Sunny days for solar
- June 19, 2012
by Tim Wilson
Solar power, once considered an impractical energy source in Canada’s northern climate, is beginning to hit its stride.
“Solar panels used to be at 12 per cent efficiency,” says Chris Carignan of Green & Clean Energy Co. Ltd., Guelph, ON. “Now they are at 15 per cent to 17 per cent, which means they take up less space.”
The technology has come a long way on the cost side, too.
“Back in 2003 panels cost $8 a watt,” says Carignan. “Now the more powerful panels cost about $1.20 a watt; that makes a huge difference.”
The result is that a home-based system that used to cost $40,000 to $50,000 thousand dollars is now less than half that amount.
“Solar is nothing yet; the opportunity is huge,” says Bill Elliott, President of WSE technologies in Saskatoon, SK. “Our stuff works great in -40° weather, because the PV panel works more efficiently. It takes reflective light off the snow, and the cold air is clearer.”
Elliott says in the summer months, solar thermal can be converted into air conditioning, with water tanks effectively working as batteries. This is a technology that should be around for the long haul—assuming the government continues to help it get off the ground.
“The industry is in its infancy stage,” says Carignan. “And the government is throwing as much fertilizer on it as it can to make it grow.” SMT
Tim Wilson is a freelance writer based in Peterborough, ON.