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Concentrating Solar Power in Manitoba

September 23, 2013

Pictured L-R (Kim Jasper, , RRC; Mr. Dale Friesen, MB Hydro, Mr. Bert van den Berg, NSERC, Mr. Ray Hoemsen, RRC, and Dr. James Blatz, U ofM)

From left: Kim Jasper, Red River College; Dale Friesen, Manitoba Hydro; Bert van den Berg, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC); Ray Hoemsen, Red River College; and Dr. James Blatz, University of Manitoba.

Red River College (RRC), Manitoba Hydro (MH), and the University of Manitoba (U of M) partnered to develop a solar thermal parabolic trough system (Solar Trough) to concentrate energy and test its effectiveness in cold climates.

“This world-class project will explore the feasibility of providing sustainable heating to the world’s cold-climate communities,” said Stephanie Forsyth, president of Red River College. “It also serves as a successful partnership model for applied learning and innovation, with the University of Manitoba and the College sharing resources and expertise.”

The system captures and concentrates solar energy into a fluid-filled tube where heat production is being measured. Phase One of the project will measure the amount of heat the troughs produce in a cold climate environment. This is the first time an application like this has been explored in a cold climate. While solar power systems have been effective in much warmer regions like California and New Mexico, there has never been a chance to determine their effectiveness in an extremely cold climate.

“This project will test the trough’s performance in Manitoba’s climate, and we intend to use the results to estimate Manitoba’s solar thermal resource,” said Dale Friesen, division manager, Industrial and Commercial Solutions for Manitoba Hydro. “These troughs could potentially be used to lower the province’s use of electricity and natural gas for heating purposes.”

Solar Trough located at Red River College's Notre Dame Campus

The Solar Trough located at Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus

“This partnership between the University of Manitoba, Red River College, and Manitoba Hydro is an example of how we can pool our considerable research talents at the three institutions to deliver successful and meaningful research,” said James Blatz, associate vice-president (partnerships) and professor civil engineering, University of Manitoba. “It’s our collective goal to capitalize on many more successful research partnership opportunities such as this.”

The solar trough site is the latest in RRC facilities and equipment dedicated to research in sustainable energy and infrastructure. Along with funding from Manitoba Hydro and the U of M, this project is financially supported in part by the College’s Sustainable Infrastructure Technology Research Group, with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).