Mapping Out Canada’s Best Solar Sweet Spots

by | Aug 20, 2021 | Blog

Solar energy powering a remote home in one of Canada’s best solar spots.

Summary

  • The Canadian solar power sector is a part of the growing renewable energy industry. Solar investment has become a desirable option due to its advancements, environmental benefits and increasing affordability.
  • Canada is known for its long, gloomy winters – which can present an issue for generating solar energy. However, solar cells can, in fact, work in moderately cloudy and snowy conditions. As long as the panels are clear of debris, solar energy systems are an excellent option for planet-conscious Canadians.
  • Research shows that the best solar spots are in Western Canada – in the Canadian Prairies, where the weather is moderately sunny all year round. In comparison, Newfoundland, Labrador and the Yukon Territory are among the least efficient locations for solar power production in Canada.
  • Investing in solar power is an excellent opportunity as the market is booming. In fact, in 2020 alone, the renewable energy sector increased in capacity by 45%. What’s more, a study found Saskatchewan to be the prime location for solar power generation in Canada – making it an ideal place to rely on green energy and invest in solar projects.

Introduction

Canada’s solar market is an upcoming sector within the renewable energy industry; however, many people question its efficiency during the infamous Canadian winters. Before investing in solar power in Canada, there are many variables to consider – especially if you plan on living off-grid and relying solely on the sun’s energy.

This article will discuss the best solar spots in Canada and determine the most desirable places to live and invest in.

Canada’s Solar Power Market

Interestingly, 18.9% of Canada’s energy generation comes from renewable sources.

Renewable energy is a growing industry – and one that isn’t showing signs of slowing down. During 2020, the demand for fossil fuels decreased as fewer people used vehicles and more looked toward sustainability. Consequently, the market grew by a staggering 45% – the most significant increase since 1999. What’s more, between 2004 and 2015, investments in renewable energy increased by 600%, highlighting the enormous global interest in renewable power.

Moreover, 18.9% of Canada’s energy generation comes from renewable sources – 59.3% of which is hydroelectricity. With the vast renewable energy industry, Canada is now the second-largest producer of hydroelectricity globally, making it a significant market to invest in. However, although moving water is a significant renewable energy source in Canada, wind and solar power are growing the fastest.

Is Solar Power Viable in Canada?

As the demand for solar power increases and technological advancements continue, solar energy systems are becoming increasingly efficient – and attractive to investors.

Understandably, Canada’s cold winters lead many people to question the viability of solar panels. While the weather plays a role in solar efficiency, you may be surprised to know solar panels work in various climates. For instance, although clear, sunny days provide the best conditions for generating solar power, panels still operate on grey days. Depending on the density of cloud cover, solar radiation can still reach the solar cells.

Moreover, some anecdotal evidence suggests that white snow potentially increases solar power production by reflecting light onto the panel. This is particularly useful to note in the context of Canadian winters – which bring heavy snowfall and dark days in some areas. Therefore, although the winter months present a challenge for solar power, it remains possible to generate power through the winter.

With this in mind, solar power is a real option for Canadians looking toward a greener energy future. Furthermore, as the demand for solar power increases and technological advancements continue, solar energy systems are becoming increasingly efficient – and attractive to investors.

A diagram showing how solar panels can support a residential home.

The Best Solar Spots in Canada

Much like the Energy Hub review, Ontario and Saskatchewan were among the best performing locations, meaning residents are likely to save money by installing solar power systems.

The beautiful Canadian landscape is an ideal place to live an off-grid and more sustainable life. However, leading a  greener lifestyle involves generating your own electricity and stepping away from fossil fuels like gas and oil. The most common way to do this is by investing in a renewable energy source such as solar power, which can power your home through the seasons. However, solar energy generation is location-dependent, so you need to carefully consider where you live to ensure you’ll be able to generate enough electricity to power your home throughout the year.

That said, it’s not just ‘off-gridders’ who need to think about Canada’s solar sweet spots, but investors too. To make the most of your stocks and solar projects, you need to know which areas have the best solar energy potential to help you determine where and how you invest your money.

According to Energy Hub (where the metrics in the following few paragraphs are sourced from), the best provinces for solar power generation are in Western Canada’s Prairie Provinces – Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan – where the climate is moderate and tends to be relatively sunny all year. These conditions make solar power investment ideal because the amount of solar radiation is consistent throughout the year. Moreover, Saskatchewan comes out on top with Canada’s best power solar potential, generating 1384 kWh/kW/yr – compared to Canada’s average of 1133 kWh/kW/yr.

Conversely, the least desirable areas for solar energy are Newfoundland, Labrador and the Yukon Territory – regions with a higher annual cloud cover, shorter summer days and cloudy weather. These territories have a solar energy potential of 949 kWh/kW/yr. Therefore, while it’s possible to generate solar energy in these areas, it comes at the cost of efficiency. The decrease in energy production during Canada’s colder months necessitates efficient solar energy storage solutions. By installing a solar battery, home and business owners can reduce their reliance on grid energy not just during the summer but throughout the year.

The Canada Energy Regulator’s report, The Economics of Solar Power in Canada, assesses the viability of solar projects by evaluating the amount and cost of solar electricity generation compared to the cost of local electricity. The report sought to determine whether solar projects made financial sense in various locations around Canada. Much like the Energy Hub review, Ontario and Saskatchewan were among the best performing locations – meaning residents are likely to save money by installing solar power systems. While homeowners in remote areas like the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are also expected to save money, the higher installation costs result in fewer savings.

Despite Yukon having the lowest solar power potential, residents can still expect to reap some financial benefits, especially if they install a smart meter. The report concluded that as the price of solar equipment drops, most Canadian communities could save money by installing solar systems. Finally, increasing government incentives to switch to renewable energy makes some locations more viable than others.

What Does This Mean for Planet-Conscious Canadians?

Prospective solar power investors may want to take special note of Ontario – the fifth-best solar spot in the country – which is responsible for 98% of Canada’s solar energy generation.

There are several reasons why the data on solar energy potential is essential – such as its influence on investor decisions, living arrangements and future solar projects. From a big-picture perspective, the data helps us assess whether solar energy will power Canada in the future.

One report suggests that Quebec will never be able to rely solely on solar power due to the cost of the system compared to hydropower alternatives. However, Canada’s solar market is growing at a substantial rate. In 2016, Canada generated 30 times more solar power than it did in 2010. In fact, if the market continues to trend upward, solar generation in Canada is projected to triple to 13.0 TW.h by 2040.

Moreover, the cost of solar power systems has been falling for decades. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the cost of solar PV fell by 82% between 2010 and 2019 compared to onshore wind energy – which decreased by 40%. Currently, the cost of installing solar power in Canada is $3.01/watt – but this is dependent on geographical location, time of year and the current market trends. Whatever the future may hold for solar power, it is clear that it is in high demand and will help pave the path toward a greener planet.

Prospective solar power investors may want to take special note of Ontario – the fifth-best solar spot in the country – which is responsible for 98% of Canada’s solar energy generation. Ontario can generate 1166 kWh/kW/yr and may be one of the best spots for living off this renewable source. Due to Canada’s particularly cold winters, installing a solar battery is prudent, especially if you’re not resident in one of the best solar spots. That said, solar storage makes for a more reliable power supply – making it the best way to maximize your solar energy investment regardless of your location.

Furthermore, even if you’re not able to switch to solar power completely, the addition of a solar energy system comes with various benefits. For example, installing a solar array will reduce your dependence on the national grid – indirectly reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, by generating some electricity yourself, you will likely see a decrease in your energy bills.

In all, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan have the best solar potential if you’re looking to switch to solar power, live off-grid or invest in solar projects.

An infographic showing how solar power investments can power homes.

Investing in Canada’s Solar Market

Solar power is growing faster than any other renewable source and is expected to rule the global energy sector by 2050.

Whether you’re purchasing a system for your home and business or you’re investing in solar projects and stocks, Canada is a crucial market to research. As we have discovered, Western Canada has excellent solar energy potential, making it a perfect investment opportunity. Although hydroelectric power currently dominates the renewable energy revolution, the solar energy market is growing at a faster rate than any other renewable source and is expected to rule the global energy sector by 2050.

Furthermore, investing in the solar market is an excellent way to reduce climate change. By switching to renewable energy, you reduce dependence on the national grid and, therefore, lessen the demand for fossil fuels. Moreover, wind and solar power are two of the safest forms of renewable energy because they don’t pollute the air or earth to the extent that fossil fuels do. These factors make solar power a favoured source of clean energy and an attractive investment.

Interested in investing in solar energy? Read our top tips on how to invest safely.

Closing Thoughts

There are many reasons to invest in solar, but knowing which locations have the most solar power potential may help you make the best investment decision. The best solar spots are the sunny Prairie Provinces – Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Interestingly, Ontario is also a location that performs well. This is partly thanks to the government incentives that reduce the cost of installing solar power systems – offering more significant savings to residents. In all, investing in renewable energy supports environmental initiatives and helps mitigate climate change.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is solar power good in Canada?

It is a common misconception that solar power is ineffective in Canada because of its cold climate. In fact, the Canadian solar energy market is on the rise. Despite the gloomy winters in some areas, solar power can help reduce pollution and lower utility bills. Moreover, the sector’s growth makes this the ideal time to invest in solar energy.

 

Which part of Canada has the best solar potential?

Western Canada has the best solar potential because of its moderate sunshine. Alberta and Ontario are particularly attractive investment options due to their solar power potential and government solar incentives that make solar equipment even more affordable.

 

How can you invest in solar power?

In Canada, you can invest in a solar power system for your home or business. These systems will not only reduce your impact on the environment, but they can reduce your electricity bills too. Moreover, many solar arrays can become a second income if you generate more electricity than you use. Further, the Canadian solar market is in its prime, making the stocks and projects attractive investments.

The Canadian government also offers many schemes and financial incentives to help people switch to renewable energy and reduce household or business emissions. However, be sure to check if these apply to your area.

 

Do solar panels work in Canadian winters?

The infamous Canadian winter can deter anyone considering investing in Canada’s solar power sector. Although energy generation may be lower during winter, modern solar panels are highly advanced and still work despite cloud cover and snowfall. Provided that the panel is clear of debris, white snow may even help reflect more sunlight onto the cell!

 

Where are the best solar investments in Canada?

Investing in solar power is essential to reduce the effects of climate change and pollution. Research shows that the Canadian Prairies have the best solar potential because of their weather. However, although Ontario is fifth in that list, government schemes to make the switch to solar more affordable make it one of the best places for solar power investment. These places will generate the most electricity, and the market is likely to continue to grow over the next several decades. In fact, although hydroelectricity is Canada’s top renewable source, the International Energy Agency predicts that solar will dominate the global renewables industry by 2050.