Spatial insolation models for photovoltaic energy in Canada

Daniel W. McKenney, Sophie Pelland*, Yves Poissant, Robert Morris, Michael Hutchinson, Pia Papadopol, Kevin Lawrence, Kathy Campbell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Spatial models of global insolation and photovoltaic electricity generation potential for Canada were developed. The main objective was to provide Canadians with an easily accessible, reliable tool for rapidly estimating the monthly and yearly electricity production potential of grid-connected photovoltaic systems anywhere in the country, and for assessing the dependence of production on location, time of year and array orientation. Monthly mean daily insolation data from 144 meteorological stations across Canada were used, along with data from an additional eight stations in Alaska to improve the models in that region. Several photovoltaic array orientations were considered, including South-facing arrays with latitude and vertical tilts and a sun-tracking orientation. Partial thin plate smoothing splines as implemented in ANUSPLIN were used to generate the spatial insolation models. The models were based on geographic position and a transform of monthly mean precipitation, the latter variable being a surrogate for cloudiness which affects surface insolation. Photovoltaic electricity generation (in kW h per kilowatt of photovoltaic installed power capacity) was estimated for each month and for the entire year from the insolation models by assuming international standard values for the performance ratio of photovoltaic systems. The yearly average root mean square predictive error (RTGCV) on the mean daily global insolation ranges between 0.75 (vertical tilt) and 1.43 MJ/m2 (sun-tracking orientation) (or about 4.7-9.0 kW h/kW in terms of PV potential), or from 5.6% to 6.9% of the mean. Ultimately insolation and photovoltaic potential were mapped over the country at a 300 arc seconds (∼10 km) resolution. The maps are available on a Natural Resources Canada Website. This is an important new tool to help Canadians gain an overall perspective of Canada's photovoltaic potential, and allow estimation of potential photovoltaic system electricity production at any chosen location.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1049-1061
    Number of pages13
    JournalSolar Energy
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


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