Solar power in Canada

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Canada's solar potential

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] Grid-connected solar PV systems have grown significantly in recent years, and reached over 1.8 GW of cumulative installed capacity by the end of 2014.

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]

Solar potential[edit]

Canada has plentiful solar energy resources thanks to its large area, with the most extensive resources being found in southern British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies.[1] The country has however a relatively low level of solar irradiance due to its high latitude. This, combined with cloud cover, results in a low 6% capacity factor, compared to a 29% capacity factor in Arizona.[2] The northern provinces have a smaller solar potential, and less direct sunlight, because of their even higher latitude.

By region[edit]


With the introduction of a Feed-in tariff (FIT) in 2009, Ontario became a global leader for solar energy projects. The program was the first of its kind in North America.[citation needed] 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] Ontario has several other large PV power plants, other than the Sarnia plant. The 23.4 MW Arnprior Solar Generating Station was built in 2009, and is expected to expand to 80 MW.[5] A 68 megawatt solar farm is in Sault Ste. Marie, and a 100 megawatt solar farm is planned for Kingston, Ontario.[6][7]

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.[citation needed]

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.[8] 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).[9] 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%.[10] On April 5, 2012 the rate was reduced to $0.549/kWh.[11] The 2012 target is for 50 MW to be installed.[12] 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.[13] Ontario plans to end coal generation by 2014.[14]

Ontario is expected to reach 2,650 MW of solar PV by 2015.[15] As of December 2016, Ontario's solar energy installations have the capability of generating 1,947 MW. These installations are expected to produce on average 280 MW per month for the province, 1% of the province's energy needs.[16]


History of Canadian PV deployment in megawatts since 1996[17]
Year Σ Installed
Δ Installed
1992 0.96
1993 1.23 0.2
1994 1.51 0.3
1995 1.86 0.4
1996 2.56 0.7
1997 3.38 0.8
1998 4.47 1.1
1999 5.83 1.3
2000 7.15 1.4
2001 8.83 1.6
2002 10.00 1.2
2003 11.83 1.8
2004 13.88 2.1
2005 16.75 2.85
2006 20.48 3.75
2007 25.77 5.3
2008 32.72 6.9
2009 94.57 61.87
2010 281.13 186.43
2011 558.29 297 400
2012 765.97 268
2013 1,210.48 444.51
2014 1,843.08 632.60
2015 2,240[20]
Timeline of the largest PV power stations in the world
Year(a) Name of PV power station Country Capacity
1982 Lugo  United States 1
1985 Carrisa Plain  United States 5.6
2005 Bavaria Solarpark (Mühlhausen)  Germany 6.3
2006 Erlasee Solar Park  Germany 11.4
2008 Olmedilla Photovoltaic Park  Spain 60
2010 Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant  Canada 97
2011 Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park  China 200
2012 Agua Caliente Solar Project  United States 290
2014 Topaz Solar Farm(b)  United States 550
2015 Solar Star(b)  United States 579
2015 Longyangxia Dam Solar Park  China 850
2017 Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park  India 900
Also see list of noteworthy solar parks
(a) year of final commissioning (b) capacity given in  MWAC otherwise in MWDC

See also[edit]