a net-zero future provides.

Across Canada, the opportunities found in a resilient, sustainable and competitive economy are becoming apparent. From building Canada’s capacity to develop our critical mineral infrastructure, to ensuring Canada is at the forefront of emerging sectors like electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and carbon capture – Canada’s colleges, cégeps, institutions and polytechnics are ensuring workers can be trained to take full advantage of the opportunities these new sectors offer.

On February 10, 14 and 15, C2R2 members will be meeting with federal parliamentarians to ensure they understand that Canada’s colleges, cégeps, institutions, and polytechnics play a critical role in preparing workers for a changing economy. C2R2 committed to working with the government and parliamentarians of all political stripes to ensure we prepare our workforce for the employment opportunities that are emerging in every region of our country, and that we fully benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We are seeking the support of parliamentarians to support C2R2’s efforts in ensuring we recognize the opportunity C2R2 provides to prepare our workforce, and that it receives the support required for success.

The goals the federal government have set are ambitious, but we have to be ambitious to succeed and ensure a strong, resilient economic recovery for Canada. Canadian colleges have always risen to the challenge of ensuring that Canadian workers are trained for the jobs of tomorrow. We stand ready to get that job done once again.

Interested in meeting with C2R2 to learn more and how you can support the coalition? Contact Paul Armstrong, C2R2 Steering Group Co-Chair at [email protected] to arrange a meeting.

Ron J. McKerlie is Chair of Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery and President of Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario.

Building produced more energy to than it consumed in 2021

The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College retained its zero-carbon building (ZCB) performance certification with the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in 2021, producing more electricity than it used.

BH_Mohawk_2055The college recently received confirmation that Canada’s first zero carbon dually certified building surpassed the required building performance standards for a third consecutive year. In 2018, CaGBC awarded The Joyce Centre its Zero Carbon Building – Design certification, recognizing the building was designed according to zero carbon building requirements. In 2019, CaGBC first verified that the building met the Zero Carbon Building – Performance Standard. This announcement confirms that The Joyce Centre has achieved zero carbon emissions again in its third year of operation.

Over the past three years, The Joyce Centre has exemplified sustainable building operation for students, employees, community and industry partners. While only labs were active during the pandemic, reducing occupancy and energy demands last year, the performance of this impressive building remains remarkable. Our Facility Services team has continued to excel in the ongoing maintenance, calibration and monitoring of this impressive facility.

Ron McKerlie, President and CEO
Mohawk College

In 2021, The Joyce Centre generated 665,582 kWh of electricity and used 376,853 kWh, creating a surplus of 288,729 kWh. Of the energy used by the building last year, 236,066 kWh was provided by the municipal power grid and, over that same period, 524,795 kWh of green energy was used by other facilities on the college campus. The Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for The Joyce Centre during this period was 42 kWh/square metre, which is 85% lower than the Canadian national median EUI value for college/university facilities, as published by Energy Star. 

As the largest net zero institutional building in Canada, The Joyce Centre is a living lab for students, offering them hands-on access to the monitoring and operations of a ZCB-certified building. Students are able to explore building information modeling, a process of gathering and grouping data from the building’s performance to understand and optimize the design and maintenance during the lifetime of the building.

The design and performance of The Joyce Centre reinforces Mohawk College’s commitment to supporting a strong culture of environmental responsibility and to be a leader in environmental sustainability.

The ZCB-Performance Standard verifies that buildings achieve Zero Carbon operations year after year. Verification is required annually.

In 2019, RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre (VTEC) hosted the inaugural Vehicle Technology Conference. This past December 7 and 8, 2021, VTEC collaborated with industry partner, Vehicle Technology Centre Inc. (VTC), to host the Heavy Vehicle and Equipment Technology Conference at the Victoria Inn & Convention Centre, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The conference showcased heavy vehicle and tech expertise in the province and aimed to connect key industry players and academic institutions. The overarching goal of the conference is to support Manitoba’s position as a hub for emerging vehicle technology and innovation, through creating new connections and cross collaborations.

“Manitoba is home to a unique concentration of heavy vehicle and equipment manufacturers. We are home to North America’s largest city and highway bus manufacturer, Canada’s only four-wheel drive tractor manufacturer, the country’s largest manufacturers of fire trucks, agricultural equipment, and motorhomes. The province also has a host of businesses manufacturing truck trailers, airport runway cleaning equipment, electric municipal vehicles as well as a supply and academic community that supports our growth,” said Ron Vanderwees, President of VTC, a non-for-profit organization that helps accelerate growth and technology adoption of the local heavy vehicle and equipment cluster.

“Many of us are on a similar technology path and the Conference is a platform to informally share knowledge or formally collaborate to help our cluster stay ahead of the curve and be leaders amongst world-wide competition.”

“RRC Polytech aims to drive growth in Manitoba’s heavy vehicle and equipment cluster by working alongside industry partners to solve real-world challenges. Through applied research projects, we continue to build our capabilities with zero-emission vehicle technology and provide invaluable work-integrated experience for our students, the next generation of innovators,” said Jojo Delos Reyes, Research Program Manager, VTEC.

Guests joined the hybrid event in person and virtually through Zoom for forward-thinking sessions from local subject matter experts and presenters joining from across North America. The conference gave a look into “what’s next” in the industry and focused on top-of-mind areas, including hydrogen fuel cell technology, smart, connected and autonomous vehicles, augmented reality to support production, and much more.

Paul Soubry, President and CEO of NFI Group gave the keynote presentation, “Maintaining Product Segment Leadership in Markets with Rapidly Evolving Technology,” followed by a fireside chat with RRC Polytech President and CEO, Fred Meier.

On the second day of the conference, John Gunter, President and CEO, and Tye Noble, Lead Engineer, of Frontiers North Adventures, shared their experiences from the Electric Vehicle (EV) Tundra Buggy prototype, a collaborative electrification project with VTC, VTEC and support from the Government of Manitoba’s Conservation and Climate Fund.

Select presentations from the conference are available to view on under the “Webinars & Technical Papers” section.

Partners launch resilient housing solutions project to assist with rebuild of fire-ravaged Lytton, B.C. region.

Kanaka Bar Indian Band, SAIT, Okanagan College, Foresight Canada and Seko Construction have partnered to harness innovation to provide options for the rebuild of a fire-ravaged region in British Columbia.

Also known as “T’eqt”aqtn’mux” or “the crossing place people,” the Kanaka Bar Indian Band is one of 15 Indigenous communities that make up the Nlaka’pamux Nation. For more than 7000 years, Kanaka’s Traditional Territory — located 14 kilometers south of Lytton in the Fraser Canyon region — sustained its people.

SAIT and Patrick Michell, Chief of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band, have entered into an agreement to launch a pilot project focused on climate-resilient housing options for evacuees who lost their homes in the June 30, 2021 Lytton, B.C. wildfire. The project is expected to reveal sustainable new building and retrofitting solutions not only for Kanaka Bar’s members, Lytton residents and the surrounding region, but also all Canadians looking to make their homes resilient to ever-increasing extreme weather events. 

“We are delighted to bring together leaders in applied research and innovation to tackle the urgent need to build back our region. We are combining the power of our community with the latest building practices to ensure new housing and its supporting systems, as well as older buildings in the region, are made sustainable and climate resilient,” says Chief Patrick Michell.

Gathering together

The Kanaka Bar Resilient Housing Solutions project is a community-led and community-driven initiative. The project will see SAIT leading a collaborative team with participants from Okanagan CollegeForesight Canada and Seko Construction over 10 months to create foundational options for rebuilding in the Lytton region.

The applied research project leverages the expertise and reach of the team to issue an immediate call for commercially-approved Canadian housing building materials, technology providers and product options. The pilot project will include the design and build of four to eight homes to test and validate material properties, climate resiliency, energy performance and affordability. The goal is to develop a suite of viable options for the region, and other communities, throughout medium and long-term rebuilding activities.

This agreement showcases the leadership of Kanaka Bar and their desire to help the greater Lytton region and beyond. The project brings together leading polytechnic institutions from western Canada and Foresight, Canada’s cleantech accelerator, to create an unbiased, multi-disciplinary team of experts that will assess the long-term needs of the greater region and develop a plan for the future. The vision is to build more resilient structures and address future climate impacts with meaningful solutions.

The Kanaka Bar Resilient Housing Solutions project will be a truly collaborative effort. It will bring together communities, institutions and innovative solution providers. This will impact all Canadians, especially for our hardest hit neighbours in B.C., through public sharing of the processes and innovations used in the project.

Mark Butler SAIT Interim Vice President Corporate Development, Applied Research and International

Red River College Polytechnic’s (RRC Polytech) Building Efficiency Technology Access Centre (BETAC) is providing a breath of fresh air these days. Using high-powered fans and specialized equipment, researchers are pressurizing and depressurizing buildings of all sizes to find out where they leak, and help builders, engineers and property owners meet rising standards of energy efficiency.

The value of whole building air tightness tests like these have long been recognized for residential properties. New codes, policies and regulations may soon pump up demand for testing on commercial buildings, too – and so far, BETAC is the only organization with the skills, expertise and equipment to offer them in Manitoba.

“We’re looking forward to playing a greater role helping our community make buildings that are more durable and sustainable to operate, especially as we adapt to a future that places higher premiums on energy efficiency,” says Rob Spewak, BETAC’s business development manager.

Breathing New Life Into Old Buildings

The need for a more energy-efficient building stock is especially acute in Winnipeg, which boasts a relatively high proportion of heritage buildings. In September, for instance, BETAC completed an air tightness test at Gordon Bell High School, whose building features walls and mechanical systems are more than 50 years old. The results will provide insights into the most cost-effective measures for reducing energy usage when Gordon Bell undergoes an upcoming renovation.

Chris Buzunis, the Province of Manitoba’s Senior Energy Engineer and project manager for the Gordon Bell retrofit, says BETAC’s pre- and post-renovation air tightness testing has proven valuable on many projects like this.

“It helps identify problem areas to address at the start of a project and has also been a fantastic quality control tool when construction is complete. We have identified many deficiencies that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.”

BETAC will perform a post-renovation test on the school to validate the airtightness improvements and identify any problem areas before the building goes back into service. The goal of the renovation is to reduce energy costs by 50 per cent.

“Gordon Bell isn’t that different from many other schools in our city,” says Spewak, “so what we can measure and learn from here will help us devise guides to help other schools retrofit their building envelopes.”

It isn’t just schools BETAC hopes to help, he adds.

“Our goal in the next few years is to reach out to more private sector partners to show them what is achievable with a tighter building envelope. For one thing, the knowledge we provide leads to better decision-making. It’s a simple equation of investing now to save later.”

Putting Your Building to the Test

Buildings that leak air cost more to heat and maintain. Up to 40 per cent of the cost of heating can come from air leakage, “so it absolutely impacts the bottom line.”

But in cold-climate regions, a leaky building envelope can result in up to six months of structural freezing and thawing, rusting metal, rotting wood, and expanding cracks, compromising the building’s durability as well. Even in warmer climates, leakage allows moisture-laden air to infiltrate or exfiltrate a building envelope. Air tightness can also affect noise levels and the comfort of a building’s occupants.

“Sealing the leaks may save you money and extend your building’s lifespan,” says Spewak. “But first you have to find the leaks, which often turn up in unexpected places you can’t find just by looking.”

BETAC offers a variety of non-destructive tests that target specific building sizes and challenges. The process usually starts with a walkthrough to assess door locations, HVAC intake and exhaust grills, power supply, and whether the building can be isolated.

During the test itself, powerful fans pressurize and depressurize the building, while equipment measures how much air is moved into or out of the building and tracks the corresponding pressure difference across the building enclosure. 

The results of the envelop test speak to the general durability of the building, and the continuity and performance of the air barrier. A second set of tests, conducted with all intentional openings left open, measures the energy performance of the building more directly. At this stage, testers may deploy smoke pencils and infrared thermography cameras to identify specific air leakage pathways.

All together, these tests can take anywhere from several hours to three days, depending on the size and complexity of the building. The results deliver quantifiable data that can help owners of existing buildings locate problem areas and determine the costs and benefits of a retrofit. For new buildings, a final air tightness test can complement air leakage testing performed throughout construction.

A Track Record of Success

BETAC has been researching air tightness and methods of testing it since a 2012 pilot project, which means the partners who turn to BETAC for air tightness testing engage some of the province’s leading expertise in the field.

Between 2012 and 2014, with the support of Manitoba Hydro and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, a total of 26 commercial buildings in Manitoba were tested for airtightness.

BETAC has also completed air testing research projects for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and, more recently, for Fort Whyte Alive, to measure the air tightness of an interpretive centre before and after a retrofit.

This same air tightness testing service used at Gordon Bell High School was also recently completed on the BMO Bank of Montreal building in downtown Winnipeg. BETAC plans on performing this testing for Manitou a bi Bii Daziigae (formerly known as the Innovation Centre project) soon.

Spewak says demand for tests like these will only increase as more cities and governments incorporate air tightness and energy efficiency into their building codes and green mandates. In addition to air leak testing, BETAC has committed to ongoing public outreach efforts to share the findings of its research. The results of BETAC’s work will inform the Province of Manitoba’s Green Building Policy and low carbon initiatives.

Students interested in sustainable water resource management will have the chance to hone their craft in a new $1-million Water and Wastewater Pilot Scale Treatment Lab on SAIT’s main campus.

The lab contains the same state-of-the-art equipment found in an operational water treatment facility — scaled down for learning purposes. “Each unit simulates a different process used in domestic or industrial water treatment,” says Pablo Pina, Academic Chair of Sustainability, MacPhail School of Energy (MacPhail).

Domestic processes treat both the water we drink and the wastewater we produce in a municipality, whereas industrial processes prepare water for use in petrochemical plants, pulp and paper or oil and gas extraction. Exposure to both in the lab will give students a unique advantage come graduation.

Water is an essential component to our economy and we need people who know how to manage it.

Pablo Pina, Academic Chair of Sustainability
MacPhail School of Energy

Three years in the making, the lab was made possible thanks to an ongoing partnership with Spartan Controls and an anonymous donation to MacPhail in support of environmental sustainability.

Additionally, SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) Water Research and Innovation area in the Centre for Energy Research in Clean Unconventional Technology Solutions — in collaboration with MacPhail — used funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Applied Research Fund to develop the lab’s unique industrial water and wastewater treatment train, empowering the workforce of tomorrow.

Training that trickles down to industry

A post-secondary training facility unlike any other in southern Alberta, the new lab will empower students with hands-on, industry-ready training in the Water and Wastewater Treatment OperationsIntegrated Water Management and Environmental Technology programs. Training on the industrial water treatment train will further benefit students enrolled in Bachelor of Applied Technology Petroleum EngineeringChemical Engineering Technology and Chemical Laboratory Technology.

Students will start working in the lab during the Winter 2022 term under the guidance of trained instructors, gaining firsthand experience with water treatment equipment operation, process timing and troubleshooting. They’ll also learn what to look for during the treatment process.

“Students will have the opportunity to harness their skills and learning in an applied setting, working with the same equipment or processes they’ll use in the industry,” says Pina. “It’s an exciting new way to deliver training.”

The equipment — arguably the best in the world — was sourced from the other side of it, hopping the pond all the way from a vendor in France.

Clean water, cleaner energy

Developing talent in water has sustainable implications across many industries, including energy. “When people think about energy, they tend to think oil and gas, but it’s way more than that,” says Pina. “Building an understanding of water use in energy will help drive sustainable innovation and new technologies in water resource management.”

Pina notes that future-focused investments like the water treatment lab will help SAIT in its mission to build a better world. “This lab is a great way for SAIT to demonstrate its commitment towards environmental sustainability in the area of water resource management,” says Pina.

As the demand for electrical energy increases, so does the need to find appropriate energy storage solutions. An innovative research project using a vanadium redox battery system could be an answer — and it’s one of the winners of the City of Calgary’s inaugural Mayor’s Innovation Challenge.

Developed by the Centre for Energy Research in Clean Unconventional Technology Solutions (CERCUTS) — one of seven Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) research areas at SAIT — the ARIS Battery Storage project demonstrates the potential of a breakthrough technology to address issues related to renewable power intermittency, energy grid stabilization and climate resiliency.

“Applied research is key to accelerating technology and innovation,” says Trish Josephs, Director of ARIS. “It helps reduce risk and develop technology from early prototypes to commercialization. It also introduces and matches technology solutions from new startups with large enterprises across industries.”

The project was led by Marlon Norona, a CERCUTS team member and recent grad from SAIT’s MacPhail School of Energy, and Matthieu Trudell, a summer intern from Western University in Ontario.

The research team, which also includes Dr. Vita Martez and Matt La Prairie, have already completed a prototype to generate electricity from vanadium and are looking to scale up to a pilot project. The research was funded by the Clean Technologies segment of NSERC’s Industrial Research Chair program at SAIT led by Martez.

“This system could lead the way to a net-zero energy solution,” says Trudell. “The vanadium mined from the Athabasca tailings ponds and from mines across Canada for use in the battery system could be a new revenue stream for the province, it could create jobs for Albertans while reducing the environmental impact of the energy sector.”

Generating opportunity

Launched in May 2021, the inaugural Mayor’s Innovation Challenge asked: How might we advance innovative energy solutions on the path to net zero emissions in order to achieve economic, social and environmental resilience? 

The City received more than 130 submissions in response and the field was narrowed to nine finalists across three streams in the spring.  

ARIS Battery Storage was named the winner in the Pre-Commercial/Startup stream after a virtual pitch session last week. The panel of judges included Heather Campbell, the Executive Director for Clean Technology at Alberta Innovates, Brad Zumwalt, a leader and investor in the Calgary technology sector, and Mayor Naheed Nenshi.  

“Choosing winners was not an easy task,” says Mayor Nenshi. “The enthusiasm of all of the teams, and their solutions to our planet’s energy issues were very compelling. Ultimately, the judges felt that these submissions were the ones that would most benefit from the opportunities offered by the Challenge.”

Winners will have the opportunity to work more closely with the City of Calgary and/or ENMAX to build on their idea or innovation, be mentored by a Fellow from Energy Futures Lab (EFL), and meet with senior officials at Prairies Economic Development (PrairiesCAN).

Advancing innovative energy solutions

“Electricity demand in Canada is growing at an annual rate of two per cent and is expected to increase,” says Norona. “Based on our research, ARIS Battery Storage has the potential to provide 24/7 power reliability at a lower price tag than other battery solutions, including lithium.”

Unlike conventional batteries, ARIS Battery Storage uses a single energy source, vanadium. Vanadium allows power to be accepted and stored as chemical energy, which can then be discharged as electricity through a redox reaction. It also has a 25-year lifespan and is recyclable.

“We’re very excited to partner with the City and ENMAX on future applications for this technology,” says Josephs. “We gratefully acknowledge the mentorship received from Platform Calgary, ENMAX, EFL and Erin Chrusch from the Mayor’s Office.”

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