You’ve probably heard about solar power, a form of energy production that harvests sunlight and converts it into usable electricity. If you’re interested in utilizing solar power at your residential or commercial property, you might be wondering: is solar power a viable form of energy production in the province I live in?
At SRB Energy, we specialize in providing renewable energy solutions to homes, farms, and businesses across the country. We’ve put together this solar resource page to give you more information about renewable energy production in Canada. In this article, we’re going to cover everything from how solar power is captured, to the locations where it has the most potential.
Let’s get started:
What is Solar Power?
In simple terms, solar power is a form of heat energy that’s collected from the sun. It can be used for anything you use regular electricity for, like powering devices, household appliances, and heating or cooling buildings.
A few benefits of solar power include:
- It’s more environmentally friendly than other methods of energy generation. In Canada, electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels and harvesting hydroelectricity. These methods emit air pollution and disrupt ecosystems. On the other hand, solar power produces zero emissions.
- You can utilize a renewable and reliable form of energy. Solar energy is a way to take advantage of sunlight without extracting resources or impacting other ecosystems. Not only is solar power completely renewable, it’s not going anywhere, either! We don’t need to worry about the sun burning out for billions of years yet. It’s safe to say that during our lifetimes (and our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s lifetimes), the sun will continue to supply our planet with ultraviolet rays.
- Over time, it provides a substantial return on your investment. Say goodbye to paying monthly energy bills when you install an off-grid solar array. You can switch to supplying your own electricity and skip out on monthly fees. To set up your solar array, you’ll need to cover the costs of buying materials and installing the system. But over the years, your monthly savings on electrical bills will make this investment pay for itself.
Interested in taking advantage of what solar power has to offer? We don’t blame you—the benefits are pretty substantial. That being said, you might want to know more about the technology behind it first.
How is Solar Energy Captured and Stored?
Solar power technology was first discovered in the early 1950s, and it has come a long way over the last few decades. But how can you decide whether it’s right for you if you don’t understand how it works? While the mechanics behind solar systems can get pretty technical, we’re going to break it down as clearly and concisely as we can.
Each solar panel is made up of photovoltaic cells, which are used to capture solar energy. These panels are made with a semiconductor material (like silicon) that stores electrons.
Unlike our eyes, solar panels want all the direct sunlight they can get. When sunlight strikes the panels, it causes the electrons in them to move around; this movement is what generates an electric current. From here, the electricity is directed into your home or business.
Converting solar energy into usable electricity requires an inverter; this system converts direct current (DC) from the solar panels into alternating current (AC) that you can utilize to power a television, light a lamp, etc.
Once the energy is harvested and converted, the next step is storing it. Without a battery, solar systems would be unable to provide energy at nighttime or on cloudy days. A solar battery comes in handy on days when you can’t produce enough solar power.
Storage systems are essential for off-grid setups where property owners can’t draw from a utility grid in times of need. Instead, they rely on batteries to supply backup electricity when solar panels do not generate enough.
The Economics of Solar Power in Canada
As solar energy technology continues to be developed, it will become more affordable and feasible for Canadians to install. It’s estimated that in recent years, the cost of installing a solar energy system has dropped by 50%.
Of course, there are some challenges with producing solar energy in Canada. One is cloud cover. Clouds, as picturesque as they might be, prevent the sun’s rays from reaching solar panels. And in the winter, days are shorter, which means there are fewer hours of sunlight where panels can generate electricity.
Innovations in solar technology make panels increasingly efficient at producing energy, even in subpar conditions. Depending on the province you live in, you may be able to access various financial incentives that make producing solar energy more affordable.
The equipment used in your solar PV system will also affect your return on investment. Take tracking technology for example; panels with this feature will adjust their position based on the location of the sun, resulting in optimal solar energy production. These devices have a higher upfront cost, but they pay off by increasing your energy production.
The climate in Canada tends to be extreme; most parts of the country have short, sunny summers and long, frigid winters. How might this impact solar energy production? It might come as a surprise to some, but solar systems still generate electricity in cold conditions. They don’t rely on heat from the sun—just the light energy from its rays.
The cold weather actually increases the efficiency of solar panels; the electrons within them generate a higher voltage at cooler temperatures. Canada might be covered in snow for half of the year, but solar panels still get the job done.
Photovoltaic Potential Map
For an overview of solar energy in each province, take a look at this photovoltaic potential map. The solar potential is measured in kWh (or kilowatt-hours, which is the amount of electricity that you use in one hour).
The provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario have some of the highest potentials for solar energy production. While coastal provinces have less potential, financial incentives in these areas can make up for it.
Solar Guide for All Provinces
In general, solar energy production tends to be highest in the prairies. This is mainly due to the open landscape and optimal weather conditions.
There’s nothing like the sight of a wide-open prairie field—not only is it ideal for agricultural development, but it’s also a perfect spot for solar panels. Provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba have less cloud and tree cover.
Without trees to shade the land, solar panels are completely exposed to the sun’s rays. On average, skies are clearer in these provinces, which offers further benefits for solar energy production.
Those in remote communities face unique challenges when it comes to energy production. Oftentimes, the only option available is diesel fuel, which can be tremendously expensive to transport, and harmful to the environment. Solar energy provides residents in these areas with a more affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative.
But when you’re budgeting for a solar array, you need to look beyond energy production. It’s also important to consider factors like solar incentives and policies of local utility companies. A combination of these factors will determine how viable it is to produce solar energy in your province.
Estimated Costs for All Provinces
Wondering how the cost of installing solar panels varies across Canada? We’re going to provide an overview of general installation costs. Keep in mind that prices vary depending on which company you choose to work with. In addition, the amount of energy that you require will affect the number of solar panels you’ll need.
To calculate the size of the solar system that you need, you can refer to this basic solar cost formula:
- Your energy usage in 1 year ÷ the estimated annual sunlight hours = kW system size
We’ll illustrate that with an example. Let’s say that an individual lives in a multi-family dwelling that uses 15,000 kWh each year. They’re located in Manitoba, which has the potential to produce 1,272 kilo-watt hours from sunlight annually. Crunch the numbers, and you’ll find that an 11.8 kW system is required to meet this individual’s energy needs.
For a detailed breakdown of solar costs and incentives in various provinces, check out the resources below:
Across Canada, there is significant potential to generate electricity using solar radiation. Solar power continues to be an efficient form of renewable energy production. As it becomes more accessible to Canadians, we anticipate the development of more infrastructure to support PV systems across the country.
If you’re interested in purchasing solar panels in Canada, check out the products we have to offer at SRB Energy. With a selection of high-quality products from top brands, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in our inventory. Contact us today to learn more about how solar energy can benefit you.
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