Roof solar panels could supply up to 23% of Calgary's power

'Calgary is one of the sunniest cities in Canada so it would be a shame not to tap into our potential'

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Aasima Gadiwan is a 19-year-old second year engineering student at the University of Calgary. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

It's time Calgary put its sunny skies to work, according to a University of Calgary engineering student. Aasima Gadiwan, 19, says her research has found Calgary homes have huge solar panel potential and could provide the city with a big chunk of its annual power demands. "Calgary is one of the sunniest cities in Canada so it would be a shame not to tap into our potential," she said.

According to Gadiwan's research, if Calgary's residential rooftops were outfitted with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, they could provide 23 per cent of the city's yearly power demand — all by capturing the abundant sun rays of southern Alberta.

This past summer Gadiwan participated in the U of C's PURE (Program for Undergraduate Research Experience) Awards initiative, which provides up to $6,000 for 16 weeks of academic investigation under some of the university's top researchers.

She was one of three students later recognized at PURE awards celebration night for her work.

Gadiwan said her project aimed primarily to calculate the total available rooftop area in Calgary for PV installations.

"In terms of results the total available rooftop area in Calgary per capita is around 49 square meters and that is in the both residential and industrial context," she said.

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Assistant professor Mozhdeh Shahbazi,, left, and student Aasima Gadiwan, right, found Calgary homes could provide the city with a big chunk of its power demands if solar panels were installed. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

"If you bring that only to residential homes, it reduces to around 18 square meters that is available for panel installation per person."

Mozhdeh Shahbazi, assistant professor in the school's department of Geomatics Engineering says Gadiwan's project stemmed from a project they have first year students do each year.

"We call for proposal ideas in imagery reconstruction and machine learning lab, which is my lab, and we ask the first year students to apply for these projects and come up with their own ideas," she said.

Shahbazi said once Gadiwan was selected, they started talking about different options for how images can be used in different applications. From the beginning she said Gadiwan was interested in sustainable energy sources.


In the beginning, Shahbazi said the pair thought about doing quality monitoring of solar panels, but then Gadiwan had a "brilliant idea."

"We always know where the sun is, every hour of every day in every year so if we also find out where the rooftops are then we could measure how much energy the solar panels on certain rooftops could save for us," she said.

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Gadiwan said implementing this project would help the province reach goals in Alberta's climate leadership plan.

"And part of that was to have 30 per cent of our electricity generated through renewable energy sources by 2030. So by installing the suggested system we would look towards making that a reality."

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A slide from Aasima Gadiwan's research on approximating Calgary's solar potential. (Submitted)

Paula McGarrigle, managing director of Solas Energy Consulting Inc., says Gadiwan's findings are consistent with Solas' own findings, and she's impressed.

"Frankly, I'd like to see her resume," she said, adding they accept co-op students.

McGarrigle said now, more than ever, the solar industry is one to watch. She says costs are coming down, efficiency is going up and load demands are coming down because of energy efficiency.

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"It's only going to become bigger," she said.


She said if Solas' predictions are right, one in 10 residences in Alberta will have solar modules by 2030.

In Solas' 2018 report looking at Alberta's solar PV value chain opportunities, McGarrigle said global solar PD growth rate is projected to be 20 per cent compound annual growth from 2016 to 2022.

"So today we have about 42.7 megawatts DC deployed. It's a small but growing solar PD industry in Alberta. Half of today's deployment is on rooftops," she said.

McGarrigle said Solas has identified the value of Alberta's solar market value between 2019 and 2030 as $4.1 billion.

Original story by Lucie Edwardson on