Solar power in Canada

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Canada has plentiful solar energy resources, with the most extensive resources being found in southern British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies. The territories have a smaller potential, and less direct sunlight, because of their higher latitude.[1]

Historically, the main applications of solar energy technologies in Canada have been non-electric active solar system applications for space heating, water heating and drying crops and lumber. In 2001, there were more than 12,000 residential solar water heating systems and 300 commercial/ industrial solar hot water systems in use. These systems presently comprise a small fraction of Canada’s energy use, but some government studies suggest they could make up as much as five per cent of the country’s energy needs by the year 2025.[1]

Photovoltaic (PV) cells are increasingly used as standalone units, mostly as off-grid distributed electricity generation to power remote homes, telecommunications equipment, oil and pipeline monitoring stations and navigational devices. The Canadian PV market has grown quickly and Canadian companies make solar modules, controls, specialized water pumps, high efficiency refrigerators and solar lighting systems.[1]

One of the most important uses for PV cells is in northern communities, many of which depend on high-cost diesel fuel to generate electricity. Since the 1970s, the federal government and industry has encouraged the development of solar technologies for these communities. Some of these efforts have focused on the use of hybrid systems that provide power 24 hours a day, using solar power when sunlight is available, in combination with another energy source.[1]

Since the FIT launch in 2009, the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program has made Ontario, Canada a global leader for solar energy projects. As a result of the program – the first of its kind in North America – solar power may account for 1 - 2% of Ontario's energy supply, with $2.3 billion over the next three years being invested into the expansion and renewal of Ontario transmission linesCanada has many regions that are sparsely populated and difficult to access. [2]

Thanks to the FIT program, Ontario was the home of what was temporarily the largest solar farm in the world (in October 2010) until surpassed by larger farms in China and India. Located in Sarnia, Ontario, the 97 megawatt[3] Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant can power more than 12,000 homes.[4]

First FIT in North America Launched. However the most recent concentrated solar thermal power and storage technologies were barred from the FIT. The reason offered was that the technologies are not *proven* in Ontario climate - despite the fact that no public money would be at risk when private interests would build the power plant. Thus PCV technologies are offered a technological monopoly in Ontario, possibly to benefit some subsidized manufacturers at a potential expense to tax payers.

The FIT program is intended for installations over 10 kW, while the microFIT program is to encourage the development of micro-scale renewable energy projects, such as residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. The microFIT program provides a rate of $0.802/kWh for rooftop mounted solar panels.[5] On July 2, 2010 the microFIT's program rate (for ground-mounted systems only) was lowered to $0.642/kWh by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA).[6] This new rate means consumers investing in solar energy through the Ontario microFIT Program will experience a drop in profit margin from a 25% range to 10%.[7] On April 5, 2012 the rate was reduced to $0.549/kWh.[8] The 2012 target is for 50 MW to be installed.[9] As of August 7, 2012, 9,764 applications for the FIT have been submitted, totaling 8,504 MW. 1,757 applications have been submitted for the microFIT program, totaling 16 MW.[10] Ontario plans to end coal generation by 2014.[11]

The 23.4 MW Arnprior Solar Generating Station was built in 2009, and is expected to expand to 80 MW.[12]

A 68 megawatt solar farm is in Sault Ste. Marie, and a 100 megawatt solar farm is planned for Kingston, Ontario.[13][14]

Ontario is expected to reach 2,650 MW of solar PV by 2015.[15]

Impact on overall electrical supply[edit]

As of October 2013, Ontario's solar energy installations contribute less than 0.4% of the province's energy needs.[16]


History of Canadian PV deployment in megawatts (MW) since 1992[17]
Year Σ Installed
Δ Installed
1992 1.0
1993 1.2 0.2
1994 1.5 0.3
1995 1.9 0.4
1996 2.6 0.7
1997 3.4 0.8
1998 4.5 1.1
1999 5.8 1.3
2000 7.2 1.4
2001 8.8 1.6
2002 10.0 1.2
2003 11.8 1.8
2004 13.9 2.1
2005 16.75 2.85
2006 20.5 3.75
2007 25.8 5.3
2008 32.7 6.9
2009 94.57 61.87
2010 281 186.43
2011 497 297 400
2012 765 268
2013 1,210 444

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