SunMine Opening Ceremony Pictures

SunMine Partners & Quotes


The EcoSmart Foundation is a not-for-profit Canadian corporation based in Vancouver, BC. Canada. EcoSmart develops activities and projects fostering technical solutions and innovations towards a sustainable economy. In the past five years, it has increasingly focused its efforts on renewable energy, in particular PV solar energy. EcoSmart operates out of Vancouver and is a governed by a board of directors, made up of volunteer members, from across the country, who represent research, government, and the private sector. EcoSmart has been primarily responsible for developing and incubating SunMine. Continue reading SunMine Partners & Quotes

SunMine and SnowMan

Kimberley is known for its sun but also its ski hill and plenty of good snow in the winter.  What is the effect of snow on the solar plant output?  Will the plant be shut-off in winter?

On the contrary, snow on the ground and low temperature improve the performance of a solar system  and snow will not stay long on PV panels.

To prove it and measure other solar data, we installed a test system on site composed of a weather station measuring the sun (pyranometer), ambient temperature (thermometer) and wind speed (anemometer) and in parallel two PV arrays: one on a vertical axis tracker (VAT) and one on fixed racks.  In high latitudes, such as Kimberley, the best annual energy yield is obtained if the panels are set at a steep angle.  (56°  for the VAT and 45° for the fixed).  The description and results of the test can be found here.

Effect of snow  

PVs warm up when they produce energy. A good proxy to find out if the PV is covered with snow is to correlate the PV temperature measured at the back of the PVs with the solar radiation measured by the pyranometer on the weather station.

The figure  plots the temperature (Y-axis vs radiation X-axis) during the day for the entire test period (more than 1 million records) for the arrays on the VAT. If the snow covers the PV and prevents it from operating, it will appear as high radiation level and negative temperatures (the zone in dark blue below the x-axis).

In total, there were less than 0.2% of these occurrences, which supports the conclusion than snow is not an issue for the PV system. Three reasons for this: steep panels slope (56 °) , glassy surface of the PV modules and the fact that when the PV starts operating the temperature increases and the snow melts down.

The snow on the ground reflects the sun and increase the solar yield and the low temperature increases the overall PV electrical efficiency.

In conclusion, far from being a hindrance , SnowMan is SunMine’s best friend.


The cost of solar in BC


First cost of SunMine is 5.3 M$ for 1.05 MW or about $5 per Watt.
Nowadays typical cost of a solar project is below $2 per Watt installed (see a-Toonie-a-Watt)

Why the difference?

  • SunMine is a pilot project and a first in Western Canada. Pilot projects always cost more. The project required six years of preparation, such as preliminary studies, site monitoring, public consultation, environmental assessment, geotechnical studies, permitting, rezoning, financing and funding applications, interconnection studies and energy purchase contracting. These are one-time, fixed costs that have impacted significantly the total development cost.
  • Albeit the largest in Western Canada,  1.05 MW capacity is relatively small. There are 23 PV solar farm greater than 100 MW in the world and more in development. Small PV systems cost more, equipment is purchased in smaller quantities, fixed costs such as engineering and the pre-development costs described above represent a higher fraction of total costs.
  • There is a significant learning curve for personnel working on the project as it is the first time a ground-mounted, grid-connected solar plant in built in the region.

Incrementing SunMine after the first Megawatt is installed will be much cheaper.  The site has plenty of space for expansion, the sub-stations can accommodate 7 MW without any modification and the external transmission lines can carry at least 200 MW, after the sub-stations are upgraded. A solar plant is modular, increasing the size won’t require much additional engineering.

It is very likely that under these circumstances, the expansion of SunMine could cost less than $2/Wp.

SunMine can power 185 homes. That’s not so bad!

185 homes may look low to some but not so when taking into account the following facts:

  • It is in the same order of magnitude than the average BC Hydro generation.
  • It is better than some other hydro power projects.
  • The energy consumption per household in BC is one of the highest in the world.
How is that number calculated?

Continue reading SunMine can power 185 homes. That’s not so bad!