A high demand for energy combined with the need to support environmental considerations means that there is a need to draw on some alternative sources of electricity generation available in Ontario. Renewable/Green Power is energy that can be generated from renewable resources, rendering only a minimal impact on the environment. There are several types of renewable energy sources available in Ontario.
What is solar power?
Solar power is one of the cleanest, most viable forms of renewable energy available. Using radiation emitted by the sun, solar power can be used in several forms to help power your house.
Photovoltaics (Solar Electricity)
Photovoltaics is the process of converting the sun’s energy into electricity through solar cells. These cells come in a variety of sizes, and produce electricity as long as light shines on them (think of them as a more sophisticated version of the solar cells used in calculators and other small household electronics). PV equipment has no moving parts, and as a result requires minimal maintenance. It generates electricity from a source that is freely available to us (the sun), and creates absolutely no greenhouse gas emissions!
How does PV work? Each PV cell consists of two or more thin layers of semi-conducting material, which when exposed to light, generates electrical charges that can be conducted away by metal contacts as direct current (DC). The electrical output from a single cell is small, so multiple cells are connected together and encapsulated (usually behind glass) to form a module (sometimes referred to as a “panel”). The PV module is the principle building block of a PV system, and any number of modules can be connected together to give the desired electrical output.
Passive solar heating of buildings occurs when sunlight passes through a window, allowing the heat to collect inside the building; this heat is held in by a well-insulated, airtight building envelope. This is the most cost effective approach to maximizing the use of solar energy for Canadian homes, as all passive solar applications use building elements such as walls, windows, floors and roofs in addition to exterior building elements – no additional mechanical equipment is required. Examples of passive solar heating tools can include landscaping, proper design of exterior overhangs, and shading devices; these tools can be designed to allow sun to shine in during the winter, but can also block it from shining in during the hot summer months.
Active solar systems use solar collectors and a pump or fan to distribute the sun’s energy; these systems are best suited to heating water (think of an outdoor swimming pool). A dark coloured collector is used to absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into heat.