Questions and answers

Answers to your questions about solar energy

Speaking to people who want to produce green and renewable energy, self-generation allows you to recover and transform sunlight and convert it directly into electricity. Thanks to your new solar panels, you will not only be able to produce your own energy, but also manage your consumption.

If you are connected to Hydro-Québec’s network and would like to invest in equipment to produce your own renewable energy, the net metering rate option is a solution that is both environmentally friendly and advantageous for you. Indeed, take advantage of this interesting program launched by the Crown corporation that will certainly allow you to reduce your electricity bill. For example, if you produce an overage of kilowatt hours, they will be injected into the network in exchange for credits that will be applied to the balance of your bill. If, on the other hand, during the winter months, your consumption is greater than that of your production, you will be fed from the Hydro-Québec network!

Photovoltaic solar energy (to be distinguished from solar thermal energy) comes from the conversion of sunlight into electricity. This conversion occurs within “semiconductor” materials, which have the property of releasing their electrons under the influence of an external energy. In the case of photovoltaics, this energy is provided by the photons, the components of the light, which strike the electrons and release them, inducing the electric current.

The smaller modules can power watches, calculators or parking meters or emergency call stations on the highway. More powerful systems can provide electricity for isolated sites (boats, houses, etc.) or be connected to an electrical distribution network, integrated into a building or not. For each case, the equipment will be different. Applications “over the sun” (water pump, ventilation) can directly exploit the electricity produced according to the sun. Use in an isolated site, however, requires storing the current for use at night or in bad weather. The modules produce direct current, which must be converted into alternating current to suit most electrical appliances.

According to specialists, a solar cell reimburses in 4 to 5 years the energy that was necessary for its manufacture, frame, cable and supports included. And since it works for at least 30 years, she repays it even more than 7 times. In use phase, the modules do not generate any negative impact on the environment. At the end of life, most components (glass, aluminum, silicon, metal) can be recycled. In addition, the average saving of CO2, is estimated at 0.6 kg per kWh solar produced compared to a fossil energy.

The manufacture of solar cells is mainly in three highly industrialized areas: Japan, Europe and the United States. This industry has indeed developed in the shadow of the microelectronics of which it exploits the silicon waste. Japan, which strongly supports this industry, is now the leading producer and consumer of photovoltaics. Behind him comes Europe, mainly driven by Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. France, a pioneer in this sector, still has a significant industry. But with ten times fewer systems installed than in Germany, it does not have a dynamic domestic market to attract large investments.

Today, the share of photovoltaics in total electricity production is anecdotal. Despite growth rates of around 30% in recent years, it represents less than 0.1% of electricity production in Germany or Japan. Giving it a significant share in power generation requires important political support for a few more years. On this condition, the most optimistic projections (Epia, Greenpeace) estimate that photovoltaic power is able to supply 20 to 35% of the electricity of a country like France by 2050. For that, it would be enough to install 10 m2 per inhabitant, or 40% of the available roof area. At the global level, these projections predict that in 2040 photovoltaic energy could cover 26% of electricity demand.

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