The Interlake Spectator – April 4 | by Twyla Siple
Manitoba continues to push concepts for solutions to greenhouse gas emissions. With northern communities such as Fisher River Cree Nation implementing geothermal technologies and introducing solar power to their building strategies, more Canadian businesses are looking at making tourism, food and travel to remote areas of the province, as well as the rest of Canada, more accessible and affordable.
Some Manitobans think airships will be the new form of transportation that could revolutionize the economy of the world, starting with Canada.
“We believe we should produce air craft that don’t produce green house emissions and with an airship, we can do that,” Dr. Barry Prentice, a Professor of Supply Chain Management at the I.H. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba and the former Director (1996-2005) of the Transport Institute and the president of Buoyant Aircraft Systems International told the Interlake Spectator. He has been presenting this concept to industry leaders for many years.
“I get invited to go and speak all over the place,” he said. “We have talked about this idea for almost two decades and we are still waiting for the people with the wherewithal to do something. Where is Mr. Pallister – where is Trudeau on that? People are paying three-times the price for food because there’s no roads. ”
Prentice’s presentation outlines how scaling a cargo airship transport system for the Canadian north would reduce travel costs by 50%.
“70% of the land mass has no roads – and that’s a real problem,” he explained as he discussed exporting things like wild rice from northern communities to help create jobs and economic growth that could be made possible with hydrogen fuelled airships.
“We also know that climate change — is progressing – we have to do something to make a change. Transportation has an economic impact – and airships will do that for the north. With a 15-ton air ship we could cut the cost of food in half – we could really open up the north for all sorts of economic strategies.”
According to Prentice, regulations today require the use of helium as the lifting medium based on technology that was used back in the 30’s. He feels there is no valid reason why hydrogen cannot be used safely in airships because it is used every day in forklifts and commercial vehicles as a replacement for highly explosive propane at a tiny fraction of the cost. He wants to see airships designed using hydrogen, such as the fuel cells being developed by Toyota Motors.
Prentice has submitted his airship proposal to the Caninfra Challenge, an online competition for bold, innovative economic ideas. It pitches the development of a cargo airship transport network that would do for the Canadian North what the railway did for Western Canada 140 years ago.
The infrastructure required would be maintenance hangars and cargo landing platforms – the BASI airship is based on the successful designs of the 1930s, but made with modern engineering, certified aviation components and hydrogen-fuel cell propulsion.
The ships could serve the 70% of Canada’s land mass that has no roads, operate year-round, carry large bulky loads and cut the current costs of resupply by 50%. Hydrogen-fuel-cell powered airships can operate with zero carbon emissions.
Caninfra will award $50,000 to its first place winner and a $25,000 to the second place and people’s choice winners. According to their website, judging criteria will be kept consistent throughout the contest and all initial entries will be judged based on three main criteria:
• Transformational — How large an impact would the idea have on Canada? Would it represent a step-change improvement or a dramatic shift in our economic well-being, the way we work, interact, and/or live?
• Relevance — How well does the project meet Canada’s specific set of challenges—today and the future?
• Feasibility — Does the team outline how their idea could be believably implemented? Given the current state of technology and Canada’s unique eco-system how feasible is the project?
Voting for the airship
You can vote online at caninfra.ca/electric-airship-transportation-system, you just need to have a registered email address that can be verified by clicking their confirmation link . It takes less than a few minutes to submit your vote.
In the mean time, a delegation application has been submitted to the RM of St. Laurent on behalf of BNS Environmental Logistics by president Blair Sherwood and several of his associates for a hydrogen plant that could begin producing green energy by the time the weather warms, which is the first step in the process of creating this new industry for Manitoba.
BNS President, Blair Sherwood, said that because hydrogen is a green renewable made from water, his company is hoping to build in St. Laurent because of its access to the abundant water resources in the area.
“Eventually this will have to do with the air ships,” he said. “But first we plan to build a hydrogen plant. I’m hoping to be making hydrogen by the spring.”
His company’s strategy and proposal are ready to go, they just need to be approved by the government.
“If you look at history, about every 50 years since the industrial revolution, there has been a new form of transport come along that’s really changed the world’s economy. The sailing ships were first, then the locomotives – then airplanes – Airships could be the one that would really change how we look at the earth and how we transport things around the earth – that’s how big of a change this could really be.” Prentice said.