Solar Electric

There are currently three important divisions of solar energy technology within the Canadian solar market: solar photovoltaics, solar thermal and passive solar. 


    Solar Photovoltaics (PV)

     Solar electricity or photovoltaics is the generation of electricity directly from sunlight, using solar cells made from semiconductor materials. There are four main types of applications.

  • Consumer - PV is readily available for homes and offices. For example, many calculators and watches run off of small PV cells.  Solar garden lights are also easily available to garden and hardware stores.
  • Off - Grid - The high cost to extend power lines makes a viable alternative.  Solar electricity is often the first choice for remote power supply over line extensions and portable gasoline and diesel generators because of the cheaper installed price, zero fuel costs, low maintenance, highly reliability and long-term durability.
  • Near -Grid - PV has cost effective applications in urban areas where solar can reduce the costs of trenching, maintenance, transformr and metering purchases. For example, the Toronto Parking Authority uses solar to power centralized parking meters and saved hundreds of thousands of dollar in street trenching, installation and maintenance bills.
  • Grid - Connected - More Canadians are turning to solar to supplement existing electricity supply as electricity prices continue to climb and solar costs drop. Solar PV is already competitive in many cases to the cost of peak power. Further, there are significant savings to utilities as no transmission and distribution costs are incurred for PV systems.


Solar Thermal (SHW)

     Solar thermal refers to the absorption of sunlight that can be converted directly into thermal energy. There are many different types of solar thermal collectors, including unglazed liquid  for pools, glazed liquid, evacuated tube, unglazed air and glazed air collectors. 

There are six main types of solar thermal applications.

  • Pool - An average pool in Canada, if heated, uses about the same amount of energy to heat in the summer as most homes require year round.  Solar pool heaters pay for themselves very quickly.
  • Water - Domestic hot water (DHW) heating can account for more than 20 per cent of an average homeowner 's total energy needs. Solar can supply 30  to 60 per cent of this energy demand.
  • Air Heating - Solar air systems are practical and affordable in many applications. As buildings become more efficient and airtight, the need for outside or make up air increases, so that air and contaminants (moisture, dust, combustion and cooking odours) can be exhausted.  Large energy - efficient buildings can also benefit from this technology by preheating outside air before it is brought in the building . Solar air systems can even recover heat that is lost through building walls.
  • Combi - Systems - Combi - systems use solar for both heating of water plus the space heating needs of the building (usually with radiant floor heating). These types of systems maximize the benefits of solar year - round.
  • Air Cooling - A common solar air-cooling method is to use solar energy to vaporize a refrigerant in a cooling system. Solar cooling, as distinct from solar heating, has absolutely no storage needs.  As the need for air conditioning increases in the summer, the demand for solar in this market is expected to increase.  These systems can often be combined with combi-systems - providing heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.
  • Crop Drying - Solar air heating systems can also be used in such applications as crop, manure and textile drying, in which outdoor air is heated in order to pick up moisture.


 Passive Solar

Passive solar is based on the intelligent design of buildings and takes into consideration the location of the sun to the south in relation to the placement of windows, insulation, trees and shade. A building can be more than a simple container to hold people and items. If properly designed, it can also be an engine driven by the sun that eliminates much of the external energy needs.

There are three main types of passive solar applications.

  • Space Heating - Passive solar design of a building allows the natural capture of the sun's rays by south facing windows during the winter, window shading during the summer and thermal mass (such as concrete and brick) to hold the heat and moderate the building's temperature. The average home in Canada already receives an estimated 8 per cent of its space heating from passive solar - with proper design new homes can increase this to more than 25 per cent, reducing energy costs significantly.
  • Space Cooling - Passive solar designs can also include natural ventialtion for cooling.
  • Daylighting - Buildings can reduce their natural day lighting. Innovative designs out of Europe and Japan show how even the largest buildings can introduce daylight into the deepest recesses.