Canada ranks 12th in the world in terms of installed wind energy capacity and percentage of electricity generated from wind. Wind currently supplies about 1 per cent of Canada’s electricity demand with enough power to meet the needs of 860,000 homes.
"We are proud that wind energy development has been able to provide economic stimulus to the Canadian economy at a record rate during a time of economic challenge," said CanWEA President Robert Hornung. "Canada’s wind energy industry is one step closer to reaching its goal of providing 20 per cent of the country’s electricity needs by 2025. Achieving this goal will generate about $80 billion (CDN) in investment, create more than 50,000 new jobs, and provide economic development opportunities for rural communities throughout Canada."
Global leaders of installed wind energy capacity include the U.S. at 25,000 MW, Germany at 23,900 MW, and Spain at 16,700 MW. Over the past 10 years, global wind energy capacity has continued to grow at an average cumulative rate of more than 25 per cent. Global investment in wind energy is projected to total more than $1 trillion (US) by 2020, bringing global installed capacity to more than 600,000 MW.
"While the wind energy industry is poised for further growth in 2010, Canada’s ability to fully capture its wind energy potential will depend in part on the actions of federal and provincial governments," said Mr. Hornung. "The federal government must renew its commitment to support wind energy given the successful ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program is scheduled to meet its targets this fall – a year and a half ahead of schedule."
CanWEA’s vision document, Wind Vision 2025 – Powering Canada’s Future, estimates that wind energy has the potential to be one of Canada’s next great economic opportunities while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing other environmental concerns.
CanWEA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition is Canada’s leading conference on wind energy. It takes place in Toronto from September 20-23 featuring the highest number of attendees in its 25-year history with 2,100 Canadian, U.S. and European business leaders registered.
Wind Vision 2025 – Powering Canada’s Future
Since the Egyptians launched the first sail boats more than 5,000 years ago, humans have been harnessing the power of wind. As early as the 7th century, people were using windmills for grinding grain, pumping water and other industrial purposes.
By 1900 more than 6 million windmills were in use for farm irrigation across North America. Electricity from wind power was the next big development. The first commercial scale operations were built in Denmark in the 1920s and the technology is now highly advanced.
Today, wind power is a clean, reliable source of electricity in more than 70 countries. It is not only a green source of electricity; it is also becoming a low-cost option for generating electrical power that is delivering substantial benefits in terms of jobs, investment and rural economic development.
That’s why governments around the world have established ambitious targets for extremely rapid wind energy growth. They know that making power from the wind is technically feasible, economically viable and environmentally preferable.
At the end of 2008, world-wide wind generating capacity stood at 120,000 MW. By 2020, close to $1 trillion in global investment is projected to bring global installed capacity to more than 500,000 MW.
Will Canada be a major player in this green energy revolution?
Canada has trailed most of the developed world when it comes to wind power, but the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is working to close the gap. We are a national, not-for-profit organization and the voice of Canada’s wind energy industry. We promote responsible, sustainable growth of wind energy across the country and our almost 400 members include wind turbine and component manufacturers, project developers and owners, utilities and companies providing a broad range of services to the wind industry.
CanWEA wants Canadians to start thinking big about wind energy, to power a greener future and to capture our fair share of the opportunities flowing from the explosive world-wide growth in this industry. To join the global leaders in wind energy, we believe Canada should set a goal of producing 20 percent or more of our electricity from wind by 2025. This exciting vision is not only practical from a technical perspective, there are also very strong business and environmental cases for making wind power a priority in our country.
Canada needs a more sustainable electricity system
Since the late 1800s, reliable, affordable electricity has been a driving force in the Canadian economy. It’s been an enormous source of competitive advantage for our industries and a huge contributor to our quality of life. Today we have the 6th largest electrical system in the world producing and distributing 600 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of power. About 60 percent of our electricity comes from
renewable sources, chiefly hydro. Another 20 percent comes from nuclear plants while coal and natural gas fired facilities
account for 15 percent and five percent each.
With reliable service and some of the lowest rates in the world, most Canadians take our electricity supply for granted. But cracks are starting to appear in the system that ought to concern us all. We still pay less than others, but electricity prices have been rising steadily and will likely go up even faster in the future. Some parts of the country will face power shortages unless new sources are developed soon. It’s also clear that we have to reduce the environmental impact of electricity production.
Keeping the lights on, easing the environmental burden and preserving all of the benefits we get from electricity has to be a priority for our citizens, our governments and of course for our electrical producers and distributors. The challenge will be huge. In Ontario, for example, demand for electricity continues to rise while 80 percent of the province’s generating capacity is either wearing out or will have to be shut down for environmental reasons. Some 24,000 MW of generating capacity will need to be replaced in Ontario over the next 20 years. In other regions, the picture is not yet critical, but the day of reckoning is fast approaching. Alberta is struggling to make annual additions to its generating capacity equivalent to more than two cities the size of Red Deer and electrical authorities in every province are under the gun to keep supply and demand in balance.
A 2005 study by the International Energy Agency projected that Canada would need about $185 billion (US) of new investment in electricity generation ($95 billion), transmission ($27 billion), and distribution ($63 billion) infrastructure by 2030.6 Provincial power authorities have already announced $115 billion in new capital spending to produce and distribute the power Canadians will need in the next two decades. It will be a tall order to have this new generating and distribution capacity ready when it is needed, especially when we need to create a different kind of infrastructure for the future. We can’t just expand our electricity system, we have to change it. We have to build a system that is much more sustainable, one that is reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound. Fortunately, we can count on a new ally to help us meet this challenge – the power of the wind.
The wind power advantage for Canada
Canadians are only beginning to appreciate the contribution wind power can make to our energy future. Today less than one percent of our electricity comes from wind. Meanwhile other countries are turning to wind in a very big way. In Denmark, for example, more than 20 percent of electricity is wind-generated. In Spain the figure is 13 percent and in Germany it’s seven percent.
Closer to home, our American neighbours are building wind farms at a frantic pace and in 2008 the United States has become the largest producer of wind energy in the world. What do these countries know that we do not? Why is Canada in 16th place in the world when it comes to using wind energy? In part it’s because we have always exploited cheap and abundant natural resources to keep electricity prices low. Until recently, it has been hard for wind to compete. In many other countries, governments have also offered powerful incentives to bring wind energy on stream.
There is no single reason to explain why we trail the pack. It is clear, however, that many industrialized countries are factoring far more wind power than Canada into their long-term energy plans. In 2007, for instance, European countries installed more new wind capacity than any other generating source. In the U.S. wind has been second only to natural gas in new generating capacity built since 2005. In most countries, the growing interest in wind stems from concerns over rising prices, reliability and security of electricity supply and also the environmental impact of their electricity systems. These are the same concerns we have in Canada, so let’s look at them one by one and see how wind can help.
When you take a close look at wind energy, it is easy to see why governments, consumers, industry and environmentalists around the world are getting so excited. CanWEA thinks Canadians should be excited too. That’s why we are giving them the facts about wind and why we have developed WindVision 2025. We can get 20 percent of our electricity – 55,000 MW – from wind by 2025, by putting up 22,000 wind turbines spread over about 450 locations across Canada. All told, the wind farms we need would occupy a land area of about 5,500 square kilometers. That’s about the size of Prince Edward Island.
It will take a very concerted effort to build this many facilities by 2025. But if a country like Spain, with an economy similar in size to Canada’s, can install more than 3,500 MW of new wind energy in a single year, so can we. We can learn from both the wind power experience in other countries and from what we have done in other energy sectors here at home. Remember the 1980s, when the technology for producing oil from the Alberta oil sands was in its infancy and it was far more expensive than conventional sources of oil? Twenty years and $90 billion of investment later, almost half of Canada’s petroleum production comes from the Fort McMurray area and huge new investments are planned.
Putting 55,000 MW of wind power in place by 2025 will be like developing Canada’s electricity ‘oil sands’. At $132 billion, costs will be similar, but Canada’s wind power pioneers will enjoy some advantages which their counterparts in Fort McMurray would have envied. For starters, wind technology is already well advanced and understood and price-wise, wind power is becoming more and more cost-competitive. The business and environmental cases for wind power are very solid, so there is no reason to believe that WindVision 2025 is unattainable.
Getting 20 percent of our electricity from the wind in 2025 is an ambitious goal, but we can get there if we roll up our sleeves and get down to work. In fact, we have already taken our first initial steps. By the end of 2008, every province will be generating some electrical power from wind and there is an emerging consensus at all levels of government on the need to move toward a more sustainable electricity future. So, the ground for our wind energy future is already being laid and there are other important factors that are working in our favour.
The quality of Canada’s wind resource is as good as or better than any of the world’s leading wind energy nations such as Germany, Spain and the United States. With our huge landmass and lengthy coastlines, we have more top-quality wind power sites than we could ever use. In fact, we could meet Canada’s total electrical demand by tapping the wind potential of just one quarter of one percent of our landmass. In Quebec alone, a 2004 study identified more than 100,000 MW of wind potential in sites within 25 km of Hydro Quebec’s existing transmission lines. The picture is equally encouraging in other provinces and that’s just our onshore resources. Our offshore potential along our ocean coasts and in the Great Lakes is also huge. One thing we know for sure is that Canada will never be short of wind.
CanWEA’s WindVision 2025 offers an opportunity for all electricity stakeholders to begin to think “big” about wind energy in Canada. But there is no telling how much further or faster wind energy could develop down the road.
As consumers and businesses respond to increasing oil and gas prices, shifts in electricity demand will occur. An increased electrification of the economy is starting to happen, particularly in the transportation sector with the advent of plug-in hybrids, all electric vehicles, and electric intercity rail.
We know for example, that a growing number of large car manufacturers now have plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) in development and the first PHEVs are anticipated to be introduced to consumers in 2010 (Chevrolet Volt, Toyoto Prius etc.).
Policy makers are also looking at promoting the use of full electric delivery vehicles for use in city core areas to reduce smog and other emissions. Since most cars and delivery vehicles are parked at night there will be an interesting opportunity to use increasing amounts of off-peak electricity from wind energy to recharge a growing fleet of electric vehicles.
A significant amount of work is also ongoing (especially in the US) on how to also use the stored energy in these PHEVs and EVs and to inject it back into the grid during peak demand (vehicle to grid / V2G). Developments like these may mean that the demand for electricity will likely be higher than projected only a few years ago and demand patterns can shift quickly. Wind power will be essential to keep our electricity supply growing in step with demand.
Wind power is clean, reliable, quick to install, economically viable, and it is ready to do the job, now. And the picture can only get better. Energy storage processes now under development around the world including batteries, pumped water reservoirs, compressed air, and hydrogen have the potential to make wind power an even bigger factor in our electricity future.
Wind energy technology itself is evolving rapidly. The wind turbines being installed in 2008 bear little resemblance to the models first used to generate electricity on a large scale in the 1980s. Today, wind power is much more efficient, more productive, more environmentally friendly and, slowly but surely Canadian governments, utilities, private investors and consumers are waking up to its enormous potential to meet our growing electricity needs.
A hundred years ago Canada’s electricity pioneers ushered in the hydropower age. Today, we are poised to repeat the process, this time with the wind. There is little doubt this new era will extend far beyond what we are calling for in our Windvision 2025. But we need to get started. We need to fall in line with the rest of the world and capitalize on this opportunity. It’s time to start thinking big.
CanWEA is the voice of Canada’s wind energy industry, actively promoting the responsible and sustainable growth of wind energy on behalf of its more than 450 members. A national non-profit association, CanWEA serves as Canada’s leading source of credible information about wind energy and its social, economic and environmental benefits. To join other global leaders in the wind energy industry, CanWEA believes Canada can and must reach its target of producing 20 per cent or more of the country’s electricity from wind by 2025. The document Wind Vision 2025 – Powering Canada’s Future is available at