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Assessing the photovoltaic potential of the Canadian building stock

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A new statistical method for assessing the technical potential of photovoltaics (PV) on rooftops in Canada and its provinces and territories is developed from detailed analyses of 11 municipalities across the country.

For each of these municipalities, high quality Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and building footprint data are used to represent each rooftop as a collection of segments, and to model shading of each rooftop segment for all hours of the year. PV potential for the municipality is then quantified in terms of the total PV capacity that could be installed on rooftops, and the associated annual electricity generation potential.

The results from the 11 municipalities are used as a training set to determine the coefficients of the new statistical method that can be applied to any other region in the country.

The statistical method is applied to the stock of residential, commercial, and institutional buildings in Canada. Results indicate a potential of up to 300 GW for rooftop PV in Canada, which is roughly double the total electric power capacity of Canada’s generation fleet. For Canada as a whole, the analysis shows that rooftop PV could generate 247 TWh per year, which amounts to 76 % of the current electricity needs in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. Rooftop PV on residential buildings can supply as much electricity per year as is consumed in these buildings, while the corresponding number for commercial and institutional buildings amounts to 49 % of annual needs. PV technical potential on Canadian buildings is thus considerable, suggesting that rooftop PV could play a significant role in Canada’s energy transition. To determine the extent to which PV technical potential will be realized, financial criteria and market adoption will need to be considered, as well as the ability of electricity grids to host this capacity.

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