Solar power in Canada is seeing extraordinary growth. In 2021, the sector grew by 13.6% to a total of 2,399 MW of solar capacity. It’s a landmark step forward in the Canadian renewable energy industry. It fuels energy independence, combats climate change, and with carbon credits, even puts money back in the pockets of ordinary Canadians.
That’s despite the rampant misinformation and solar myths that are perpetuated on the internet. All industries must contend with a certain amount of confusion about their practices, though few industries have to wade through the sheer scale of misconceptions solar panels and renewable industry battles on a daily basis.
Most of these solar panel myths are easily explained. “It’s too cold in Canada” or “solar panels need to be replaced too often” are repeated so often that they’ve become accepted as fact by many. They’re not.
In this article, we’re busting the 11 common solar panel myths you’ll find floating around the internet. With the industry taking an ever more prominent role in Canada’s energy landscape, it’s critical to start on the same page.
11 Common Solar Myths That Need Busting
Myth 1 – Solar panels aren’t environmental
If solar panels aren’t good for the environment, why bother, right? It’s a common solar panel myth you’ll hear repeated. Except, it completely misunderstands the economics of solar panels. Yes, solar panels require a significant investment of energy to produce. They’re high-end, cutting-edge pieces of machinery.
When spread over the 30-year solar panel lifetime, these inputs are minimal in comparison to other fuel sources. In fact, solar panels deliver an energy payback in around 2 to 3 years, according to the US Department of Energy.
From this perspective, solar panels’ emission intensity is three to ten times less than fossil fuels.
Myth 2 – Canada is too cold for solar panels
They’re solar panels, not thermal panels! It’s one of the strangest solar panel myths. Solar panels are designed to generate electricity from solar energy. It’s why we call them photovoltaic panels – “photo” referring to light.
But this myth also ignores a key factor of most electrical systems: they work more efficiently in cold weather. It’s also true for solar panels.
The truth is, the colder it is outside, the better efficiency solar panels have.
Myth 3 – There’s too much snow in Canada
So, solar panels work better in the cold. How do they handle snow? Contrary to popular belief, snow doesn’t impact solar power generation nearly as significantly as expected.
Second, because snow is translucent, solar energy still hits the panel. A factor rarely considered is the albedo effect. Because snow is highly reflective, it enables panels to capture even more solar energy than on non-winter days by acting as a mirror.
A study by NAIT shows that the angle of the panels reduces power production from 0.85% to 5.28% when covered by snow, significantly less than the expected figure of a 20% reduction. Think about getting sunburn or eye strain from a snowy day. It’s the same effect!
Read this blog: Do solar panels work in winter in Alberta? for more information.
Myth 4 – Canada is too dark for solar power
Canada isn’t dark! Yes, the winter months see days shrink. But at other times of the year, the length of a day is significantly longer than in most American states.
In addition, Canada is the 2nd largest country globally, with significant diversity between provinces. Manitoba, for example, receives the third-highest solar irradiation yet fails to take advantage of this abundant resource. On the other hand, Alberta has the second-highest potential for solar power, with 1,276 kWh/kW/yr available, according to Energy Hub.
Few other countries believe this solar myth. Germany produces a vast amount of solar power, yet its solar resource is equivalent to Alaska. Canada has more than enough solar energy available and plentiful land to put solar panels on.
Myth 5 – Solar panels aren’t economically viable
The cost of solar panels relative to fossil fuels drops by the year. Much like the initial investment of resources, solar panels pay for themselves over time. Depending on the local weather conditions, you’ll typically see an economic return within 8 to 16 years.
Since 2010, solar panel installation cost has dropped by more than 65%. Swanson’s Law, for instance, states that solar panel prices tend to decrease by 20% for every doubling of world panel shipments.
Regardless of how true this works in practice, the trend is clear: solar panels are cheaper than ever.
Myth 6 – Solar panels reduce your house’s value
Another odd solar panel myth. Would you want to purchase a house that could cut your energy bills drastically? Obviously, it’s a fantastic deal. It’s like suggesting you wouldn’t want to buy a home with top-grade insulation and triple-glazed windows.
In fact, according to Bluewater Energy, Ontario house brands jumped by $6,000 for every 1 kW of solar panels installed. That’s around a 3 to 4% increase in the average home’s value.
So, if your home is worth $300,000, you’ll see a return of $9,000 to $12,000 in extra monetary value. You’d be foolish not to invest.
Myth 7 – Solar power is too intermittent
Solar intermittency is an issue faced by the industry as a whole. We don’t always want electricity when the sun is shining and vice versa. Nevertheless, it’s still a solar myth.
Why? Because solar panels aren’t used alone, we can store energy in utility-scale battery banks for use at a later date. We already see battery technology used on a grander scale than before.
But it’s also something of an overstated problem anyway. Just because solar power is intermittent doesn’t mean it’s unpredictable. We can forecast solar availability to a high degree of accuracy a day ahead, meaning filling the energy gap is rarely an issue.
Solar power was never conceived as the only power source; just a critical slice of the market.
Myth 8 – Battery technology is expensive
First, as we just discussed, the vast majority of solar systems don’t need batteries. Your average Canadian home is wired into the local electrical grid.
So, when the sun isn’t shining, you can simply use the existing electricity. And when you are not using your solar energy, you sell it back to the grid for credit.
Essentially a grid-connected solar power system uses the grid as its backup battery when there isn’t enough solar energy being produced by the sun, so there is no need for batteries when it comes to almost every solar system installation.
Myth 9 – We need to wait for better solar technology
If not now, then when? Solar panels can already supply 100% of your energy demand, pay for themselves, and reduce CO2 emissions in the process.
Yes, solar panels are continuously increasing in their efficiency and viability. But then, so are cars, smartphones, and personal computers – you still don’t wait for the next model to invest. You’d be waiting forever. There’s always another model.
Nor do we even need more efficient solar panels to make the technology viable. We’re not lacking in sunlight. Only converting 15 to 20% of the light hitting the panel into electricity is irrelevant. There’ll be more sun tomorrow and the day after that.
Myth 10 – The solar market is too small
Yes. Solar power isn’t a significant proportion of energy production in Canada.
But it is growing every year.
Either way, it makes little difference to a homeowner or business considering investing in solar panels. You’ll still receive the same benefits and outcomes whether 1%, 10%, or 100% of energy is produced from solar power.
It’s not just a solar panel myth; it’s irrelevant.
Myth 11 – Solar panels need to be replaced often
Unless a solar panel is broken – and most are extremely hard-wearing – they’ll continue to work for at least 25 years. Nevertheless, to provide peace of mind, most companies will offer a warranty to ensure a broken panel isn’t financially ruinous.
In reality, newer panels last even longer. If not forcefully damaged, the average lifespan of a solar panel is 40 years. That’s based on replacing a solar panel when the efficiency drops below 80%.
Solar panels last so long because they’re surrounded by tempered glass supported by metal. Tempered glass is among the most hardwearing commercially available materials. But you’ll also want to clean and maintain the panels once a year at a minimum to maximize efficiency and longevity.
Solar panels aren’t perfect. But many of the solar myths you hear regurgitated online aren’t true. With ever more homes and businesses installing solar panels, there’s never been a better time to invest in the technology.
If you’re interested in learning how much solar can help you save money on power, get in touch with Gridworks Energy Group today for a free estimate.