Monitoring Canada’s First Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Plant

Monitoring Canada’s First Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Plantarticle picture
Published: Friday, July 31, 2015 The small southern Alberta city of Medicine Hat is the first city in the world to operate a concentrating solar thermal power (CSP/CST) system in a high-latitude, cold weather location. It’s also the first city in Canada to have a solar powered steam generation system integrated into a combined cycle natural gas power plant. The system currently generates power on a demonstration basis and a scientific solar and environmental monitoring station will be closely keeping an eye on the performance.

The City of Medicine Hat was known as ‘The Gas City’ because it sits on sizable natural gas reserves. But several years ago, the city started an energy conservation and renewable energy program called ‘Hat Smart’. One outcome of this program is this 1 MW CST demonstration system which began operation in November 2014.

This is the farthest north that a concentrated solar thermal project has ever been built; but, with an average of 2544 sunshine hours and 330 days of sunshine per year (Environment Canada) 1, Medicine Hat is one of the sunniest places in Canada. Medicine Hat also enjoys a suitably high solar resource of direct normal irradiance (DNI) of 5.1KWh/m2/day (City of Medicine Hat) 2 making it an appropriate location for a CST plant. Now the Medicine Hat slogan is ‘Canada’s Sunniest City!’

Campbell Scientific Canada installed a Campbell Scientific environmental monitoring station and Kipp & Zonen solar radiation instrumentation to determine the solar resource available at the site. The station measures and collects data for global, direct, and diffuse solar radiation as well as other parameters, such as wind speed and direction, to alert the city if winds are too high to operate the arrays safely. The station is based on a Kipp & Zonen SOLYS 2 sun tracker that mounts two CMP 22 Secondary Standard pyranometers with ventilation units and a CHP 1 pyrheliometer.

Campbell Scientific provides data collection, hosting, quality control and reporting for this station through their Data Services department. Data Services collects the data remotely over a cellular modem based on a scheduled collection interval, and the data is uploaded to a Campbell Scientific server. Quality Control is provided to ensure data quality and integrity. The data is then compiled into monthly reports to help both the City of Medicine Hat and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) determine the effectiveness of the station.

NRCan has loaned the solar instrumentation at the site to the City for the duration of the solar concentrating demonstration project as it serves both organizations in the collection of data. According to Reda Djebbar PhD. P.Eng. of NRCan, ‘The measured data will be used by the City of Medicine Hat to assess and validate the expected versus measured performance of the CST system; and by NRCan, in collaboration with Environment Canada, to validate the satellite derived solar resource data used to generate weather design input data files for the engineering and scientific community to use for a wide range of applications including building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) applications and solar systems design.’

Go to to find out more about Canada’s Sunniest City


By Collin Quarrie, Measurement Specialist - Industrial Group, Campbell Scientific Canada Corp.



1 Environment Canada. ‘Canadian Climate Normals 1981-2010 Station Data.’

2 City of Medicine Hat. ‘Alberta Innovates Technology Futures. ‘Concentrating Solar Thermal Energy Workshop, 31 October 2011.

Share this page