The Rise of Solar in Western Canada

As the demand for renewable energy grows, solar power has emerged as one of the most promising solutions. In Western Canada, where large open spaces (including rooftops) and abundant sunlight offer great potential, the solar industry has experienced significant growth in recent years. In this blog post, we will explore the evolution of solar power, its impact in Western Canada, and what we see in store for this industry over the next 5-10 years.

Over the past few years, solar power has made remarkable strides in Western Canada, far exceeding the Alberta Electric System Operator’s most ambitious growth forecast. At SkyFire Energy, we have seen firsthand the increased adoption of solar energy in residential, commercial/industrial, and utility-scale sectors.

The advancement in solar technology and economies of scale, especially in solar PV modules (aka panels), have significantly reduced the costs associated with solar installations. As a result, solar power has become more accessible and affordable for consumers, making it an attractive option for energy generation.

In recent years, a heightened sense of environmental consciousness has prompted individuals and businesses to seek clean energy alternatives. As a renewable energy source, there are opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. For larger businesses with ESG goals, this is an important step (even a focal point) in reaching their sustainability goals.

We’ve also seen the federal and provincial governments introduce various incentives to promote solar energy adoption, such as tax credits, grants or rebates, and net metering programs. These incentives impact the uptake for both residential and commercial customers to invest in solar installations. They also create challenges for the industry by creating a ‘roller-coaster’ effect known as the “solar coaster” and expectation and reliance on these incentives for the consumer.

For energy-rich provinces like Alberta, the rising popularity of solar power has made a significant impact. Alberta, with its abundance of wind, solar, and fossil fuel resources, has become an attractive destination for investors and businesses. This unique mix of energy sources, a deregulated electricity market, and a solid interconnection (i.e. Micro Generation) Regulation has not only attracted investment but also contributed to a relatively stable job market in the province. Natural Resources Canada recently announced an investment of over $160 million in nine solar energy projects in Alberta. These projects are expected to create hundreds of good jobs. They will deploy 163 MW of new solar generation and 48 MW of battery storage capacity, reducing over 150,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions per year. Additionally, these projects are estimated to create over 3,000 job years [1].

Additionally, the Canadian government has invested heavily in Alberta’s training centers for skilled solar jobs. It is worth mentioning that, considering the rise in demand for solar and other renewable energy alternatives in Alberta and BC, the number of solar jobs created in the region is likely to continue growing in the coming years.

In recent years, there has been an uptick in individuals’ interest in reducing their reliance on the grid. This helps protect against volatile energy prices, power outages, and other disruptions. Alberta has seen the impact of grid demand in recent times, prompting some to take matters into their own hands and work to become less energy-dependent. The switch to solar power has helped reduce provincial dependence on fossil fuels and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Communities across the Province have taken action towards a sustainable future by choosing renewable energy sources.

So what lies ahead? In the coming years, we anticipate that technology will continue to evolve, and solar panels will become more efficient and capable of generating more electricity. We do not forecast any significant breakthroughs, rather, the increases in efficiency will be gradual but consistent. With the advancement of energy storage solutions (e.g. batteries), the ability to store excess solar power will also improve, allowing for a more reliable and consistent energy supply and increased energy independence.

The integration of solar power with smart grids will enhance the efficiency and stability of energy distribution. This will enable seamless integration of renewable energy sources into the existing grid infrastructure.

We also anticipate that the rise of electric and plug-in electric vehicles (EVs and PHEVs)will present an opportunity for the integration of solar power. Solar-powered charging stations can complement the growing EV market by providing clean electricity for transportation. Educating EV and PHEV owners as to the benefit of charging their vehicles when the sun is shining and their solar system is producing will result in a win-win for homeowners, businesses and Albertans alike.

Some of the bigger business players will also emerge as solar leaders (we hope!). In addition to residential installations, community, large commercial/industrial, and utility-scale solar projects will continue to expand with supportive government policies and regulations. These projects will leverage economies of scale and deliver affordable and sustainable energy solutions to ever-larger populations.

The evolution of solar in Western Canada has been substantial, and its impact on the region has been significant. As an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firm that has been involved for 23+ years and is widely recognized as Canada’s leading solar energy company, SkyFire Energy has witnessed the growth and positive changes brought about by solar power adoption. The future of solar power looks promising. The next 5-10 years will see solar power play an increasingly crucial role in Western Canada’s energy landscape, and we will be a part of this, every step of the way. By continuing to innovate and aligning our practices with sustainable principles, we aim to contribute to a cleaner and more resilient future powered by renewable energy.


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