Creating New Clean Energy

Plastics and Solar Power Plastics and Wind Power

Solar Power

 Harvesting the sun's energy: The sun provides us with an almost limitless power source that could fuel our homes, our Blackberrys, even our cars. The sun generates 15,000 times more energy than all of the primary energy consumed annually around the world.

Using solar cells to harvest abundant solar radiation is emerging as a major component of global energy strategies. However, it would not be possible without the help of plastics. Plastics are indispensable for the production of solar cells and solar panels. Many important components in solar generators – such as the collector housing, the pipe insulation and the central control system – are made from polymer plastic materials.

Canada is leading the way on solar energy. The largest state-of-the art solar farm in North America is being built in Sarnia, Ontario. It stretches across nearly 365 hectares, the equivalent of 419 Canadian football fields.

Imagine a future without having to plug in to power or recharge. New advances in photovoltaic cell development, the semi-conductors that convert the sun’s energy into power, are being made with plastics. Purified silicon, a core material in conventional solar cells, can now be replaced with organic solar cells made from polymers. This new inexpensive material or film can be printed or painted on exterior building walls and/or roof tops to catch the solar energy and is changing the way energy is absorbed and transmitted to power our devices.

Wind Power

Fueling our future with wind power: Wind power is one of the many tools being used to fight climate change and help transition to a low-carbon economy.

Technological and manufacturing advances have driven down costs by as much as 80 percent, contributing to a 20-30 percent annual growth rate – making wind power the fastest growing large-scale power generation technology in the world.  

However, without non-corroding plastics, this energy revolution would not be possible. Special composite plastics are needed for the turbine covers and the huge blades to capture the wind.

In order to harvest this green energy source on a commercial scale, windmills must be equipped with very long rotor blades. These blades; some with a diameter of 125 metres, are almost entirely made from fibre-reinforced plastic or fibreglass. This is the only material able to withstand the constant mechanical stress placed on a rotor of this size.

Wind power is a major component of long-term, provincial energy strategies. Quebec has a large wind turbine manufacturing industry. Alberta generates 524 megawatts of energy from wind; Ontario generates 950  megawatts and now leads the country in wind power.