The Resurgence of Solar Thermal In Canada

Medicine Hat Solar Thermal Plant
Medicine Hat Solar Thermal Plant. Photo Cred: CBC

Solar Thermal In Canada

Solar Thermal, the little brother to Solar Photovoltaic (PV), is beginning a resurgence in Canada.

Until now, solar thermal has been far less common and mainly languishing in the domestic hot water segment. And although it’s efficient – it has not attracted significant development.

The big reason has been lack of low cost, efficient, thermal storage to store the massive influx of summer heat for use later in the year.

Currently, space heating and cooling as well as hot water heating are estimated to account for roughly half of global energy consumption in buildings. As a by-product, this causes massive carbon generation.

But thankfully this is all about to change. With the advent of new technologies and cost effective measures, Solar Thermal is once again on the rise.

Here are some recent examples of Solar Thermal use in Canada:

  • Medicine Hat Alberta launched a 1MW Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) power plant in 2014. It is designed to run 24/7.

  • Almost 100 homes at Drake Landing in Okotoks, Alberta reached parity in 2016, meaning the solar thermal storage system provided most of the heating power for the community over the last winter.
Drake Landing Solar Community, Okotoks, Alberta
Drake Landing, Okotoks, Alberta
  • Solar Thermal is finding its way into hospitals such as Victoria’s General Hospital, Sick Kids in Toronto and long term care facilities in Duncan BC.
  • In Calgary, Digital Solar Heat (DSH) is about to release a Canadian version of its highly successful inter-seasonal solar heating and storage system for new buildings and homes. They utilize a huge, low cost and multi-patented geothermal mass storage core below a building or home to store heat and is built directly into the sub-slab structure of the building.
  • Calgary Zoo uses solar heat to heat the tropical exhibits:
Calgary Zoo Solar Thermal
Calgary Zoo, Alberta, Canada
  • Other areas of activity include warehouses, malls, hotels, car washes, laundry mats, schools, recreation facilities, pools, and more!
Spiffy Car Wash Saskatoon
Spiffy Car Wash, Saskatoon, SK. Photo Cred: WSE Tech.

The Global Solar Thermal Trend – Where Canada Needs To Go

Around the world things are even more active with huge Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) power generation systems in the USA, Spain and Israel & China (which has now offered huge incentives to switch to solar thermal).


The largest CSP plant in the USA is the Ivanpah Generating System. It was launched in 2014 and is located below Clark Mountain in the Mohave desert of California. The plant has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (0.4GW) using over 173 thousand individual, computer controlled heliostats containing over 347,000 mirrors, reflecting onto three 450 foot absorber towers.

Google Solar Array In California
The Ivanpah Generating System


One of the largest producers of solar electricity is Spain, which now boast over 2.5GW of solar generated power spread over almost 50 solar generating sites. Spain’s first system, Gemasolar came on-line in 2011 with a peak power of over 19MW plus a 15 hour battery or storage system:

Gemasolar Solar Thermal Power Plant, Spain
Gemasolar Solar Thermal Power Plant, Spain

In the last few years there have been great advances in solar technologies across the board.

New residential/commercial evacuated tube systems now outperform most solar PV systems by close to 400% in efficiency, making the systems highly energy efficient and a key players in Carbon tax assessments and rebates.

Larger systems will able to market their carbon credits as an added incentive.


Canadian Solar Thermal Trend

Canada is presently creating about 627,000 GJ of Solar Thermal energy, offsetting ~38,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.

If solar thermal systems like this one were were to be adopted nationwide by code, this number would jump past a million tonnes in 2 years.

Canadian government incentives for solar thermal are not yet significant, but once active, will become a huge part in the rapid growth of solar thermal installation across Canada and beyond.

Watch this pace…

— Article Submitted by Ron Theaker CD, Resident of Calgary Alberta.

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3 Comments on "The Resurgence of Solar Thermal In Canada"

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Such an important initiative to get behind! When there is an issue as serious as saving the environment and saving energy we must be willing to give all opportunities a try!

Hi Rylan, I’m part of the belgian company Sunoptimo which manufacture the well known in Europe “Opticube”. It’s an easy plug and play solar thermal system which is made to suit large hot water or heat needs. Basically, it’s a container with a whole pre mounted solar heating room and on it, the collectors take place on steal structure. You can reach 300 m²/container. We look for distributors in Canada and USA and maybe you… Read more »