Exponential Growth == Good!

One of the pet things that excite me every day is the possibility of exponential growth from renewable power sources. This isn’t because I’m a hippy trying to save the planet, it’s because the more I do the numbers, the more it just makes good economic sense. (I’m simply a frustrated entrepreneur at heart one of my good friends told me. Lots of idea, not enough capital and time to implement them all.)

Specifically Wind/Solar/Geothermal Power sources. High upfront cost, yes, but low maintenance cost. You don’t need to buy wind to power a wind plant, you do need to pay for coal to power a coal plant. From the perspective of exponential growth, as long as I make more than it costs year to year, window/tidal/solar is an obvious long-term business plan.

Let me explain. Let’s go with wind power. The first one will cost and likely not make me much within the first year. Say 10 Mil for the first windmill.

Short of minimal maintenance we get most of the capital from selling to the grid. Back of envelope calculation, I’m guessing about 4-6 mil per year. So this means approximately every 2 years, we can double the number of windmills and pay interest/dividends on initial investment. So in 10 years, we could, in theory, have 2^5 = 32 windmills, and in 20 years, have over a thousand of them.

But where can we build this massive bounty of windmills successfully without large land costs, problems with low wind speeds, good location near the grid, or people complaining about their “views.”

I’ve thought hard about this, and realized that perhaps if we build up near Churchill, where no one lives, there’s tons of cheap land and if you look at the following map, lots of high wind locations.

Mean Annual Wind Velocity at 50M above ground.

Ok, that’s great.  How far are we from the main power grid, or at very least a powerline that feeds into the main powergrid up there. Well, let’s take a lot at the next map.

Generating Stations and Power Lines, Manitoba

Beautiful, what can you see there, in the vast empty spaces of the north of Manitoba… A beautiful 500kV powerline directly into the heart of where we want to build this exponentially growing wind farm.

So, we have cheap land, easy access to the largest power grid in northwestern America, and great wind resources… What is the last problem we need to resolve.

Well, as anyone who reads newspapers in Ontario is used to seeing around windmills, there’s the inevitable NIMBYism. (Not in my Backyard), by people who think these beautiful pieces of modern architecture will somehow destroy their great view of trees and rocks.

Well, let’s look at this map of population density in Canada.

Population Density in Canada from 2002

What do you notice around the Hudson Bay, particularly near where Churchill is.

There is almost no one living there. Ie. There is very little change for NIMBYism, and the few people who are there will likely be very happy to have the oil-sands level windfalls from jobs and capital due to the power production.

Note, this is all back of envelope, but doesn’t this sound like a great business plan to you? Up there with the original business of Hudson’s Bay when they built York Factory and started the creation of a business that has prospered and lasted for over 300 years.

Yes, because we are only starting with 1 windmill, it will take a while to get up to scale, but exponential growth is exponential growth. Given 10 iterations, we would be at 1024 windmills, 20 iterations, and we’d likely be generating enough power for the entire northeast corridor simply from wind… Then with that cheap energy, the real fun begins for Canada and Canadian manufacturing. 😉

Pretty exciting, eh?


ps. I would love to take this, put it into a business plan, get the capital and start building. However, I need an engineer to help me out with the technical parts. Perhaps if I could nail this down, the BDC or someone with some real capital would be interested in this long term plan.

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Dreams of a real TTC

I ran across the following image today:

TTC dream map
TTC dream map

It got me thinking about Toronto and our interesting, but underwhelming public transit system. It’s a real problem that we are still clogging up our vehicular arteries with streetcars (see Queen St. during rush hour) and trying to compensate for it with patches to the existing system, or incrementalism, rather than simply doing it correctly the first time. What’s crazier though is we claim we do the incrementalism to save money, when in reality these subway designs and relief lines have been in planning since the early 1900s and if they were built when they were originally suggested, they would have cost less money overall than building the equivalent system today would have.

Anyone who has driven in this city will easily agree that the road system, at best, has difficulties handling the traffic load at that time, and at worst is actually fundamentally dangerous. This has become particularly worse now that the city is starting to densify downtown, and the condos have introduced an entirely new group of drivers and pedestrians further amplifying the problem. Many people who live along the TTC simply take the subway, but as I have experienced (and no doubt many of you have experienced), riding the TTC between 4:30 and 6:30pm on a weekday is as futile as trying to keep a snowball whole in a 400 degree oven. With either shoulder-to-shoulder discomfort on the streetcars, or a wait for the 3rd or 4th subway car before you can even get on the train at St. George or Bloor station interchanges.

It’s not like I’m saying anything new though. There have been a huge number of suggested improvements to the current system. It’s not like there’s a lack of good ideas out there, and even taking a small portion of any of those maps and starting to build it now would immediately make life for ordinary people in Toronto (and surrounding area) better and more importantly safer.

If we build it now, we will save money in the future, it’s that easy. These subways need to be built as the city grows, and as anyone can easily see, Toronto isn’t going to start shrinking anytime soon.

Our governments (municipal, provincial, and federal) won’t do anything about it unless Torontonians start demanding it now and demanding that we build it right the first time. A lasting, solid system that Canada can be proud of.

Just my thoughts,


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