Solar power is the most accessible energy technology used in Canada. Since 1995 the Canadian solar market has grown by an average of 25 percent a year, yet by international standards Canada is lagging. In 2003, the capacity of installed solar technology in Canada was 10 megawatts (MW), which is low compared to Japan’s 452 MW and Germany’s 194 MW capacities.
Every hour, the sun produces more energy than the world’s entire population consumes in one year. Solar power is unlike other forms of energy as it operates silently and can be generated wherever it is needed. Over 50,000 homes and cottages in remote locations in Canada use solar power because it is cheaper than extending power lines. Urban and suburban residents have been more apprehensive to go “off the grid” because of concerns about initial costs and fears of inconsistent energy supplies due to Canada’s varied weather. Yet the yearly solar average of Canada’s populated areas exceed both Germany and Japan, the world’s solar leaders.
Soaring energy costs and international agreements, such as the Kyoto Accord, have placed pressure on the government to encourage energy alternatives.
Solar energy is being used in building materials that create heat and electricity and also to power water pumps, streetlights, and parking meters. The Canadian Coast Guard uses solar energy to power 5,000 of its units, such as navigational buoys and lighthouses. In December 2000, Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau helped to install 74-metre long solar panels on the International Space Station to supplement its energy supply.
This slide show, “Harnessing the power of weather,” has four images: two of wind farms, a solar collector panel and a windmill.