Solar-Energy in Canada: A Viable Long-Term Solution?

Michael Genender
December 5, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: The physical appearance of a typical solar panel. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Christina Mckenna, the federal minister of environment and climate change in Canada, just announced Canada's, "firm commitment to purchasing 100 per cent renewable power for government operations by 2025." [1] On the surface, this initiative sounds progressive and positive. However, it is crucial Canadians fully understand what solar-energy, a main source of renewable energy in Canada is, how it functions and what it means for businesses and buildings that look to install solar panels on their facilities. More specifically, wind energy is another long-term option in Canada and weighing the two renewable power sources in Canada to synthesize which is more economical is imperative for the future of the country.

Pros and Cons of Solar Energy in Canada

Solar energy is energy from the sun in the form of heat and light. The energy from sunlight converts into electricity, heat and fuel. Firstly, solar energy saves people and businesses money. The sun is free! Despite the initial investment, the thought of not having to pay local power companies anymore is an attractive ploy for many Canadians. Secondly, Canada is known for inclement weather with thunderstorms and blizzards commonplace in much of the nation. Having your own source of energy and not being totally reliant on power-grids could save households and buildings from power outages. Lastly, solar energy systems are easy to maintain and they are clean, leading to a shortage of usage on fossil fuels and in the process, helping the nation protect against global warming. Other cons are that it can negatively alter the appearance of buildings with solar panels on them, like the one in Fig. 1, and with Canada's unpredictable and often- turbulent climate, output could sharply lessen at certain parts of the year in certain areas. [2]

Wind Energy vs Solar Energy

The main advantage a wind generator has over a solar panel is that it can function at night. However, the life span of a generator is about half that of a solar panel. Additionally, while a strong wind tunnel could span a few miles, or more, the sun reaches a much greater area in much less time, making it more reliable. Plus wind speeds vary much more. Both sources of renewable energy are pollution free. There is more security in installing solar panels but wind panels have been around much longer and thus are more known to more people right now. [3]


Thus, from the research presented energy is the better long-term viable option for Canada. It will cost Canadians more money at first, but it will save money down the line with less maintenance costs and a longer life span. Canadians are making a positive step to becoming more environmentally conscious and the spread of solar panels across the country, especially in the warmer coastal and central areas, should be their next move.

© Michael Genender. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] B. Graveland, "'We're Leading the Way:' Government to Run on Green Power by 2025," Calgary Herald, 11 Feb 16.

[2] N. S. Lewis, "Research Opportunities to Advance Solar Energy Utilization," Science, 351, aad1920 (2016).

[3] R. Y. Redlinger, P. D. Andersen, and P. E. Morthorst, Wind Energy in the 21st Century: Economics, Policy, Technology, and the Changing Electricity Industry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).