What is Solar Power?

Solar Power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity via solar cells within a solar panel or module.

The photovoltaic (PV) cell consists of one or two layers of a semi-conducting material that creates an electric field across the layers when light shines on the cell, causing electricity to flow.  A PV system does not necessarily need bright sunlight as it can also generate electricity on cloudy days with diffuse light conditions. 

There are over 14 different cell types, with approximately 90% of today’s PV cells on the market using crystalline silicon technology.  The performance of a solar cell is measured in terms of its efficiency at turning sunlight into electricity with a typical commercial crystalline PV module ranging in efficiency between 11 and 19 percent.  While the highest cost for large PV projects are the grid connection and labour during the installation, the price of electricity from PV systems at suitable sites can easily compete with conventional power generation. 

Why Solar?

The increased use of solar power builds energy security, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and moves Canada toward a sustainable energy future.

Solar power generation requires no fuel or moving parts, makes no noise and produces no emissions with minimal maintenance. The photovoltaic (PV) industry has also dramatically lowered the cost to produce solar cells through improved efficiency and technological innovation.

Solar PV energy also compliments existing hydro dams, allowing water to be stored for times of high electricity demand thus reducing peak loads and the need for additional baseload energy generation or distribution infrastructure such as hydro dams, coal-fired generation stations, and underwater electrical cables. 

Solar in BC

British Columbia’s most effective solar resources are in the northeast and southern interior of the province, with additional potential along the southeast coast of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

Check out the Complete Guide for Solar Power in British Columbia 2021. Examples of solar power projects include:

  • Sunmine Solar Power Project in Kimberly – Began operating in 2015 as the first MW scale project in BC and the first Canadian project of its size outside of Ontario.   
  • Tsilhqot’in Solar Farm – The first large-scale solar power plant 100% owned and operated by a First Nations in Western Canada. 

In BC, PV modules are mainly used to power radio repeater stations, monitoring stations and off-grid communities in remote areas. For these applications, the costs of PV technology compete aggressively with the costs of electricity derived from fossil fuel. Areas requiring extensive power line construction may find solar PV to be more cost effective as well.