Is Solar Energy a Viable Power Option in Canada?
Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available in Canada. The latest technology enables us to capture the sun’s energy in several different ways to provide both residential and commercial consumers flexible ways to use both the heat and light of the sun.
Many of the coldest locations in Canada have direct sunlight year round. A little known fact is that just two hours of direct sunlight can subsidize home heating by either passive solar hot water or hot air.
There are two types of solar energy:
Active solar energy systems use devices that convert the sun’s heat or light into another form of energy. Passive solar refers to special design or building materials that take advantage of the sun’s position and availability to provide direct heating or lighting.
Solar hot water systems use vacuum tubes that are mounted on the roof or side of a home in a south-facing direction. The tubes magnify the sun’s heat, which is then transferred to glycol (an anti-freeze liquid). The heated coolant is moved into a storage tank to either pre-heat the water coming into the home or into the home’s hot water system.
Passive solar also considers the need for shading devices to protect buildings from excessive heat from the sun. The heat from the winter’s sun can create a greenhouse effect in rooms facing the south. If these rooms have large windows the sun’s heat is trapped and can be distributed through the home using a series of fans. Many homeowners take advantage of this “free heat” by lining the room with ceramic tiles to trap more of the heat.
There are two common types of technology that harness solar energy in Canada:
Solar PV is used primarily for grid-connected electricity to operate residential appliances, commercial equipment, lighting and air conditioning for all types of buildings. Through stand-alone systems and the use of batteries, it is also well suited for remote regions where there is no electricity source. Solar PV panels can be ground mounted, installed on building rooftops or designed into building materials at the point of manufacturing.
The efficiency of solar PV increases in colder temperatures and is particularly well-suited for our climate. A number of technologies are available that offer different solar conversion efficiencies and pricing.
Solar energy can heat water for at least four different applications:
- potable (drinking) and service use (washing) use in homes
- potable and service use in commercial, and institutional and industrial facilities
- radiant floor heating
- swimming pools (indoor or outdoor)
Almost all applications use collectors, which are aimed at the sun to collect as much radiation heat as possible.
There are three basic types of collectors:
These units are simple design and often circulate water through plastic pipes, they offer little protection from freezing
These units may circulate an anti-freeze fluid through insulated pipes, and release the collected heat through the use of a heat exchanger
These are highly insulated glass cylinders which maximize the absorption of heat and minimize the loss of heat from the system.
Contact us to discuss your project and for an accurate assessment of your needs.