back to article Canada announces monster solar plant

Canada has announced it will build North America's biggest solar power plant - a 40MW project covering 365 hectares with around one million solar panels, Reuters reports. The monster installation, slated to go operational in 2010 near Sarnia in southwestern Ontario, will provide juice for up to 24,000 homes. Ontario energy …


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  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. bluesxman

    reduced footprint?

    "This is an exciting development in Ontario's quest for cleaner power and in our efforts to minimize our ecological footprint."

    "covering 365 hectares with around one million solar panels"

    That's a fair bit of flora and fauna that won't be able to see the sun ... >1.4 square miles is quite a "footprint", I'd say!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How green is it though?

    I'm always a bit uneasy with the alleged green credentials of using solar panels to generate electricity. Not only is it necessary to cover a large area with panels to generate a significant amount of energy, there is also the question of the environmental impact of the processes (and raw materials) used to manufacture the panels. I don't have any figures (nor have I seen any), but my suspicion is that projects such as this are no where near as environmentally sound as you might initially expect.

    Just my random thoughts!!

  4. Tony

    Think of the animals!

    What about all the poor animals and insects and plants that will be cast into perpetual twilight under this massive, sunshine-stealing, abomination? Who will be a voice for the voice-less victims?

  5. Mark Lynch

    Consult with Portugal ?

    Well obviously the Portuguese are doing something better here. They are getting 11MW from a mere 52K panels and 60 hectares. Is the huge difference in money, solar panels and area needed explained purely by the difference in climate? Or are the Canadians using old technology ? Surely a consultation with the Portuguese wouldn't go astray.

  6. Mark Lynch

    Portuguese Panels

    Doing a quick calculation. If the Canadians installed 1million Portuguese panels they would yield 209MW rather than the current 40MW , a five fold increase in output.

  7. Campbell

    What big eye they got

    Agree with Mark, consult Portugal as your numbers don't add up.

    20 times the panels, 6 times more land area but less than 4 times the output. Something's screwed up here surely?

  8. Pete Sowerby


    I'd say portugal gets more sun and hotter sun than canada, i might be wrong but i assume canada to be similar latitude to UK?

  9. Pete Sowerby


    London 51ˆ N

    Ontario 45ˆ N

    Albuferia 37ˆ N

  10. Kit Temple

    The difference in panels

    1 million panels & 40MWp = 40Wp per panel. It is actually more expensive to buy 40Wp panels than 200Wp panels with the same standard silicon technology, which means that they will be using thin-film panels.

    The Potuguese site will be using the latest normal silicon panels, while the Canadian site will be using thin-film technology which has lower efficiency. But 40Wp per panel does seem pretty low even for thin-film considering it will come online in 2010.

    The good news for the posters worried about killing off all life below the panels - they are put up in rows above the ground with gaps between each row, or on big tracking mechanisms that follow the sun.

    If they are put up in rows then a farmer can have sheep munching the grass growing below the panels. If they are on big trackers then once again, plenty of things can grow in the shade nearby.

  11. Martin Gregorie

    Canadian climate and storage

    The reason the Canadians need so much more area is that they get half the solar radiation per sq. meter that Portugal gets. Now add in greater cloudiness in Canada and the effect of snow on the panels and that accounts for the remaining difference.

    However, the main problem with the Canadian project is that it will generate most of its electricity during the day in summer while the Canadians use most energy in winter. I don't see any mention of energy storage connected with this project: indeed there currently is no good bulk electricity storage technology apart from pumped hydro.

  12. Barry Rueger

    Election Note

    Actually, there are a couple of elections on the horizon, and all of the cool kids are yattering on about the Environment and promising to move heaven and earth to Save the Planet.

    Expect lots of these promises, but don't hold your breath waiting for them to actually happen. Anything promised for 2010 or later should be considered fiction.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lets see, the N-plant near me has 2 reactors that each generates 1100MW (2200MW total).

    So to replace this with solar we would need a solar plant that covers 20075 Hectare of open space (this is about 77 Sq Miles or about or 200,000,000 Square meters).

    Good thing I'm recycling to save that landfill space! Were going to need it!

  14. Leo Rampen

    Global warming will not help

    Solar panels utilise the sun directly. Global warming doesn't increase the light levels, but simply increase the overall heat of the earth (on average) by 1 or 2 degrees. It won't help generate solar energy in the slightest.

    Interestingly, Niagra Falls produces 4MW of green energy, although has the potential to produce far more...

  15. David

    Note: not helped by global warming

    Umm.. to the person who said that gloabl warming will help the solar energy... it will not. Global warming is about heat being trapped, not light. Global warming doesn't change the light amount... and if it did, I would assume it would be less light due to increased evaporation resulting in more cloud-cover.

  16. Diego Vasquez

    Compare this to generating fuel from crops

    Bush' idea on the other hand is to make alcohol from corn to be used as fuel for transportation, he wen't to Brazil a few weeks ago to see what they were doing with sugar cane.

    I would like to be able to see numbers comparing how efficient are solar panels converting sunlight directly vs. using sunlight for growing crops and chemistry for turning that into fuel.

  17. Eddy Ito

    It's about as far south

    as they can get in Canada. At least they won't have to worry about lake effect snow or those warm sunny shores.


    Efficiency is one of those marketing buzzwords that is all too often manipulated from counting. All too often I see things like: "Well we were going to do X anyway so basically it's free, like it fell of a truck." They don't consider that the guy who had the truck still paid for it so it doesn't count in the efficiency number.

    On the other hand, it is just as easy to try to count the flatulence of a few yeast cells to try and make things look worse than they actually might be. I suppose it depends on how people go about counting it up all different oppotrunity costs.

    That said, the biggest problem with making fuel from sugar cane is that it increases the price of rum and as we all know, that is never a good thing.

  18. Viv Collins

    What is the area of 24,000 roofs? <> than 365 hectares

    365 hectares or as some one worked out 1.4 sq. miles of land taken up by the solar array, but what is the roof area of the 24,000 houses this array is supposed to power?

    Seems pretty stupid making a centralized array when a distributed array system could be built for the cost of the tax break given to home owners to retile their roofs.

    Or is that a bit too utopian?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flame Bait

    Global warming is irrelevant. The oceans will rise, but we just keep building ourselves higher ground (so long as we live on a landfill...) Recycling will drown us all!

  20. Peter

    Engery Use by Canadians during the day in Summer

    Regarding the previous comment that "the main problem with the Canadian project is that it will generate most of its electricity during the day in summer while the Canadians use most energy in winter"

    This statement is incorrect when it comes to electricity usage.

    As a Canadian, I can tell you where I live (in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), it is in July and August during the day that we have set energy consumption records.

    This link shows that we use as much electricity in July and August as we do in January and February:

    Canada is not a country of snow, igloos and flying hockey pucks all months of the year.

    In the months of June, July and August, there are parts of Canada (such as Toronto) where temperatures of over 30C are common. I've had relatives visit from Europe in the summer and they're roasting because all they brought with them were warm clothes.

    Also, power usage is much higher during the day due to industry and businesses.

    The only thing that I think is non-sensical about this solar panel install is... why use vacant land for solar panels when you can mount solar panels on the roof of every house and building? It's a waste to use land for the sole purpose of mounting solar panels.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Power use in Ontario

    @Martin: There is no need for storage, the power generated would be fed directly to the grid. Ontario is at a significant deficit for power generation and this plant would simply be adding to the grid for immediate use and to avoid implementation of any other method of power generation, i.e. coal, hydro, or nuclear.

    Also, I am pretty sure that Ontario's power requirements are far higher in the summer than winter, believe it or not Ontario's temperatures can swing from +40C to -40C between summer and winter and this is the part that I am not 100% certain of, but I believe most Ontarian's use gas and /or oil for heating in the winter, but use electricity for air conditioning in the summer. You have to remember, not all of us Canadians live in igloos in the Arctic. Sarnia, where this facility is going to be located is actually south of more than 10 entire US states, France and half of Italy!

    The area around Sarnia is extremely flat and is predominantly farm area, so it is ideal for solar panels. As someone mentioned, depending on how they are installed, livestock could still utilize the space.

    As for "green manufacturing", it's the massive throw away manufacturing that should be investigated, plastic bags lining cardboard boxes for cereal, cardboard boxes in plastic shrink wrap at Costco for evry item including razor blades, and postage stamps and other over packaging that is the problem, not the manufacture of items that will a) Produce green power and 2) Last for decades.

    The manufacturing facility probably already exists, so it is justifying an already expended energy to build the facility. That's about as green as you can get without making everything by hand from palm fronds.


  22. David Frank

    Solar energy is all about Insolation

    Insolation is the amount of electromagnetic energy (solar radiation) incident on the surface of the earth. Basically who much sunlight reaches the ground.

    Ontario Canada has a Insolation value of 3.3

    London UK has a Insolation value of 2.6

    Albuferia Portugal has an Insolation value of 4.5

    These are rough values based on a yearly average. The highest values in summer will be around

    Ontario Canada has a Insolation value of 5.0

    London UK has a Insolation value of 4.5

    Albuferia Portugal has an Insolation value of 6.8

    So at the end of the day the Canadians may be a bit too far North to get the benefits per square metre that Portugal has; they may be better locating the site in America and piping the electricity North dependant on how much ennergy is lost in the cables going North that is.

    I can't help thinking that Canada would be better choppong down some trees or coppice and burning them to produce heat and power as this would be far more greener than manufacturing solar cells made from non-renewalble sources.

    This is what Germany does already, and it seems to work for them.

    All sounds a bit Canadian to me!

  23. Brian Hall

    Picky, picky


    Sugar cane is a far simpler crop to use to generate alcohol than corn. The additional processing for corn, especially since so far only the kernels can be used, pretty much wipes out any eco-benefits. Hopes are being pinned on developing yeast or bacteria that can break down stalks and leaves to get at the much more tightly bound starches etc. there. But no luck yet.


    Burn, you said? Going to trap the CO2 somehow, or just let the good ol' atmosphere reprocess it, like usual?

    My preference is to put solar panels on the Moon and microwave the energy back to Earth.

  24. Brian Hall


    Sorry Diego, I mis-named you. Short circuit with another latino guy (my apt. building manager). Heh.

  25. Christopher

    ehhh. . .

    Tony -- we don't have anymore animals in Canada. We've been very successful in eliminating them(!)

  26. Christopher

    Well, for openers . . .

    "I would like to be able to see numbers comparing how efficient are solar panels converting sunlight directly vs. using sunlight for growing crops and chemistry for turning that into fuel."

    growing corn is one thing, harvesting it for processing is another. That whole idea falls apart with the fossil fuels required by the machinery and trucks to do the harvest. (Ooops!)

  27. pondscum

    It's all a con

    Global warming is a natural phenomenon caused by a large nuclear power plant in the sky. There is nothing we can do to alter this fact. It is commendable that people are trying to become 'clean and green', but don't go overboard about it.

  28. Diego Vasquez


    I didn't say Burn...

  29. Brian Hall


    Diego, that was addressed to DAVID, who proposed growing and burning trees, at 17:06 GMT.


    actually, pondscum is great stuff, and can do wonders for the atmosphere -- and can even generate hydrogen when forced to operate anaerobically (without access to oxygen).

    I actually suspect that there is a complex set of interactions and "triggers", here. Detailed climate records are showing more and more "fast flips", which seem to be the result of hitting tipping points in combinations of variables. It may well be that we can stimulate or avoid some of the nastier possibilities by our behaviour, within the overall patterns of "natural" forces.

    As an interesting example, some have suggested that the startup of agriculture 4-8,000 years ago may well have aborted or delayed a "scheduled" major advance of ice sheets. But of course you can get too much of a good thing. The other major consideration is that "normal" is what we're used to and adapted to -- right now. Even if that's not an actual usual geological climate normal. So we may be trying and hoping to preserve a very unlikely and precarious balance or pattern that we just happen to be living through.

    Not much to spit and fume about there, I know. Sorry.

  30. Mike

    40MW for 24,000 households?! Thats some inflated figures...

    According to the statement, 40MW is supposed to supply 24,000 house, which equate to 1.67KW (or KVA) per house.

    Now there are not many houses with after diversified maximum demand (ADMD) of less than 2KVA in todays era.

    If taking into account of cold weather in Canada, assume no gas/wood heating, but only rely on electricity, then most households would have at least ADMD of 2.5-3.5KVA.

    40MW would only be able to supply less than 12,000 houses.... would this be still a feasible investment? You be the judge.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Ole Juul

    What does "renewable" mean?

    I hear solar panels need to be renewed every few years.

    346 hectares of panels is sure a lot of plastic to replace.

    Maby that's why the company is charging 46 cents

    per KWatt... 7 times more than what I'm paying now!

    Brilliant idea.

    --- Ole

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has everyone forgot about the human body?

    Each Humans normal rate of metabolism is typically 100-120 watts - which equates to approx 9 million joules per day which is approx 8530 BTU per day.

    Since there are over 6 billion people on the planet this equates to approx 51,180,000,000,000 BTU per day produced by the human population....

    Any wonder the planet is warming up....

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