Photovoltaics in Canada – An Introduction

Canada is one of the highest energy consumers per capita in the world. Due to its geography, Canada is currently the world’s second largest producer of hydroelectricity and is sixth in wind power generation. Nevertheless, solar energy is also expanding rapidly in Canada and especially, in Ontario. In 2011, there was 289 MWDC photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed throughout the country representing 335 GWh annually.

Canada has a significant amount of annual solar radiation, much greater than that of Germany’s the leader in solar energy. Ontario, Quebec, and the Prairies are leading the country in solar resources. Solar potential tends to accumulate in the southern regions but is much lower in the territories due to their high latitude. Canada’s small population is most scattered throughout the country with very few densely populated regions besides the Greater Toronto Area, Vancouver, and Montreal. In the last decade, PV installations were concentrated in off-grid systems for purposes such as navigational aids, remotes homes, and telecommunication.  These systems made up almost 90% of the solar capacity in Canada in 2009. Off-grid system remains prominent in Canada but will decrease in its market share as grid-connected systems continue to grow swiftly.

Government Regulations

Federal incentives are lacking in Canada, with the exception of the Income Tax Act’s Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for certain PV systems. Solar energy legislature is almost always left solely to the provincial government. Most provinces in Canada have Net Metering programs that allow smaller renewable energy generating units to connect to the grid system.

Ontario has so far been the clear winner in Canada’s solar race. Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP) and feed in tariff (FIT and microFIT) program has had substantial support. In 2010, the public budget for photovoltaics in Canada was $61.8 million with the majority funding Ontario’s solar efforts. Formal solar networks and testing facilities for panels have also been established, funded by both federal and provincial governments, which have worked to increase the collaborations and PV innovations throughout Canada.


In 2010, Sarnia, Ontario’s solar plant, Sarnia Solar, was considered the world’s largest solar plant. It has since been exceeded by other plants around the world. It has an installed capacity of 97MW and consists of 635 acres of modules, approximately 1.3 million thin film panels. Municipal governments and communities have also worked towards developing renewable energy. House owners now view the addition of a PV system as a normal house upgrade and base it on affordability and reductions in environmental impact. In 2007, the Drake Landing Solar Community was completed in Okotoks, Alberta. It is the first community heated by a district system and is able to store energy generated during the summer for the winter months. This allows 90% of each home’s heating to be generated directly from solar energy.

Despite all this, Canada is still behind some of the major competitors. However, politicians all around Canada are aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through use of renewable energies. New legislation such as Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act established in 2009 is also pushing the country towards a renewable energy  -based economy. As older electricity plants begin to degenerate and age, Canada is looking towards renewable energy to replace ever increasing energy demands. Canada’s vast landscape is an unlimited resource for sustainable energy from renewable sources.

Check out the article on Ontario later on in the week which will expand on its legislation and accomplishments in solar energy.

Sources: Canmet, Cansia, DLSC, Pembina Institute


Organic recyclable solar cells from trees

In early March this year, scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University published an article on their newly created solar cells using cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, in other words, trees. One of the issues revolving around solar power is the necessity for a more sustainable production of solar cells, especially with regards to petroleum and silicon based cells. Further development and advancement in the life cycle, scalability, and sustainability of a solar module is required.

Nano particles for PV systems

Nano particles from trees? – ©franckreporter

CNC substrates have a low toxicity, can be produced in industrial-sized quantities, and are inherently renewable. The nanoparticles the researchers are using are considered high-value and are both abundant and recyclable. At a life-cycle perspective, these solar cells can easily be detached through a low-energy process at room temperature. Its major components can be separated by fully immersing the cell in water which acts to redisperse the CNC substrate. This organic solar cell has a power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 2.7%, one of the highest of its kind, yet, it is still far beyond the PCEs of petroleum and glass based cells.

Currently, organic solar cells are usually fabricated on glass or plastic. Experimental designs with paper have also been undertaken as it is low-cost, recyclable, and flexible.  However, using paper as a substrate for solar cells is still quite limited in its performance.

Organic solar cells are a desired technology due to its low manufacturing cost, light weight, and mechanical flexibility. Currently, its greatest setbacks are its low PCE and short lifetime. However, the scientists acknowledge that their organic cells are lacking a competitive edge in the current market, at least until future organic solar modules reach a PCE of 5% and a 5 year lifetime. With further development of this organic technology, its potential could be infinite as a scalable, renewable source for sustainable energy production.

Source: Forbes; Nature

Interview British Photovoltaic Association Chair Reza Shaybani

British Photovoltaic Association (BPVA) is the National trade association of the UK solar photovoltaic industry. The association was formed in April 2010 after the introduction of the FiT. Since then the BPVA has grown significantly and has become the most influential and trusted voice of the solar PV industry in the UK.

Mainstream utility generation ‘trending’ in the PV sector

Utility-scale applications have doubled in a year to 12GW, while growth in other parts of the PV sector has slowed. Philip Wolfe, whose book on solar power stations was published recently, explains why these applications will continue to march on.

Fox News explains the world: Germany sunnier than the USA

That supporters of both conventional and renewable energies like to use heavily doctored numbers and one-sided arguments to dismiss each other’s claims is nothing new. However, the conservative leaning TV channel Fox News has recently shared their explanation as to why the establishment of photovoltaic plants has not taken off to the same extent in the USA as in Germany. Newsflash: overall solar irradiance is to blame.

Millions of viewers watched as Shibani Joshi, billed as a Fox Business Network Expert, explained in front of running cameras that: “They’re a smaller country, and they’ve got lots of sun. Right? They’ve got a lot more sun than we do.” Smaller country = more sun. “In California, it’s a great solution, but here on the East Coast, it’s just not going to work”.

Every layman, however, can see from current irradiance maps the reality behind the statements of this “Expert”. For some perspective, here is a map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, working under the American Dept. of Energy.

Irradiance in comparison: The USA is notedly sunnier than Germany. Illustration courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Despite the clearly better solar conditions in the USA, Germany brought more PV capacity online in the last year alone than the USA has installed to date (7.6GW installed in 2012 in Germany, 6.9GW installed capacity in the USA total).

Check out the original footage here:




Don't miss our newsletter!

Did you like what you were reading? Subscribe to our newsletter and always be up to date.

Your data will be handled in confidence.