Solar Energy

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Solar energy is the conversion of sunlight into usable energy. Solar thermal heating and solar photovoltaic are solar technologies.

The sun generates an enormous amount of energy each second, by converting hydrogen to helium.

Called solar radiation, this energy radiates into space and reaches the earth as:

  • sunlight (47%)
  • ultraviolet rays (7%), and
  • infrared radiation or heat (46%).

The components harnessed or used by solar energy technologies are sunlight and infrared radiation.

Converting Solar Radiation into Electricity

Solar Thermal Energy

Solar radiation can be converted into solar thermal energy or SOLAR HEAT ENERGY.  The simplest systems such as solar air heating and solar water heating convert solar radiation into heat for space and water heating.

How Solar Air or Water Heating Works

A solar heating system generally consists of collectors, thermal storage, a circulation sub-system and controls.  A key element is the solar thermal collector which can be viewed as areas where the reception and conversion of solar radiation into heat energy occurs.   Common solar thermal collectors include flat plate and tube collectors.

The captured thermal energy is transferred to heat storage or to the place where it will be used (e.g. heating building space), using a fluid which is often water/glycol; or  through the use of air as a heat transfer medium.  When the heat transfer medium is a liquid, the storage unit can be a water tank that stands alone, or is connected to an existing conventional gas or electric hot water tank (e.g. a hybrid system).

All but the most simple types of solar heating systems have a circulation system to keep the heat-transfer continually moving from collector to storage unit.  Unless the flow is by natural convection, a pump or fan is needed to force the heat-transfer medium on its way. A control unit, with a temperature sensor, turns the pump or fan on and off as required to maintain temperatures in the system.

A Green Energy Equipment Tax Credit is available from the Government of Manitoba for eligible solar thermal energy equipment.

A repayable loan may be available from Manitoba Hydro to finance the purchase of a solar water heating system installed in a residence.

Save now with a Green Energy Equipment Tax Credit for SOLAR THERMAL ENERGY Installations...AND save later on your energy bills.

Quick Facts on Solar Energy

Perhaps the most mature technology, the solar domestic hot water system, has a long history where it was first deployed on a large scale in the 1960s in countries such as Australia, Japan and Israel.
Solar energy systems are often used in remote areas to provide electricity for cottages, telecommunications equipment, water pumping and electric fencing on farms, and navigational aids. Solar thermal systems harness solar energy for thermal energy (heat) and can heat building space and water for homes, commercial buildings, swimming pools and domestic hot water use.

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For information on solar energy for buildings or to discuss solar thermal/heating integration with other energy systems, including geothermal technologies, contact:

Robert Walger
Project Manager - Solar Heating / Solar Thermal
Government of Manitoba
Winnipeg MB 
Tel: 204-945-7905 


For information on large scale
solar photovoltaic,

Rick Halas
Project Manager - Solar Electricity
Government of Manitoba
Winnipeg MB 
Tel: 204-945-4004