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.
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