Solar energy emanates from the sun and approaches the Earth as short-wave electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation that reaches the Earth is also described as insolation (incoming solar radiation). Generally, this renewable energy source can be utilized in two ways: in solar photo voltaic (PV) applications and solar thermal applications. Solar PV applications transform solar energy into electricity through the use of PV arrays (e.g., PV solar panels). In solar thermal applications, solar energy is used for heating purposes as it is absorbed by surfaces and materials (e.g., solar thermal panels).
Locations along the Hudson Bay coast in the Kivalliq region receive the highest amount of solar energy in Nunavut. The amount of solar energy that reaches coastal areas of the Kivalliq region is comparable to the amount of solar energy that reaches southern Quebec, much of Ontario, and the Maritimes. The amount of solar energy that reaches the northern half of Nunavut is lower than any other part of Nunavut and Canada. Solar PV applications have demonstrated success in northern jurisdictions. In particular, a PV array at the Arctic College in Iqaluit has delivered electricity since its installation in 1995. The PV array captures up to 20 hours of sunlight per day during the longest days of summer and five hours per day during the darkest days of winter.
Solar thermal applications have also been installed in Nunavut. In 2010, the GN commenced four pilot projects in Iqaluit, including the installation of a SolarWall air pre-heater at the Baffin Regional Hospital and solar domestic hot water systems at the hospital’s 40-bed residence, the Baffin Correctional Centre and the Young Offenders Facility. Also, a solar thermal SolarWall project at Alaittuq High School in Rankin Inlet has operated successfully since 2002.
The use of solar PV and solar thermal systems results in energy bill savings and reduction in GHGs, although the start-up costs for installing the systems are potentially high when considering the cost of transporting equipment to Nunavut.