Applied Research and Innovation Services

Bright Future for Solar Energy or Solar-bration for Renewable Energy

Image of GBT center

When it comes to renewable energy, the government of Alberta has big plans. By 2030, they propose that 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity will be generated from renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, bio-mass, and solar.

This is a bold target. Currently, renewable energy produces about 5 per cent of Alberta’s electricity (less than 1% solar and 4% wind). Renewable energy will take the place of one-third of Alberta’s coal generating capacity with the remaining two-thirds replaced by natural gas.

SAIT’s role in meeting the solar challenge

“[The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology] has a big role to play, in solar energy”, said Tom Jackman, Principal Investigator, SAIT.

“As solar energy begins to be installed in both residential and commercial applications, we can help meet the demand for trained contractors and electricians to install these systems. Our in-house solar experts and research team has supported governments at all levels as they develop industry standards, policies, and procedures for solar applications.”

SAIT will have to increase the number of students being trained in solar installations.  Already in 2017 approximately 200 electricians have taken Solar PV (photovoltaic solar electricity generation) courses and several more courses will be offered in the fall. Jackman commented that, “over the next few years, this could increase to more than 1,000 students being trained in the field.”

SAIT has also held workshops with City of Calgary building inspectors to demonstrate correct solar installations. As the industry grows and more and more construction include solar power generation, there is an increased need for people throughout the construction process to be well-trained and knowledgeable in its application.

SAIT’s educational role has also expanded to include the general public – SAIT’s Green Building Technology group has partnered with the Solar Energy Society of Alberta (SESA) to deliver public education seminars that provide information on the installation of solar energy in new or existing construction.

SAIT has also built Calgary’s first net-zero commercial building. This brand-new Green Building Technologies (GBT) Lab and Demonstration Centre, located in the northwest corner of SAIT’s campus, produces energy equivalent to what it uses, predominantly through solar panels located on the roof in addition to passive solar architectural design and low-energy building envelope.

Solar panel installation on the GBT lab for renewable energy