In times of uncertainty, we’re often the most driven to embrace change. With the current focus on energy consumption at provincial and national levels, innovative alternative technologies are coming to the forefront in Canada. And while many advancements have been made in the last few decades, some technologies have been around much longer.

Solar energy is one such alternative technology. What began in 1884 when American inventor Charles Fritts installed the world’s first solar panels on a New York City roof has now morphed into an industry that has grown annually by an average of 40 percent since 2000. In 2014, the International Energy Agency predicted that solar power could supply 27 percent of global electricity generation by 2050. Solar energy is on the rise and Canada is clearly determined to become an industry leader. Here are five recent Canadian solar architecture projects:

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Once considered an eyesore, solar panels are now an integral part of a building’s architecture, with design and exterior finishing choices made to compliment the arrays. The Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is a shining example of this integration with more than 140 panels, installed in 2009 and mounted vertically on the wall of the parking structure near the main entrance. Both the panels and an informative display serve as a reminder of the hospital’s efforts to conserve energy and reduce its environmental impact.

Sunrise Potato Farm, Alliston, Ontario

Sunrise Farms, potato growers and suppliers, is a company dedicated to organic production and restoration of farmland. As part of their commitment to sustainability, Sunrise Farms installed a solar system in July 2011 that annually generates approximately 342,000 kilowatts, which is then sold back to the grid as part of Ontario’s Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) incentive – a program that provides rebates to citizens for the renewable electrical energy they create.

OrcaLab Whale Research Centre, Alert Bay, British Columbia

The world-renowned OrcaLab Whale Research Centre was a beneficiary of a high performance solar module system donated by Canadian Solar Solutions. The off-grid facility, which is situated on a remote island near the British Columbia coast, has reduced carbon emissions from their gas generators to about 1.5 to 2 tonnes per year thanks to the clean energy of the sun.

Deer Lake First Nation School, Deer Lake, Ontario

This hybrid diesel and photovoltaic system includes a 150 kilowatt solar array on the roof of Deer Lake First Nation Elementary – an off-grid facility that offers Kindergarten to Grade 10 programming for approximately 350 students. Nunavut-based company NCC Developments, who partnered with Canadian Solar for this installation, plans to continue working with diesel-reliant remote communities in order to shift them towards renewable energy microgrid solutions.

Drake Landing Solar Community, Okotoks, Alberta

The first solar powered community in North America, Drake Landing is home to 52 single-family residences and 800 solar panels, which provide 90 percent of the neighbourhood’s annual heating and hot water needs. The Drake Landing Solar Community was completed in fall of 2005. This project proves that solar panels are not only suitable for the more industrial style of commercial design, but also residential.

A Greener Future

The International Energy Association states that “a large portion of the potential for energy efficiency in existing buildings and potential to utilize solar energy still remains unused.” Through an increase in the incorporation of solar architecture in both refurbished and new buildings, we will begin to see a move from nonrenewable to renewable as the primary source of energy as we continue forward.

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