Pierre Rivard imagines an “Internet of energy” on Toronto’s Port Lands
When Toronto embarked on its waterfront revitalization campaign in 1999, Pierre Rivard (MEng 1994) dreamt of a revolutionary way to transform the derelict Port Lands: a “hydrogen village,” which could serve as an urban lab for renewable energy systems.
Last September, Hydrogenics Corporation, which Rivard co-founded in 1995 with Joseph Cargnelli (BASc 1992, MASc 1995), signed an agreement with the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation to develop demonstration projects to implement practical, cost-effective applications for hydrogen-fuel technology.
Part of the initiative: to build hydrogen fuel stations so vehicles with fuel cells will have ready access to hydrogen. Rivard and his team counted eight large vehicle fleets based in the Port Lands – city trucks, Canada Post, courier firms and bus companies. “These fleets come back every night to refill,” he says. Rivard wants to install fuel stations in the parking depots and then work with the fleet owners to fit their vehicles with fuel cell-powered engines.
Hydrogenics, in fact, recently struck a deal with a German state to develop a demonstration fuel-cell bus. This spring, it’s preparing to unveil a similar test project with Purolator Courier Ltd., which owns a fleet based in the Port Lands. “We’re intrigued with the idea of converting these vehicles [to hydrogen fuel] to eliminate idling emissions,” says Rivard.
Rivard is also looking ahead to the day when the Port Lands’ industrial spaces are supplanted by mixed-used developments. He’s eager to set up a windmill and tap its electricity to produce hydrogen, which is now being done at the base of the windmill on the Canadian National Exhibition site. Looking further out, he envisions waterfront residential districts fitted with vehicle-to-grid systems. Residents with fuel-cell vehicles would leave their cars idling overnight, and the cars would be tethered to a connection that pumps hydrogen derived from clean electricity into the engines. The fuel-cell batteries generate current that could be fed back into the local power grid. Rivard estimates that just four per cent of all passenger vehicles, if converted to fuel cells, could produce as much electricity as the output of all of Ontario’s nuclear, coal and hydro plants combined – but in a highly decentralized way. As Rivard says, “It’s like the Internet of energy.”