Solar energy emanates from the sun and approaches the Earth as short-wave electromagnetic radiation (also known as solar radiation). Light is the spectrum of this radiation that is visible to the human eye, but the Sun also emits radiation outside of our visible range, like ultra violet, infra-red, gamma rays and microwaves. Renewable solar energy systems take the solar energy and turn it into electricity in two ways. Solar Photo Voltaic (PV) panels transform solar energy into electricity through the photo-electric effect. Solar thermal panels use solar energy for heating purposes as it is absorbed by surfaces and materials.
Solar energy potential in the territory is a peculiar case, as the amount of solar energy along the Hudson Bay coast is comparable to the amount of solar energy that reaches southern Quebec, much of Ontario, and the Maritimes, while solar energy reaching the northern half of Nunavut is lower than any other part of Canada. The difficulties lie in the fact that the solar energy in concentrated into the summer months and is lacking in the winter months. That being said, there is still potential for solar energy projects, especially in the southern areas of Nunavut.
Although installation costs of solar panel projects are high due to the cost of transporting equipment to the territory, the use of renewable solar systems results in energy savings and the reduction of greenhouse gases. In an important solar panel pilot project, we recently installed 11 solar panels at the QEC power plant in Iqaluit and integrated them into the local power grid. For the first time, a renewable energy source is being distributed to assist with powering the city. It will also allow QEC to monitor the change in solar output over an Arctic year. A renewable energy system has never been connected to the electricity grid and the results of this project will then be tested and applied for a residential model, where customers may be able to connect their own solar panels to the city’s power grid. A reliable electricity supply is a top priority for QEC and to be able to do so with renewable energy sources is a milestone.