Solar Thermal

70% of the energy used in the residential and commercial/institutional buildings sector is used for heating. Canada also has a very large potential for solar energy use and it has excellent solar resources. Since 2007, there are an estimated 544,000 m2 of solar collectors operating in Canada. They are primarily unglazed plastic collectors for pool heating (71%) and unglazed perforated solar air collectors for commercial building air heating (26%), delivering about 627,000 GJ of energy and displacing 38,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.


Canada leads the world in solar air collector development and commercialization. CanmetENERGY is moving the development of solar thermal technologies forward primarily in the areas of:

  • Low temperature (<60°C) heating applications for residential, commercial, and industrial applications where there is large near- to medium-term market potential
  • Supporting new product development and testing, standards development, technology assessments, market research, and new technology demonstrations and performance monitoring in cooperation with industry, research organizations, and other government and funding program partners
  • Providing technical support to ecoENERGY for Renewable Heat program, which provides financial incentives for solar water and air heating systems
  • Supporting Canada’s National Solar Test Facility in Mississauga, Ontario, which provides solar equipment testing and certification services year-round with the help of a 200 kW indoor solar simulator
  • Determining the feasibility of concentrating solar thermal power generation for locations in Western Canada where there is a high direct-beam solar resource in the summer (similar to southern Spain)

CanmetENERGY’s Solar Thermal Technologies Research and Development

Practical applications resulting from CanmetENERGY’s research and development (R&D) include:

  • Improving the cost-effectiveness of residential solar water heaters and solar air heating systems for commercial building applications
  • Increasing the utilization of solar energy for space heating through seasonal storage for both community-scale and single family home applications
  • Developing solar cooling systems for commercial/institutional applications
  • Initiating the first demonstration of solar seasonal storage technology applied on a community scale in North America (Drake Landing Solar Community) and the first in the world capable of supplying more than 90% of the space heating requirements from solar energy (this project utilizes both short-term and seasonal storage of solar energy and is a good example of how communities can increase the utilization of solar energy in the future)
  • Providing software, downloadable at no charge, for modeling the performance of solar collectors to heat pools, homes, buildings, and water heating systems
  • Developing testing and certification standards for innovative technologies nationally and internationally

Examples of CanmetENERGY’s major solar thermal research and development (R&D) accomplishments, which resulted in products that are now fully commercialized and experiencing greater than 20% annual growth rates in the marketplace, include the:

  • Development of the transpired solar air collector (SolarwallTM) — sales have now captured approximately 30% of the solar market in Canada and have been installed in 40 countries worldwide, including China’s Olympic site
  • Development of the low flow residential solar water heater — we were also instrumental in the development and commercialization of the Canadian low flow solar water heater, considered by many to be the most cost-effective solar water heater system in the world

To find out more about solar thermal energy research visit our publications section, download our modeling software and tools, or contact us.