Map Methodologies

These maps are visuals that show an inventory of the potential capacity for select renewable energy resource across the Metro Vancouver region. Much of the energy currently used for our homes comes from remote suppliers in BC and Alberta, at least 400-100 kilometers away. These include natural gas to heat our home and electricity to power our homes. The focus of these maps is to visualize what local energy solutions would look for Metro Vancouver with the options of various renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, hydro (run-of-river), sewage heat recovery, and bioenergy. The selection of maps does not reflect constrains of economic viability, social acceptability or current regulations. Existing data from various sources are analyzed and mapped using new techniques suitable to communicating energy resources at a regional scale.


Our suppliers for our homes comes from remote suppliers in BC and Alberta, at least 400-100 kilometers away. Natural gas to heat our home is piped from Northeastern BC and Alberta. Electricity to power our homes comes primarily (approximately 90%) from Hydroelectric dams in southeastern and central BC. This hydroelectricity is supplemented by natural gas electricity generation in BC and, at times, by other fossil fuel-based generating plants in Alberta and the United States. Metro Vancouver is also crossed by railways and pipelines which ship coal and oil from the oilsands for export. A small portion of the oil that is exported is then imported back to Canada to meet our transportation needs. These maps were developed by Rory Tooke, PhD. Questions should be sent to Deepti Matthew Iype, Research Scientist at CALP.


There are three components of sunlight: (1) Atmosphere, (2) Solar Position, and (3) Urban Form. Local governments can use zoning bylaws to help dictate the building and urban design, including the roof geometry. For example, the direction by which sloped roofs are orientated or the placement of trees on property are ways that can utilize solar potential.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) datasets are used for looking at solar energy potentials. Four steps were considered based on the publications in the Solar Energy and Applied Energy Journals: (1) Determine the outline of building, (2) Calculate the slope and orientation of each square meter of roof, (3) for each square meter of roof, locate surrounding buildings and trees that could occlude the sun, and (4) model the trajectory of the sun at regular time intervals to determine how much solar energy reaches the roofs over a period of time (accounting atmospheric effects).

Since LiDAR datasets are not available in all municipalities across the Metro Vancouver region, the calculation was extrapolated across regions of known radiation from LiDAR to non-available LiDAR sites. For a more in-depth report of our map methodology, please feel free to view it here.

Cloud Cover

Cloud cover and aerosols were included in assessment of solar energy but did not account any variation in cloud cover across Metro Vancouver (i.e. cloud cover was assumed to be the same in all of the Metro Vancouver municipalities).

For cloud cover, many components are involved to understand the effects and availability of solar energy: (1) Trees and building shadows on building roofs, (2) angle between roof and sun, and (3) total amount of roof space available to mount solar panels). MODIS is a sensor that is mounted to two satellites (Terra and Aqua) and scans the entire Earth every 1-2 days.

MODIS measures light reflected from Earth’s surface and the atmosphere at various wavelengths. Data from the Aqua satellite was used since the time of the image acquisition more closely coincides with highest sun angles (meaning strongest solar energy hitting local earth surface).

In this map, the data spanned over an 11-year period from July 2002 to 2013. By using the MODIS Reprojection Tool Swatch, the image files were geographically referenced and gridded to an area around Metro Vancouver. For a more in-depth report of our map methodology, please feel free to view it here.


Wind turbines provide some of the most iconic imagery when it to comes to renewable energy. The colour, shape and movement of wind turbines provide visceral symbols of a low carbon future. Wind energy technologies are also often a low-cost option for energy generation and are being rapidly developed across the world. In 2012, global wind energy capacity grew by an estimated 50,000 MW and wind now supplies over 2.5% of global electricity demand.

Have you ever seen the large wind turbine on Grouse Mountain? Metro Vancouver calls it the “Eye of the Wind”. There are four types of area sites represented: (1) Offshore, (2) Urban, (3) Rural, and (4) Mountain.

There are variation in wind speed across Metro Vancouver. Environment Canada’s Canadian Wind Energy Atlas is the primary source of data, where wind assessments are calculated at 80m above surface. They also statistically analyzed atmospheric observation and models provided by US National Centers for Environmental Prediction and National Center for Atmospheric Research at 6 hour intervals, between 1958-2000. This provided a general systematic estimate of wind speed across large areas (i.e. all of Canada). To turn wind into electricity, institutions suggest the best sites for wind energy projects is crucial in having consistent high winds. But there is a place for medium and low wind sites that represent 90% of locations where financing is available. It all depends on design. For a more in-depth report of our map methodology, please feel free to view it here.


Bioenergy describes the energy contained in biological material, such as wood, crops, manure and garbage. British Columbia has large natural biomass resources that can be used to produce energy at the individual level (eg. high-efficiency wood stoves), farm level (eg. biogas), or in district energy plants.

The two main types of bioenergy come from biofuel sources and biomass sources. Biofuel can be bioethanol (fermentation of starch crops), biodiesel (vegetable oils and animal fats), and biogas (methane from anaerobic digestion of organic waste or syngas from wood). Biomass sources can come from forestry waste, construction wood waste, fuel crops (dried manure and stemwood), garbage, charcoal or biochar.


The BC Vegetation Resource Inventory was used to prove information where vegetation resources are located and how much resource exists within inventory unit. The site index* and tree species was used from VRI to establish background conditions for estimates of biomass in Metro Vancouver. These information were entered into a FORECAST model, where the model simulates initial soil conditions and ecosystem dynamics (calibrated to conditions relative to Metro Vancouver region). Categorizing vegetation inventory units into classes can be done to represent the distribution of the site indices for each species. One of the main outputs of the model is running simulation of accumulation of biomass over time. The analysis identified 4.5 million metric tons of annual sustainable forest biomass but the question comes down to “what portion of biomass can be realistically harvested?”. *Site index – indicator of potential for trees to grow at a particular location (estimate site productivity) For a more in-depth report of our map methodology, please feel free to view it here.


Agriculture contributes up to 30% of all GHG emissions, where methane is released into the atmostphere from livestock manure. Methane is also a primary chemical component of biogas and natural gas. When it is combusted, the fuel can be used to generate electricity and/or heat. Livestock head counts was used from the 2006 Agriculture Census. The conversion for manure and energy yield by livestock grouping were selected from American and European studies. Assuming that manure is available for energy producing purposes, Metro Vancouver region could produce a total of ~675TJ of livestock biogas energy per year (this is equivalent to the total thermal and electricity energy used in approximately 3000 single family homes) . For a more in-depth report of our map methodology, please feel free to view it here.

Industrial Heat Recovery

Industrial heat recovery is a promising way to take waste and turn it into a usable energy resource for our communities. There are various available methods that can capture the resulting heat energy from industrial processes. Heat Recovery is the practice of capturing the energy from waste byproduct of one process and using it as input for another.

There are two basic applications: (1) Recycling waste heat back into the processes at the same facility and; (2) Transferring the waste heat for use by another process off-site, perhaps some distance away.

Metro Vancouver’s Energy Demands

Communities across the region use different total amounts of energy for electricity, heating, and transportation. We also consume different amount of energy per person across the region, depending on which municipality we live in (due to their housing types, land uses, transport options, and energy/climate change policies).

In Metro Vancouver, approximately 30% of our energy use comes from residential buildings. The energy is split mainly between natural gas and electricity*. To consider more of our energy demands, energy retrofits on upgrading the building envelope (i.e. insulation, windows, etc.) and system efficiencies (i.e. furnace, hot water tank, etc.). The Province of BC requires that at a minimum of 66% of new electricity demand are to be met by demand-side measures by 2020. BC Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan works on demand-side management to offset 43% of the new demand, and 50% of the new capacity by 2023 (covering only electricity and natural gas.

*BC’s electricity generally comes from hydropower, a clean energy resource. However, hydroelectricity is supplemented by natural gas electricity generation in BC and, at times, other fossil fuel-based generating plants in Alberta and the United States. This ultimately makes our “clean energy” not so clean anymore.

The building’s energy use was measured by utilities, but there are privacy and liability concerns with restricted data access. The energy audit information was taken from over 7000 houses from the Natural Resource Canada EcoEnergy Program. The data was used in relation between the building’s energy use and its’ age. The trend shows that new homes perform better than old ones as a general estimate (considering deviation and confidence). The BC Assessment data was used to identify the year most homes are built and their size (floor area). This information was used in relation to the between the building’s energy use and age to predict energy performances of these buildings for all homes in the region. The assessment data also gave the number of units in townhouses, and apartment buildings to normalize data so the energy use would be represented for individual dwelling units instead of multi-unit buildings as a whole.