Thursday, December 9, 2010

Canadian Government Funds Solar Energy Solutions Using Wrong Technology

In the rush to jump start the green economy and promote the use of renewable energy, Municipalities all over Canada are rushing to put the lag bolts through the rooftops of the buildings over their public pools. Solar thermal is the buzzword of the day in these circles and the gold rush is on. These pools are used year round and this is Canada. Regular swimming pool solar panels made of plastic with no glass over them are fine in the US but in Canada the thinking is that we need insulated boxed and glazed collectors and high tech selective surfaces. That is the sum total of the entire analysis that went into some of the current federal funding initiatives and resultant mad rush on the part of municipalities to take advantage of it without time to consider the options.

Saskatoon's Lawson and Harry Bailey Pools have already completed their investments in "solar thermal". A computer simulation study was done using the software developed by NRCan (the same organization responsible for some of the funding for these projects) and verified with high level monitoring on three sites using unglazed swimming pool heating solar panels. This study indicates that there is not a significant extra solar gain possible with the more expensive collector types just a much higher cost and much longer payback periods As it turns out there isn't as much sun available in winter and what can be collected can not be collected efficiently even with the more expensive technology. In the season when the most sun is available, it turns out that low cost unglazed swimming pool heating solar panels are more efficient per area not just per dollar. The return on investment is at least 3 times faster with this more appropriate technology and that return on investment is predicted to be less than 10 years. That's without any rebate from the taxpayer. The unglazed plastic collectors carry a 15 year warranty and entire contract installations can be guaranteed fully for 10 years.

Solar systems can be installed as ESCO's, energy service contracts where the savings from the system pays the capital cost over time. This free market job creating activity is sabotaged by the government rebate program and what can inadvertently happen is that we end up coming to the wrong conclusion. We conclude in the end that solar pool heating isn't viable when in fact it is. On the other hand the government rebate program fosters awareness of all things solar and this can motivate decision makers into investigating what solar opportunities may exist.

Dryden Ontario's municipal pool just completed their newest solar mistake, a repeat of history. They just replaced an existing boxed and glazed collector system without any analysis of the economics whatsoever. Its not even that technology has improved, its that the technology was there the whole time and nobody looked at any of the history. Richmond BC had plans to make the same mistake on all of their pools this year. Hopefully we convinced them otherwise with another simulation study in time. The list goes on and on.

These simulation studies are available at and details on the actual software used and our own verifications of it and the history are available at

Ken Wright, Pres
Hot Sun Industries Ltd.,
Burnaby BC
Hot Sun Industries Inc
Poway CA
604 298 7095