A natural resource
Solar energy is generated using sunlight, rather than heat. The sun shines from sunrise to sunset, even when the sky is grey and even in cold weather.
While solar power accounts for less than 1% of Québec’s energy portfolio, its potential is nonetheless huge. The solar photovoltaic energy production capacity in Montréal is 40% higher than in Berlin or Tokyo, the capitals of two countries that are nevertheless trailblazers in this field.
Locally produced and renewable, solar energy emits no pollution when it is transformed into electrical energy, since it requires no engine or fuel.
Two types of solar energy
Sunlight can be used to generate energy in two ways. Solar thermal converts sunlight into heat, and solar photovoltaic converts sunlight into electricity.
- Sunlight is captured by solar panels installed on walls or roofs, which heat the air before it enters the heating system.
- Sunlight is captured by panels made of tubes inside which a liquid circulates. This liquid is heated by the sun and then used to heat domestic water or air.
The preheated air and liquid reduce the use of heating systems, which reduces energy intake and, by extension, costs.
Solar panels capture the sun’s light and convert the energy into electricity. Sunlight is converted into electric power by way of photovoltaic cells in the solar panels. These cells are made of semiconductor materials that release electrons when light energy strikes them, thus forming an electric current.
In Québec, Énergir’s business customers have enjoyed the benefits of the solar air preheating program since 2003. In doing so, they have saved energy and prevented the emission of more than 7,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas. Énergir also supports innovative projects such as that of Cascades, which was the first company in the pulp and paper sector to install a concentrated solar power system to generate a supply of hot water.
Stafford Hill, Vermont
To develop the renewable energies of tomorrow, innovative energy projects are required, like the Stafford Hill solar farm in Vermont, featuring 7,700 solar panels spanning a 15-acre property. This farm generates 2 MW of electricity, enough to power 2,000 homes during periods of full sun, or 365 homes per year. The project also comprises a solar storage component whereby 3.4 MWh can be stored in a battery system. This power can then be used during peak periods and as backup power for a local emergency shelter in the event of a critical situation affecting the electrical grid.