Canadian winters are infamously long and dark. For many of us, the search for the sun is never-ending. When summer arrives, I, myself, like to lie in the sun and bask in the warmth like a lizard. However, the sun is helpful for much more than being a lizard. Using solar panels, you can convert the nearly endless energy of the sun into clean electricity. So, where in Canada can you find this scarce resource?
To answer this question, I will be using Environment Canada’s Climate Normals and Averages from 1971 to 2000. I will be using the total number of bright sunlight hours per year. But first, a few notes. Firstly, the distribution of weather stations is not even across the country. Weather stations are heavily concentrated in populated areas, so I will not be able to measure the sunlight of every small town. Secondly, not every weather station measures sunlight. It is typically only the weather stations in larger cities that do.
Let’s begin with the big three of Canada: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. It may come as a surprise to no one at all that Vancouver is the least sunny of the three, with only 1,928 total sunlight hours a year. Montreal is a close second with 2,028 sunlight hours a year. Just barely beating Montreal, Toronto is the sunniest of the three, with 2,037 hours of sun a year.
A quick Google search for “sunniest place in Canada” will lead one to stumble upon Calgary. With 2,405 sunlight hours a year. Calgary consistently claims to be the sunniest city in Canada. The prairies are Canada’s sunniest region. Regina has 2,338 hours of sunlight a year, not quite as much as Calgary, but close. Calgary’s northern sibling, Edmonton, receives 2,299 sunlight hours a year. Impressive by national standards, but no match for Calgary. With 2,406 hours of sun, Swift Current is on the same level as Calgary. However, on the South Saskatchewan River, in between Calgary and Swift Current sits an often-overlooked city. Medicine Hat, Alberta, receives a whopping 2,512 hours of sunlight a year. Dandelion Renewables’ own solar farm is an hour from Medicine Hat in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, the weather station in Maple Creek does not provide data on sunlight hours.
So, there you have it. Medicine Hat is Canada’s sunniest city. But before we conclude, I would like to settle some local disputes.
In British Columbia, both Victoria, on Vancouver Island, and Cranbrook, in the Kootenays, claim to be the province’s sunniest city. According to Environment Canada, Victoria gets 2,193 hours of sunlight a year, impressive considering it’s a coastal city. Cranbrook gets 2,190 sunlight hours a year. Although Victoria technically wins, the difference between the two is only three hours, within the margin of error. We may never know what the sunniest city in BC is.
With 2,087 hours of sunlight a year, Hamilton, Ontario, is slightly sunnier than surrounding cities such as Toronto and London. However, with 2,167 sunlight hours a year, Thunder Bay appears to be the sunniest city in the province.
If you live in the prairies, you will need fewer solar panels to produce the same amount of electricity as people in other parts of Canada, making solar an economical choice. However, if you live in Vancouver, for example, do not despair. Solar may still be feasible. You will simply require a larger system than your friends in Saskatchewan. Even though Canada may not be the sunniest country, we have more than enough sun to make solar panels a reliable and bountiful source of electricity.