Are our roofs a wasted resource?

I have occasionally worked on high floors in office buildings, which means I get to see the roofs below me. I have memories of the sparkle of the snow on frigid days in January and the sparkle of cars in the intensity of July sunshine. But I don’t remember ever seeing solar panels.

In travelling through Europe this year, I noticed the roofs all seemed to have solar panels. Now I know that’s not possible, but they were frequent enough to draw notice. This made me wonder if roofs are a wasted opportunity in Canada. In answer, I found a National Energy Board summary on The Economics of Solar Power in Canada. Since I live in Ontario, I’ll give you their conclusion for my home: “Many homeowners could also expect to save money with residential solar in Ontario,”

I think what this means is that, in Ontario, if you have the money and will to install it will probably benefit you. Next question is obviously… do people do this? The National Energy Board studied this too: the answer is not really. It “represents only about 0.5% of national electricity generation.”

It seems like the obvious conclusion is that, yes we are wasting the power of our roofs. What we have to ask ourselves is why? I found a myth-debunking blog post out of Edmonton that seems to say part of the problem is our image of ourselves as the Great White North: we think it’s not warm enough for them to work.

There is a consumerism backlash in a lot of the media I read, rejecting the wastefulness of our Canadian lives. Embarrassed that our garbage ends up in other countries and that we generate so much, there may be an opportunity for us to reduce waste in other areas … like our roofs.

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