Turbines and blades: The promise of wind energy
In an era with an increasing demand for cheaper, more energy sources, the answer for Canada could be, as Bob Dylan so eloquently puts it, blowing in the wind.
Wind energy is harnessed by large windmill-like turbines before it’s converted into electrical energy, and there is no shortage of it in Canada.
“Canada has considerable wind resource that remains largely untapped,” said Metin Yaras, Carleton mechanical and aerospace engineering professor via email.
We currently get less than 2.5 per cent of our electricity through wind energy, but Yaras said in the next 10 or 20 years wind energy could potentially meet as much as a quarter of Canada’s energy needs.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is a non-profit trade association that promotes the use and development of wind energy in Canada. Their goal is to provide 20 per cent of Canada’s electricity needs by 2025, and they said they are on track to meet this goal.
“In 2011 we actually had a record year of wind energy installed capacity,” CanWEA communications officer Lejla Latifovic said.
Installed capacity is the maximum amount of electricity a turbine can produce in a given time. According to CanWEA statistics, Canada has 3,204 wind turbines capable of producing 5,511 megawatts of energy — enough to power 1.2 million homes.
Canada’s wind energy sector has grown exponentially in the last decade, with turbines in each of the provinces and in the Yukon, Latifovic said. We now place ninth in the world in potential megawatt production in 2011, Latifovic said.
It is also one of the fastest-growing major sources of electricity around the world, she said, with more than 150,000 turbines in 89 countries.
To get to the next step in making wind energy a viable option for the future, Canada needs to be a more aggressive competitor for international wind energy investment. Both Latifovic and Yaras said that would require some changes to wind energy-related policy at both the provincial and federal level.
CanWEA has created a “WindVision 2025” that calls upon both levels of government for wind power infrastructure, manufacturer incentives, and streamlining the approval process for wind energy projects.
“We’re definitely on pace to meet our target,” Latifovic said, which would bring significant economic benefit and environmental benefits.
A greater dependence on wind energy would result in the creation of 50,000 jobs, more stable electricity prices, and $79 billion of investment in Canadian wind energy, CanWEA’s website said.
The turbines, which produce no greenhouse gases or toxic waste, will also contribute to a 17- megatonne cut in carbon emissions in Canada, providing what Latifovic calls an important part of a balanced energy diet.
“We need diversity of supplies in our energy mix,” she said.
“And we think wind energy is a key partner in building a stronger, cleaner, and more affordable energy store for all Canadians.”