So a Canadian, an American and an Irishman were in a business meeting discussing solar energy. It sounds like a bad St. Patrick’s Day joke, but it’s actually an honest description of my day. I’ve met with one person from Ireland since I’ve started, and he visits me today. What are the odds? Seriously though, we were talking about Ontario’s new FIT Rates, and a very common question came up – “Is there enough sun in Ontario for solar energy.”
I’ve talked about this before, but I explained it better today than I have in a while. We feel like we’re a long way from the equator and that there’s a big difference in the sunlight, but for solar energy purposes, the quantity of light is good enough pretty much anywhere in the world. Excessive cloudiness, too much pollution and extremely high latitudes might make a small difference, but the most important factor for determining the viability of solar energy is the cost of electricity.
Germany proves this, as I’ve said before. As of 2007, half of all the solar power in the world was in Germany, and Germany’s solar resources isn’t nearly as good as Ontario’s. What made Germany such a solar leader was their own feed-in tariff system. Same with Spain. Spain doesn’t have nearly the solar resource that the US South West does, but they had a proactive feed-in tariff and solar farms popped up everywhere. Ontario’s new FIT system, if it’s done right, will make Ontario a solar energy giant. Which is pretty cool, really.
This a screen grab from the Natural Resources Canada Map Server for the solar resource potential maps for Canada. What that legend means is that for every kW installed, you can expect that many kWh per year in that location. So people right down near Windsor, Niagara and up near Ottawa are really doing well, and the rest of us are sitting pretty too. (Here’s a link to the Ontario map view above.)