Solar energy is a form of renewable energy generation. Solar PV is used primarily for grid-connected electricity to operate residential appliances, commercial equipment, lighting and air conditioning for all types of buildings. Through stand-alone systems and the use of batteries, it is also well suited for remote regions where there is no electricity source. Solar PV panels can be ground mounted, installed on building rooftops or designed into building materials at the point of manufacturing. The efficiency of solar PV increases in colder temperatures and is particularly well-suited for Canada’s climate.
Solar PV power converts sunlight into grid-connected electricity in a silicon-based solar cell. Solar cells are manufactured into solar modules, which are constructed into solar arrays. Arrays can be mounted on rooftops or on the ground. Solar arrays feed direct current (DC) electricity to an inverter, which converts it to alternating current (AC) power to be fed to the utility grid via the site’s electrical system. Solar PV produces clean energy that does not rely on harmful, non-renewable fossil fuels, so it has tremendous potential to significantly reduce the carbon footprints of our buildings and neighbourhoods.
PV modules should be oriented between south-east and south-west (due south is best). Modules generally need an unobstructed view of the sun all the year. Systems can be sized to provide 100 percent of electricity consumption at a cottage or campsite, or as a supplement to conventional utility electricity or genset electricity.
A tracking system can orient the solar array to maximize its electricity production throughout the day and the year by tracking the movement of the sun, though this is typically not practical for most applications.