Wind Power

I know Canada has a large amount of Wind potential, but how and why does Canada benefit from wind power?

Canada’s diverse landscape, including mountains, prairies, and the longest coastline in the world, provide great potential for wind power. The amount of wind power that can be added to the Canadian electricity grid depends on a number of factors, including the technical potential for wind power, the cost of wind power compared with other options, transmission availability, and the need to balance the intermittent nature of wind power.

  • Wind power is created when energy from the sun combines with the rotation and tilt angle of the earth to create changing temperature differentials within the earth’s atmosphere. These differentials cause the air to circulate and create kinetic energy in the form of wind. Turbines can be used to capture kinetic energy from wind and convert it into electricity. The amount of energy is determined by the speed of the wind. Wind speed is usually strongest during cold winter months and at night, but can vary depending on geography, the time of year, and even the time of day.
  • The cost of electricity generation from wind includes the capital cost of the installation, as well as its operational and grid interconnection costs. Utilities must also consider the economic impact of having to back-up wind power with other sources of generation because wind is an intermittent source of energy. This means it does not generate all the time – in fact, it typically blows hardest when demand is light (such as at night). As a result, wind will always require a stable energy source, such as hydro power or natural gas, as a back-up. In order to guarantee that back-up generation takes up load when wind declines and deactivates when wind comes online, the wind must be accurately monitored and forecasted.
  • Today, Canada’s installed wind capacity is 5,641 MW.1 The amount of wind power that can be added to the Canadian electricity grid depends on a number of factors, including the technical potential for wind power, the cost of wind power compared with other options, transmission availability, and the need to balance the variable nature of wind power. Wind is a renewable source of energy that has relatively little impact on the surrounding area, with the exception of aesthetic and noise concerns. Successful development of energy storage technology will have significant impacts on our electricity grid’s ability to incorporate intermittent electricity supplies like wind power.
  • Public acceptance is a challenge to wind power development. In order to construct a wind project, all stakeholders must be properly informed and the support of landowners, municipal government and the local community must be obtained. Developers must receive written approval and agreements from affected parties and meet provincial, federal and electricity system regulatory requirements. “Good Neighbour” and project safety concerns are particularly high in areas where no precedent has been set and the public has no experience with which to fully weigh the impacts of a wind power project.
  1. Canadian Wind Energy Association “Wind by the Numbers: Economic Benefits of Wind Energy” http://www.canwea.ca/images/uploads/File/NRCan_-_Fact_Sheets/canwea-factsheet-economic-web.pdf, accessed October 17, 2012.