Energy, Mines and Resources

Energy Branch / Energy Solutions Centre

Renewable energy resources

Solar Energy

On a clear day the amount of available solar energy is typically 1000 W/m2 (that's about 13,100 watt incandescent light bulbs per square metre). The amount of solar energy available depends on factors such as the location on a monthly or annual basis, the amount of cloud cover, and the height of the sun.

The most widely used applications for solar energy are for water and space heating. Ventilation solar air heating is also growing in popularity. Electricity-producing solar technologies are becoming more popular as the costs become more competitive with conventional electrical generating technologies.

The advantages of solar over conventional energy

  • Energy from the sun is virtually free after the initial capital cost has been recovered.         
  • Depending on the utilization of energy, paybacks can be very short when compared to the cost of common energy sources.         
  • Solar and other renewable energy systems can stand-alone; they do not require connection to a power or natural gas grid.         
  • The sun provides a virtually unlimited supply of solar energy.         
  • The use of solar energy displaces conventional energy; which results in a proportional decrease in green house gas emissions.

Solar Energy in Yukon

Although it is seasonal, Yukon receives close to the same amount of sunshine annually as many regions of Canada. The table on the right shows that Whitehorse receives about 10% less sunshine than Victoria, BC and 35% less sunshine than Estevan, Saskatchewan, which is the sunniest place in Canada.

Due to the latitude of Whitehorse, at approximately 61° N, there is a marked difference in solar radiation depending on the season. For example, "mean daily direct solar radiation on a sloped surface" reaches a maximum of 11.75 mega joules per square metre in June, while the maximum for December is 3.33 mega joules per square metre.

Hours of Sunlight (Source: Environment Canada 1997)


Hours of Sunlight

Whitehorse, Yukon  1852.4
Prince Rupert, B.C.  1211.8
Vancouver, B.C.  1919.3
Victoria, B.C  2081.9
Lethbridge, Alberta  2323.5
Estevan, Sask.  2499.9
Eureka, NWT  2090.7

As would be expected, varying the tilt and direction of the instruments throughout the year allows the maximum amount of energy to be received. If this is not possible, a rule used by a Yukon photovoltaics vendor is to install fixed arrays facing south, at a tilt equal to the array's latitude, plus 20 degrees. This makes allowance for winter conditions, when there is the least sunshine, at the lowest angle relative to the horizon.

There are a number of people using small scale solar energy in Yukon. A few businesses and homes have made use of solar thermal energy for hot water heating, and several solar energy systems make use of photovoltaic arrays to generate electricity.

Today, photovoltaics are most competitive in remote sites, far from the electric grid. In these off-grid applications, photovoltaics are typically used to charge batteries that temporarily store the energy captured by the modules and provide the user with electricity on demand.

Most of Yukon’s photovoltaic installations are in southern Yukon, although there are some in the Dawson City area. It has been estimated that at least 50 residential systems have been installed in Yukon. Telecommunication businesses, highway maintenance camps, park interpretive centres and one demonstration system at Yukon College in Whitehorse also make use of photovoltaics.

Yukoners using photovoltaic systems to power their homes say that they receive reliable energy eight months of the year and that their systems require very little maintenance, largely because there are no moving parts.

Calculate Your Potential for Solar

This Microsoft Excel (2010) based calculator uses your inputs and estimates the financial outcomes related to installing a grid-connected photovoltaic (also called solar electric or PV) system. Properly sized and designed, these systems will offset your household consumption and may export energy to the grid leading to annual reimbursement from the Yukon government's Micro-generation Program.

Calculator results can only be considered to be approximations since there are many factors that will affect real-world results. Nonetheless, it is expected that this tool will greatly assist in initial considerations of photovoltaic systems.

If you are interested in installing a photo-voltaic system and your residence is connected to the Yukon electrical grid, be sure to learn about our Micro-generation Production Incentive Program >>>

Other Resources

The report, Solar Domestic Hot Water System Sizing for Whitehorse, YT, and Dawson, YT   190 KB documents the solar resource in Whitehorse and Dawson, and explores possible system designs (type of collector, size of collector, size of tank, and slope of collector) for the two locations.

Interactive maps of the photovoltaic (PV) potential and solar resource of Canada have been developed by the Canadian Forest Service (Great Lakes Forestry Centre) in collaboration with the CANMET Energy Technology Centre (CETC-Varennes) Photovoltaic systems group. The maps give estimates of the electricity that can be generated by grid-connected photovoltaic arrays without batteries (in kWh/kW) and of the mean daily global insolation (in MJ/m2 and in kWh/m2) for any location in Canada on a 300 arc seconds ~10 km grid. They are presented for each month and for the entire year, for six different PV array orientations: a sun-tracking orientation and five fixed South-facing orientations with latitude, vertical (90°), horizontal (0°) and latitude ± 15° tilts (see figure). Data can be obtained at any grid location by "querying" the maps.