Concern for Climate Change, Jobs and Other Incentives Spurs Growth
“The opportunity is great right now for expanding solar energy,” says Elizabeth McDonald, president of the Canadian Solar Industry Association (CanSIA) in a telephone interview. “Concern about global climate change propels the expansion of solar energy and so will the creation of local green jobs.”
McDonald also points to government incentives like the Ontario Power Authority’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP) and provisions in Ontario’s Green Energy Act as spurring the creation of solar farms hooking up to the power grid. The fact that solar electricity is being purchased for Ontario’s grid at $0.42 per kilowatt is an attractive incentive for both larger scale and smaller scale solar producers. That’s almost seven times the $0.06 KWh price paid to conventional generators. That will soon double when the Green Energy Act’s Fit-in-Tariff of $0.82 per kilowatt is implemented.
CanSIA’s 400 members include large and small solar energy providers. They are at the forefront of Canada’s ever-growing solar energy field. According to McDonald the amount of solar-powered electricity has expanded from 37.5 Megawatts (MW) produced in 2008 to 100 MW in 2009. By the end of 2010, it is expected that solar powered electricity will increase to between 200 and 300 MW.
Solar Farms Produce Clean Renewable Energy
McDonald reports most of the larger scale solar energy projects are in the province of Ontario but solar energy projects can be seen across Canada. One project west of Ottawa, Ontario will place 300,000 solar panels on a 200-acre farm to generate 20 megawatts of electricity enough to power 7,000 homes during peak hours.
Off-Grid Solar a Way to Energy Self-Sufficiency
Solar energy farms contributing to the power grid are not the only way Canadians are going solar. Smaller scale solar projects are increasingly popping up on roofs of small businesses, homes and institutional buildings across Canada. Examples range from hotel rooftops to innovative solar-powered communities like Drake Landing in Okotoks, Alberta 15 minutes south of Calgary.
Wash ‘N’ Go car wash in Toronto’s west end added solar vacuum tube collectors installed by Solarco, a Toronto-based solar power company. The solar collectors preheat water reducing the amount of conventional electricity and reducing energy costs. The project was supported by Natural Resources Canada’s Renewable Energy Deployment Initiative (REDI) program.
In Ontario, some homeowners are looking to solar energy to meet or supplement their energy needs. Government rebate programs offered by the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure help offset some of the conversion costs.
Renewable Energy Community Groups Spread the Word About Solar Energy
“Having the start up money to go solar still is the number one challenge facing homeowners,” says Susan Hirst, Midland, Ontario and a spokesperson for Simcoe Huronia Association for Renewable Energy (SHARE).
SHARE is helping to educate their community about the benefits of renewable energy. During the summer of 2009, SHARE hosted a tour of renewable energy projects. One of the stops was a local home that was built to be energy self-sufficient. Solar energy panels provide water heating and space heating. As a result of the conversion to solar energy and other innovative energy conservation measures, the home meets its energy needs without being attached to the electricity grid.
SHARE is also working to establish a Community Renewable Energy co-operative that in time may give rise to solar energy being generated by place solar panels on the community’s roofs.
These days Here Comes the Sun, the old Beatles hit, could easily be the theme song as the sun’s power becomes an integral part of Canada’s energy mix.