Canada’s first concentrated solar thermal plant is opening up in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Known as the “Gas City” with its natural gas reserves, Green Energy Futures reports that the city will house a 1-megawatt (MW) project, making this the most northern-based concentrated solar thermal plant… and also one of the smallest ones out there.
Back eight years ago, Medicine Hat began charting a course towards a more sustainable energy path with Hat Smart. The program nearly gave $4 million in rebates between 2008 and June, 2014. This helped residents with economic incentives to do energy audits, along with buying more energy-efficient fridges and air conditioners. Hat Smart also helped create various small-scale solar projects.
However, the showpiece of Medicine Hat’s sustainable development plan is this concentrated solar thermal project.
Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston said they had to change and better diversify their energy mix, moving away from just using natural gas. The new 1 MW plant will coincide with the city’s 204 MW natural gas plant, in Canada’s sunniest city. Medicine Hat has even more sunshine than Miami, Florida!
Concentrated solar is used all over the world, including large sections of the southern US. Confused about how concentrated solar works? Clugston has a unique analysis of how it compares to photovoltaic solar power.
“The difference between thermal and photovoltaic is sometimes hard for people to grasp. The best way I get people to understand this project is I say, ‘When you were a kid and you had a magnifying glass, and you focused it and you burnt ants. Well, that’s what this is,’ he said.”
This video looks behind the scenes of the new plant.
Despite being behind other nations in solar, including the US and China, Canada does have a lot of solar insolation and both CSP and PV potential. Hot spots for Canada’s solar potential are primarily in the southern prairies, with major cities including Regina, Saskatchewan, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Medicine Hat’s new solar plant can show the way forward for Canadian solar potential, as Canadian leaders will look towards more sustainable energy in the future.