When it comes to renewable sources of electricity, solar may not jump out as the most viable option in the Great White North. Sure we've got loads of wind and water, but sunshine? Try telling that to my pasty legs. It turns out that my tanning ability is not the best measuring stick for the potential of solar energy in Canada. In fact, Canada does receive enough of the sun's energy to make solar panels an option for Canadian homeowners. Nowhere is this being recognized as readily as in Ontario.
Ontario, which receives more sunlight than leading solar installers like Germany and Japan, has emerged as a North American leader in solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. Solar PV panels capture the sun's energy and turn it into electricity. This solar renaissance has been brought about through the implementation of Ontario's feed-in tariff (FIT), a program that allows energy producers to sell electricity back to the grid. This program has also made solar viable for many homeowners, farmers and community groups that can now recover the cost of buying the panels or generate income by leasing their roof-space to a solar installation. Nearly 12,000 Ontarians have started participating since the program began.
Sign up for our newsletter
The swift uptick in Ontario's solar installations is consistent with the global trend. From 2005 to 2010, global solar PV capacity grew by 49 per cent a year. Like any new technology, a decrease in cost was necessary for wider adoption. Experts predict that a further two-thirds reduction in cost will be achieved by 2020. Lower costs have also led to the development of promising new innovations in recent years, such as thin film, cars and large collectors.
All of this is good news for the environment. In Ontario, the average residential solar PV system produces as much electricity annually as burning 2,300 kilograms of coal. By producing more electricity from renewable sources, fewer fossil fuels are burned today and we can forego building additional power plants in the future.
The David Suzuki Foundation has long been a supporter of renewable technologies that reduce the footprint of our energy system. We encourage other jurisdictions to follow Ontario's lead in making renewable technologies more accessible for citizens. Taking the initiative to tackle its energy footprint helped Ontario to its first-place ranking in our recent assessment of provincial climate action. If you are interested in more information about solar PV installations in Ontario, a number of contractors provide services, including Pure Energies who offer free installation, solar leasing opportunities and will even make a donation to the David Suzuki Foundation for each installation made.