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1. Solar Power

The Amherst solar garden. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson this morning provides an in-depth look at the status of solar power in Nova Scotia.

“Community solar and battery storage projects are part of a $19.1 million project called Smart Grid Nova Scotia,” writes Henderson:

Tesla or Sunverge batteries have been installed in 125 homes across the province. Homeowners pay $25-35 a month for the batteries, which act as back-up during power outages. Nova Scotia Power uses software to control when the batteries get charged (overnight when demand is lowest) and when the stored energy is distributed to the grid (during the morning surge from toasters and kettles, and in the evening when dryers and TVs get switched on).

The Smart Grid project runs until 2023. It builds on the success of an earlier project in Elmsdale that involved 10 households and professor Jeff Dahn’s Tesla lab at Dalhousie University. During all-too-familiar power outages, the first-generation Tesla batteries provided power to critical appliances for up to 18 hours. A larger battery at the substation in Elmsdale stored energy from a wind farm at Hardwood Lands a few kilometres away.

The current field test uses next-generation batteries. Nova Scotia Power has also recruited 101 drivers of electric vehicles (EVs) to test chargers installed at their homes. The perk for drivers is that EVs take less time to recharge. The advantage for Nova Scotia Power is that the utility controls the time of day when power flows to charge the car and when energy from the battery flows in the opposite direction to feed the home.

Henderson also reports on the new solar garden project in Amherst and a project financed by the towns of Antigonish, Berwick, and Mahone Bay that will be built next year.

Still, while that’s progress, Henderson notes that:

It’s worth noting that although the cost of large-scale solar arrays has come down in past 10 years, Nova Scotia Power’s long term plan to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources does not envision solar becoming a major player in the province’s energy mix until about 2043.

We don’t have to wait that long. We have the technology and the means to speed that timeline up considerably; it just takes the political will.

Click here to read “Solar Power: Nova Scotia is making progress, but still has a long way to go.”

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2. Marketing Cape Breton as a “refuge” for “clear thinkers”

Andreas Popp and Eva Herman May 2020 Wissensmanufaktur video
Andreas Popp and Eva Herman May 2020 Wissensmanufaktur video

This morning, we’ve published the first of a three-part series by Joan Baxter, which looks at the sale of Cape Breton land to far-right extremists in Germany, and the effect of those sales on land prices generally. We introduce the series as follows:

Nova Scotia has long been a popular place for settlers, but in the last century it also became a popular place for non-residents — including many well-heeled Americans and Europeans — to purchase properties.

For decades, scholars and successive governments have debated the issue of non-resident land ownership in a province with relatively little Crown land, and waterfronts being carved up into private properties that reduce public access to Nova Scotia shorelines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a real estate boom in Nova Scotia, including most rural counties, as people from urban centres, elsewhere in Canada, and abroad looked for ways to escape crowded areas.

A few months into the pandemic, the German magazine, Der Spiegel, broke the story that some right-wing conspiracy theorists were marketing Cape Breton to like-minded German-speaking Europeans, which added yet another dimension to longstanding questions about non-resident land ownership in Nova Scotia.

In this three-part series, the Halifax Examiner follows up on its 2020 coverage of this issue, and looks into some of the complex questions it raises, even as the province prepares to change the property tax rate for non-resident owners. The first of the three articles updates the story of conspiracy-minded German speakers promoting Cape Breton as a refuge.

Click here to read Part 1: “Marketing Cape Breton as a ‘refuge’ for ‘clear thinkers.’”

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3. Innovacorp

“Looking into Innovacorp’s “unicorn” investment earlier this year got me to wondering how many successful exits our provincial venture capital fund has managed over the years compared to the number and value of its investments, so I submitted an access-to-information request asking for a list of its investments since 2011,” writes Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator:

I asked that any successful exits be noted and I asked for the current status of all the investee companies.

Innovacorp provided me a list of the companies it has invested in and the amounts it has invested since 2011, but refused to give me the other information on the grounds that its disclosure “could be reasonably expected to result in undue financial loss or gain” to some “person or organization.”

This is, I think, pure hokum — when I went through the organization’s “Accountability” reports for the years 2011-2012 through 2020-2021, I found references to the odd successful exit, sometimes even an actual dollar amount earned by Innovacorp (case in point: in February 2017, Legado Capital acquired Kivuto Solutions in which Innovacorp had invested $601,950, generating a return of $7.4 million. And we all know Innovacorp made $104 million on its “unicorn” investment in Metamaterials.) Clearly, the organization does not always worry that revealing its exits will cause anyone “undue financial loss or gain.”

As for the current status of its investee companies, how could that not be public information? (I mean, it is public information, but I assume it’s information Innovacorp has at its fingertips and could simply send me, saving me the effort of tracking it all down — I’ll have more in the next installment about how strangely difficult this can be.) I’ve appealed Innovacorp’s response to the privacy commissioner.

This is intensive work. I know, as I once attempted to do something roughly similar with Nova Scotia Business Inc.’s investments, and it took weeks of my life, before I gave up attempting to get a handle on it.

The obscurity is purposeful, I think. As Campbell notes:

If you look up these private sector VC funds, you’ll notice some interesting things. For example, Build Ventures, in which Innovacorp has invested about $17 million (of the $30 million it has committed) was co-founded in 2013 by Patrick Keefe, the former vice president of investment at Innovacorp. And there is overlap between Build’s investments and Innovacorp’s: the Build I Fund is invested in The Money Finder, in which Innovacorp has $250,000 and Dash Hudson, in which Innovacorp has invested almost $2 million. The Build II Fund is invested in Sydney-based Talem Health, in which Innovacorp has invested $700,000.

Innovacorp has put $15 million into Concrete Ventures — but the entire Concrete Ventures fund is only $17 million.  And again, there’s overlap: Concrete Ventures is invested in Securicy, Darren Gallop’s post-Marcato venture, in which Innovacorp has invested the oddly precise sum of $350,701. Concrete is also invested in 3DBioFibR in which Innovacorp just invested $100,000.

There’s a different problem with Cycle Capital Management, based in Montreal, and Two Small Fish, based in Toronto, which is that I’m not sure how investments in these funds are furthering Innovacorp’s stated goals of:

…helping move Nova Scotia closer to realizing the ONE Nova Scotia commission’s vision for a more prosperous province, our work helps address many government priorities, especially those related to the Minister of Inclusive Economic Growth’s mandate to foster an innovation ecosystem and support innovative businesses.

But then again, I can’t believe anyone is still claiming to be helping realize the “vision” of the 2014 Ivany Report.

This is a work in progress, so we’ll see where Campbell takes it, but I’m cheering loudly from the sidelines: it’s important work, and it’s hard work.

Click here to read “Innovacorp: Fun With Numbers.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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From our subscribers

Gwen Davies is a white woman, smiling happily, wearing a grey and beige windbreaker, as she eats some fruit on the deck on a chilly spring day.
Gwen Davies. Photo contributed

Gwen Davies

Some of the reasons why I subscribe to The Examiner …

The writing is clear, focussed, and elegant. Sometimes it makes me laugh.
The research is always reliable and revealing.
The main telescope is pointed at local stories. There is usually nowhere else to get this information. That does not preclude going after more global issues.
The lens comes out of a broad and diverse base.
The news includes the immediate, from city hall to COVID, to the larger stories like prying open the multiple realities around the Pictou County paper mill.
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Ken Donnelly, a white man with silver hair, in a selfie in his backyard. He's wearing what appears to be a red MAGA hat, but on closer inspection you can see it reads "make racism wrong again" in white capital letters.
Ken Donnelly wearing a very cool hat. Photo contributed.

Ken Donnelly

I have been subscribed to the Halifax Examiner since the day Tim Bousquet announced it was coming. The Morning File keeps me current and I avoid the regurgitation of press releases, advertorials and delivery of flyers that pass for journalism these days. But what I really find compelling is the investigative journalism. I appreciate the time, effort, and money the Halifax Examiner invests in, well, examining. Scrutiny of matters of justice, environmental damage, corporate corruption and government malfeasance is the purpose of the Fifth Estate, but few organizations make the investment in it. The Halifax Examiner does.

On top of all that, for the past 18 months the Halifax Examiner has also played a role in keeping us safe by providing free daily reporting of everything COVID.

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4. Murder charges laid

Yesterday, Halifax police laid charges of second-degree murder against Tyreece Alexander Whynder-Ewing, 27, and obtained a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest. The charges relate to the death of Alexander Joseph Frederick Thomas on Nov. 13.

Carrie Low has accused Thomas of raping her, which is the subject of Maggie Rahr’s podcast series Carrie Low Vs.

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There were 22 new cases announced yesterday. Every time I get a little hopeful that the worst is behind us, my hopes are dashed with the cold reality, so I won’t make any predictions.

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Photo: Randy Dougerty

There was a lunar eclipse this morning, but it was raining here in Nova Scotia so I doubt anyone much noticed. Too bad.

I have a fascination with celestial bodies slamming into each other, and should the pandemic ever wind down, I intend to pursue that interest in a major way. But for today, I want to touch on the most obvious example of such: the Moon.

The current understanding of the creation of the Moon is relayed in this video from the American Museum of Natural History:

YouTube video

In short, as our solar system was forming about 4.5 billion years ago, a proto-Earth was struck by a Mars-sized object dubbed Theia. It was a violent explosion that ejected a bunch of molten rock, much of which coalesced into the Moon.

Which is cool enough, but here’s something even more interesting: When the Moon was first formed, it orbited the Earth at a distance of about 14,000 miles. But due to the laws of physics, that distance increases a tiny bit each year, and the Moon is now about 240,000 miles away.

At 240,000 miles away, the apparent size of the Moon as seen by us, on the surface of the Earth, is almost exactly the same size as the apparent size of the sun (the sun is enormously larger than the moon, but it’s 93 million miles away, so appears to be the same size as the Moon). This is why we get total solar eclipses, when from our perspective, the Moon completely blots out the sun.

It’s incredible that humanity happens to live in an era when this is possible. Had we humans come around a billion years ago, the Moon would appear much, much larger than it appears now. If we had come around a billion years in the future, the Moon would appear much smaller, making those total eclipses impossible.

Think about this. Because the Sun and the Moon appear to be the same size, when people looked up at it, they created stories about various gods and explanations for creation. The Moon is big in love stories, and poetry. Calendars are structured on the phases of the Moon. Moonlight gave gas lamp lighters a week off every month, and inspired perhaps apocryphal explanations for “lunacy” and an increase in crime rates during the full moon. And on and on. All because a celestial collision of just the right size happened four billion years or so ago, and just the right time has passed since then that we see the Moon and Sun as just the right size.

There are about 200 or so moons orbiting the eight planets in our solar system, but only one of them has this remarkable property of being the same apparent size as the sun as viewed from the surface of the parent planet.

Since 1992, astronomers have discovered abut 5,000 planets orbiting other stars, and it now appears that most every star in the sky has planets whizzing around it. We don’t yet have the ability to see moons orbiting those planets, but given the ubiquity of moons in our own solar system, there are probably moons circling around most of those planets. Still, it would be extremely unlikely that many of them, or even any of them, have this incredible apparent size property.

There are probably intelligent species out there, beings as smart or hopefully smarter than us, looking up at their night skies in wonder. Like us, they’ve likely figured out the mechanics of the universe, and are awed by their relative puny-ness in the grand scheme of the architecture of the cosmos.

Unlike us, however, they won’t have a moon of the same apparent size as their star. And so they won’t have the moon-inspired theologies, poetry, love songs, calendars, and perhaps apocryphal explanations for “lunacy” and an increase in crime rates.

We should cherish this special Moon.

YouTube video

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No meetings

On campus


From Community to Campus: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Social Justice (Friday, 10am) — virtual second annual Human Rights and Equity Conference, with an engaging keynote, 2 panels, and 6 workshops. More info here.

Topology, Molecular Simulation, and Machine Learning as Routes to Pred (Friday, 1:30pm) — Mark E. Tuckerman from New York University will talk.

Double Date: A Reading Series of Writing Couples (Friday, 3:45pm) — online literary reading by Cedar Bowers (Astra) and Michael Christie (Beggar’s Garden and Greenwood)

Double Date investigates the compelling, romantic, and perhaps at times vexing phenomenon of writers who not only make art but choose to also make a life together. By hearing writers speak to their creative practice as couples, read from their own work, and answer questions from the audience, writers and readers will learn more about the relationships we kindle with our most beloved humans and the relationships we develop toward our creative literary practices. Presented with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and in partnership with the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia.

Register here.

Who and Where was ‘Sailor Joe’?: Tattooing, Popular Entertainment, and Investigation by the FBI and RCMP, 1899-1965 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170 McCain Building and online) — Jamie Jelinski will talk.

In the harbour

06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Halifax to Saint-Pierre
07:30: ZIM Luanda, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
11:30: Morning Peace, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:30: One Helsinki, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
12:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
15:00: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:00: Molly Schulte, container ship, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Hamburg, Germany

Cape Breton
06:00: Front Cascade, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Odudu Terminal, Nigeria
12:00: Arctic Lift, barge, and Western Tugger, tug, sail from Aulds Cove quarry for sea



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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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1 Comment

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  1. Another great one, Tim. My blood pressure surely spiked when I read about the…I can’t even say it…right wing Germans invading our lands, but then it reduced and relaxed as I read the story about the moon and such. I share your fondness for things celestial, which actually give me hope in the midst of everything here on earth. An acolyte of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Professor Brian Cox (not actor of same name), I don’t do astrophysics but I embrace that we are all made of star stuff, as Sagan said.
    And you get extra points for sharing the Waterboys’ Whole of the Moon.