Solar Power Drops in Canada: Federal Statistics

Statistics show that total output of electricity from solar panels in Canada last year declined from 2012, while wind increased its generation at the same rate as conventional power sources.

Electricity generated in Canada from solar panels in 2013 declined 7.6% over 2012, while the total annual output from wind turbines rose only 3%, according to government statistics.

Last year, total generation from all electric utilities and industry was 611,189 gigawatt-hours (611 billion kWh), up 2.7% over 2012, notes Statistics Canada in its year-end summary. Solar and wind energy are usually cited in capacity (kW or MW) but annual capacity factors for renewable energy systems can be as low as 15% to 30%.

Output from wind turbines last year totaled 9,005 GWh (compared with 8,744 GWh in 2012 and 7,563 GWh in 2011) while solar panels generated 240 GWh (vs 259 GWh in 2012 and 54 GWh in 2011). Wind supplied 1.5% of Canada's electricity in 2013, while solar PV produced 0.04%.

Hydraulic, which generates almost two-thirds of the country's electricity, rose 3% to 387,689 GWh, and nuclear (the second-largest source) increased 6.6% to 96,971 GWh.

"Capacity is important but the actual output of electricity is even more important, and these numbers are very troubling," says Bill Eggertson of the Canadian Association for Renewable Energies which analyzed report 127-0002. "Wind barely kept pace with the overall increase in power output, and it was less than half the percentage gain from nuclear reactors."

"As for the significant decline in solar output, we're looking for a good answer," he adds. "The solar PV system on my house produced 5.6% less electricity in 2013 because of the weather, but the massive installation of solar panels in Ontario and elsewhere should have been sufficient to offset any decline in total generation."

Output from the tidal power facility in Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy was 15 GWh (less than half of its five-year average) and the report shows no output in Canada from geothermal electric or wave power. Green power from biomass is reported under combustion turbines, and output from low-head hydro is aggregated with large hydro dams.

Ontario generated the most electricity from wind in 2013 at 3,252 GWh, followed by AB at 2,620, SK 755, QC 690, NB 554, NS 467, MB 397, PEI 153, NL 96 and NWT with 15 GWh. Ontario was the only province that reported solar power (240 GWh).

Some of the statistics are posted on the website produced by Natural Resources Canada for the recent meeting of provincial energy ministers, so "our governments are fully aware of what is happening with the power output from renewables," says Eggertson.

The Canadian Association for Renewable Energies (we c.a.r.e.) was formed in 1998 to promote feasible applications of green power, green fuels and green heat. It has published numerous analyses on the adoption of renewable energies in Canada and abroad.

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