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    Here Comes the Sun: Does solar have a role as an alternative fuel?

    April 13, 2018 12:00AM by Rolf Lockwood

    TORONTO, Ont. — In some corners of North America, the idea of adding solar power to a truck or trailer is a no-brainer. You’d be forgiven for thinking that none of those corners are in Canada. That’s mostly true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that solar has no place here. Just that you must be careful in assessing manufacturer claims about what their solar gizmo can actually do.

    Almost all of Canada gets an average of 4.2 hours of solar sunlight a day. Two areas — a small stretch of the southern prairies and a little ribbon of central B.C. — crank that number up to 4.5 hours. Compare that to as many six hours in Arizona, New Mexico, and a patch of southeast California. Doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it’s a big deal. A 300-watt solar setup that can help to run a tractor’s electric APU in that part of the U.S. would probably have to be a 600- or 800-watt setup for a rig running, say, a Toronto-Montreal-Halifax route.

    It also means that manufacturer claims can be rather idealistic if calculations were based on experience in warm and sunny parts of our world. There’s no subterfuge involved here, but “your mileage may vary,” as they say.