January 23, 2014

Understanding Solar Energy in Alberta

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation has recently partnered with The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, The City of Edmonton and The City of Grande Prairie to advance the understanding of solar electric systems in Alberta. Through a $38,000 contribution the AREF made possible construction of a solar photovoltaic test bed atop Grande Prairie city hall. This test bed will operate in tandem with a City of Edmonton sponsored system installed at NAIT’s main campus.

These solar reference arrays are designed to study the impact of snow and tilt angle on solar electric installations in Alberta’s rugged climate.

Project Overview

Computer modeling tells us that Alberta has extraordinary solar electric potential. Big clear skies and cooler temperatures are the ideal environment for optimizing solar photovoltaic production. Although computer modeling is a necessary first step it requires some assumptions which can only be verified through real world testing. The solar reference arrays are the next step needed to understand system design and financial impacts of solar energy in Alberta.

Reference Array Design

The lower solar modules (panels) have been arranged in pairs at the most commonly found residential roof pitches. The fifth pair represents the latitude of the array location (55 degrees for GP, 53 degrees for Edmonton) and the sixth at 90 degrees to study the effects of wall mounting.

To study the impact of snow the left-most module of each pair will be regularly cleared of all snow while the right side modules will be left to Mother Nature.

NAIT’s Alternative Energy Program will be collecting and analyzing data from each module at five minute intervals for the full duration of the five year project.

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