White winters are a fact of Canadian life and most of us have learned how to make the most of them. Nevertheless, this sort of weather still brings challenges, and companies and universities across the country are using innovation to tackle them.
Earlier this year, Transport Canada began testing the world’s first electric, semi-autonomous sidewalk snow plow and salting robot, which has been created by Swap Robotics. This ingenious piece of technology is able to clear snow and salt the ground so it’s safer to walk and drive on.
Swap was awarded a $172,000 contract to perform real-world demonstrations of the plow just outside downtown Ottawa. The research revealed that the robot could plow and salt a 1.7km route on one charge, but the main purpose was to reveal just how safe it was around pedestrians and vehicles. Successfully showing they can be operated safely is crucial if the company is to be able to roll the robots out widely.
For people living in the far north, winter interferes with most aspects of daily life — not just snow on the roads. More than 100,000 people live in these cold conditions, and it is home to many of the country’s Indigenous peoples, as well as those working in the oil and gas industry.
One area of innovation that we have seen first hand is the development of renewables to provide energy supplies to communities living in these often harsh conditions. A solar energy specialist we work with recently secured government tax incentives after developing a portable solar panel that can be used in remote environments.
These areas can be difficult to reach and, as renewable energy projects often need to be installed via a crane, it was important for our client to ensure the solar panels could be deployed anywhere without one. In addition, they had to overcome the difficulties of generating solar power in areas of the Far North which see less sunlight. The commonly-used components of solar systems, particularly batteries, don’t perform well in permafrost areas where the sun’s rays are less potent. Through investment of both time and money, they were able to develop the materials and technology required to deliver solar energy to the people that need it.
It’s not just energy that demands innovative thinking in these weather conditions, it’s also the supply of food. The cold climate, lack of sunlight and harsh winters make it difficult to grow food locally. As a result, food prices can be astronomical and the federal government often has to intervene to ensure people don’t starve.
A team at the University of British Columbia has been using R&D to help people living in this situation. Scientists have been working on a new insulation system for greenhouses, called Geoleaf, which uses panels of Mylar, an inexpensive polyester film material which fastens together to provide insulation that typical greenhouses don’t possess in order to cope with extreme weather conditions.
During daylight hours, the panels are compressed to allow light in. When light fades, the panels expand, allowing the ceiling to act as a thermal insulator, trapping the heat inside.
So, as the colder months settle in, keep an eye out for the innovation being deployed to help ease some of the difficulties posed by the winter weather. The threat of climate change has the power to make our environment even more challenging, and business and government are coming together to use technology for the greater good. Tax incentives are one of the ways in which innovation is being funded, so if your business is trying to reach similar goals, have a look to see if you’re eligible.
For more information about the tax incentives that may be available to your business, you can reach Catax Canada president, Richard Hoy, at Richard.Hoy@catax.com