Solar Energy in the N. Okanagan

Can you use Solar Energy in the North Okanagan?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we get very little sunshine in the winter (~30 hours in Dec.) and lots in the summer (over 300 hours in July). So the most appropriate uses for solar energy coincide with the late spring, summer and early fall.

Swimming pools can be heated most cost-effectively by using a floating polybubble cover that allows the sunlight to penetrate the water and insulates the pool, reducing heat losses. Also, covers reduce the amount of chlorine needed to disinfect the pool and further reduce heat losses due to evaporation of water. Separate solar swimming pool heaters do about the same job as the cover does, but cost a lot more money.

At least 65% of domestic hot water (for washing) could be produced from solar energy using collectors. These generally consist of blackened pipes attached to metal sheets, which are then placed in insulated boxes with glass covers. The initial cost of solar hot water systems is high and it typically takes 15-20 years to break even.

Photovoltaic (PV solar cell) production of electricity is ideal for specialized use, where access to BC Hydro is unavailable. However, the reality is that a kilowatt of electricity produced from solar cells is 1.5-2 times as expensive as plugging into BC Hydro. Fortunately, the cost of solar cells is dropping year by year.

Solar greenhouses and solar cookers are popular in some areas of the world and there is no reason why they can't be used in the Okanagan. In fact, back in the 70's, at PVSS, we used to roast chickens on solar barbeques and have solar wiener roasts!

Burning wood is use of stored solar energy and is carbon-neutral, since you are only putting the carbon dioxide that was used during the growth of the tree back into the atmosphere. Clean-burning wood stoves or pellet-burners make a lot of sense.