Job Title: President, Great Canadian Solar Ltd.
Why He’s Top 40: He is changing attitudes about alternative energies in oil-rich Alberta and helping people harness the power of the sun in their own homes.
If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be? “I wish live music venues in Edmonton would rebound. It’s a real shame to see so many closing. We need to make running live music venues in this city more viable.”
In 2009, Clifton Lofthaug had a hard decision to make. He could either keep his job as an electrical engineering technician and buy a bigger house with his wife, or he could start his own business. He chose the latter, but he never expected that business, Great Canadian Solar Ltd., would take off so quickly.
“When I first got interested in solar energy, the cost of the equipment was very high,” Lofthaug says. “I was lucky the price of materials dropped when it did and that the interest in solar power around Edmonton is very strong.”
Great Canadian Solar Ltd. began with Lofthaug installing residential solar power systems in and around Edmonton on his own. By 2014, his operation had expanded to eight full-time employees, many of whom Lofthaug was able to hand-pick from the Alternative Energy Technology program at NAIT, where he taught a course on electrical engineering code.
Lofthaug and his team have worked on creating solar-powered solutions for home and commercial buildings throughout Alberta. He explains that 97 per cent of the projects he has worked on require no batteries, including Edmonton’s Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce. The southern Edmonton commercial space features solar panels placed discreetly along the exterior of the building.
In 2011, Lofthaug installed a solar power system in a home in the Beverly neighbourhood. The home’s owner, Shafraaz Kaba, a Top 40 Under 40 alumnus and partner and architect with Manasc Isaac, the firm behind the Mosaic building, was enthusiastic about the project and word quickly spread, eventually landing Kaba’s home on an episode of The Nature of Things.
Lofthaug says educating people on solar power is a big part of his job. And, despite Alberta being oil country, the province is at the forefront of innovations in renewable energy.
“There’s a real environmental vibe to Alberta that the global market doesn’t recognize,” Lofthaug says. “We won’t see huge changes in renewable energy tomorrow, but we’re standing at the floodgate and it only needs one little shove to open.”