6 Innovative Ecopreneurs in Canada

At the climate summit in Paris, Canada was invited to help facilitate the final, crucial negotiations on an international plan for slowing the effects of climate change. But many Canadian entrepreneurs have already been working on technologies that may help the earth get closer to a future of clean power.

Here are five Canadian businesses seeking ways to produce green energy, and influence a more ecologically-friendly lifestyle.

1. Bullfrog Power


Video: Watch how Bullfrog Power works (Bullfrog Power / YouTube)

In 2005, Bullfrog Power hit the energy scene with one goal: to transform the electricity landscape in Canada. They’re a clean energy retailer, founded by Tom Heintzman and Greg Kiessling, and they want to make it easy for homes and businesses to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy. Bullfrog Power makes sure that for every kilowatt-hour of electricity you purchase, a kilowatt-hour from a pollution-free, renewable source is produced and put on the grid on your behalf.

As of 2013, Bullfrog Power has more than 8,000 residential customers and more than 1,300 commercial customers. Well-known residential customers include actress Rachel McAdams, soprano Measha Brueggergosman, and Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference. Notable “bullfrogpowered” organizations include Unilever Canada, AutoShare, Walmart Canada, and Kraft Foods Canada.

2. ArcTern Ventures

Tom Rand Canadian venture capitalist Tom Rand is pouring tens of millions of dollars into the race to replace fossil fuels. (CBC)

Venture capitalist Tom Rand seeks out the most "disruptive" ideas to solve climate change. His company ArcTern Ventures has been pouring tens of millions of dollars into companies seeking to produce clean energy or reduce energy consumption through wind, solar, and new materials.

Through its partnership with MaRS, one of the largest innovation centres in world, ArcTern reviews hundreds of clean tech ideas. They then provide early-stage investments to select companies to fund their projects in the race towards a fossil fuel-free future.

3. Hydrostor

Hydrostor balloons A visualization of Hydrostor's balloons submerged in Lake Ontario. (Toronto Hyrdro)

One of ArcTern's investments is Hydrostor. The Toronto-based clean tech startup recently launched the world’s first underwater compressed air electricity storage system. The process involves sinking giant, nine-metre-tall balloons underwater in Lake Ontario and storing compressed air, held in the balloons by water pressure. When power is needed, the air releases into a turbine that sends the power back into the electrical grid.

Over the next two years, Toronto Hydro will test out Hydrostor’s system. It can generate about one megawatt (MW) of power, enough to power about 300 homes. It’s a technology that could be valuable for places like island countries where fossil fuel power generation is expensive or polluting. For example, the island nation of Aruba has already signed a tentative contract with Hydrostor for an underwater compressed air system there. Hydrostor was created in 2010 by founder and president Cameron Lewis, a former specialist in oil field equipment.

4. Greengate Power Corporation

Former oil industry software businessman Dan Balaban is considered Alberta’s “wind energy cowboy.” That’s because he founded Greengate Power Corporation in Calgary. Greengate, currently a leader in the wind energy industry in Alberta, has nine wind projects under development in Alberta, totaling 1,550 MW across 200,000 acres of private land.

One of those projects was Blackspring Ridge (sold to Enbridge Inc. and EDF EN Canada Inc., in 2013). Blackspring Ridge and another one of Greengate’s former projects, the 150-MW Halkirk Wind Project, are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20 million tonnes over 25 years, provide a clean source of power to approximately 200,000 homes, and result in nearly $1 billion of investments in wind energy in Alberta.

5. Sun Country Highway

Kent Rathwell and Sun Country Highway Kent Rathwell, left, and his company Sun Country Highways have installed more than 1,00 e-vehicle chargers across the country. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

While electric cars are a solution to an emissions-free drive (in most places in Canada), charging those cars can be a challenge. That’s why Kent Rathwell, a Saskatoon businessman, started and single-handedly built Sun Country Highway — the longest highway of connected electric vehicle charging stations in the world. Sun Country Highway has installed more than 1,000 charging stations across Canada, so you can go on an emissions-free cross-country road trip.

6. Decor Bio-Energy

Brothers Maurizio and Giovanni Bruno presented their eco-friendly firewood logs on Dragons' Den.

In our Season 10 holiday special, brothers Maurizio and Giovanni Bruno from Mississauga, Ont., pitched their Firewood Bio Bricks — environmentally-friendly, organic wood logs that burn cleaner and hotter than traditional firewood. The company uses recycled wood waste from their home detailing family business, Decor Group Inc., for a green way to heat up a fireplace, campfire, chiminea, wood stove, and wood furnace. Using compressed sawdust to create chemical-free, ecological fire logs means the manufacturing of these Bio Bricks does not require any tree-cutting.