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Misconception: “Renewable energy just can’t stand up to harsh Albertan winters”

Misconception: “Renewable energy just can’t stand up to harsh Albertan winters”

Misconception: “Renewable energy just can’t stand up to harsh Albertan winters”

The idea that renewable energy isn’t able to withstand the heavy snow and harsh temperatures associated with winter in Alberta is another misconception holding back the energy transition. While Alberta’s winters do present a challenge for some forms of renewable energy, the situation is not as impractical as some would believe.

Alberta’s harsh winters don’t pose a significant problem for solar energy. According to Gordon Howell, an expert on solar energy with Howell-Mayhew Engineering, an average solar energy system only loses five to fifteen percent of energy production due to snow cover. In fact, solar photovoltaic systems work better in colder climates. Howell says that “a solar PV system … work[s] 29 per cent better than its rating [in -40 weather].”

Geothermal energy is also unaffected by the extreme conditions found during Alberta’s winters. As generating geothermal energy involves pumping up hot water from below the frost line, the efficiency of a geothermal system will not be compromised by extreme temperatures. As well, much of Alberta’s drilling equipment is already suited to handle heavy snow and extreme cold.

When it comes to wind energy, it is a different story however. Ice collecting on the blades of wind turbines is a real problem and can cause stoppages and slowdowns. Some solutions are already in place to counteract this, such as using deicing chemicals, but further solutions will need to researched.

Extreme cold also poses a problem for biomass energy. As the feedstock (i.e., plant material and animal waste) contains some water, ice forms and accordingly can cause problems. For example, pipes and conveyor belts can become clogged by the extra mass and icy feedstock can slide around on steep conveyors belts. However, if the system is designed to take into account the build-up of snow and ice, Alberta’s extreme temperatures should pose no issue.

Ultimately, while Alberta’s winters do pose some problems for renewable energy, it would be misguided to argue that they are infeasible in this climate. Solar and geothermal energy are well suited to handle the extreme cold and snow and solutions to remedy the problems experienced by other forms of renewable energy are being investigated. Despite the problems, Alberta’s harsh winters will not stop the province’s energy transition.

[Cover image taken from Pexel, a free photo stock website]

Misconception: “Renewable energy just isn’t as efficient as fossil fuels”

Misconception: “Renewable energy just isn’t as efficient as fossil fuels”

Myth: "Renewable energy isn’t cost competitive with fossil fuels"

Myth: "Renewable energy isn’t cost competitive with fossil fuels"