The Canadian solar thermal industry experienced a decrease in terms of revenue and collector area in 2018 versus 2017. From a revenue standpoint, domestic, export and total revenue decreased by 46%. Total industry revenue in 2018 was $3.4 million compared to $6.2 million in 2017. Collector sales dropped to 24,384 m² in 2018 from 45,083 m² in 2017. It should be noted the small size of the Canadian solar thermal market is making it increasingly susceptible to the fortunes of individual companies and projects, particularly for technologies that focus on the commercial sector. Most residential technologies experienced declines in both 2017 and 2018.
When the Canadian domestic market is analyzed by collector type, it becomes clear that almost all technologies were impacted by the continuing industry slide, with the exception of the solar thermal air collectors. The air glazed market segment experienced significant year-over-year growth, albeit from low 2017 sales. Air unglazed also grew, though more modestly, although still doubling 2017 sales. In line with the previous years’ trends, liquid glazed declined at 65% (vs. 50% in 2017); the liquid evacuated and liquid unglazed market segments decreased at 70% and 94% respectively. By collector area, total sales in the domestic market for all collector types combined declined by 35%.
The trend of decreasing sales that has been ongoing since 2010, with 2018 domestic sales at only 6.5% of those in 2010, and representing only $0.06 per person in Canada. This deep, prolonged fall-off has led to an overall decrease in GHG emissions avoided in 2018 compared to 2017. While this decrease was less than 1%, it is a trend that is expected to continue for several years, in the absence of a rapid turnaround in sales of solar thermal collectors. The reduction in the domestic solar thermal market since 2010 is due to the ending of financial incentive programs at the national level and the low cost of natural gas for heating.
Solar air heating collectors continues to dominate the Canadian domestic and export markets after solar pool heating. In 2018, solar air heating collectors represented 90% of solar collector domestic sales and 76% of the domestic revenue, respectively. For several years there has been a significant increase in glazed solar air collector installations compared to unglazed, however this trend was not maintained, unglazed solar air collectors represented 74% of total air heating collector domestic and export revenue and 94% of air collector area sold in 2018. Unglazed air heating collectors did surpass the solar pool heating collectors and become the second and next largest segment of the collector market with 20% of domestic sales and 14% of export collector sales in terms of revenue while the solar pool heating market represented about 10% of the solar thermal domestic and export sales revenue.