Canadian wind power is surging but industry needs political certainty

Canada’s wind farm sector has recently become a national success story and the next five years should see continual rapid growth in the industry, the president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) said Wednesday in Vancouver.

But Robert Hornung also told people attending CanWEA’s annual conference that there is significant political uncertainty about the long-term prospects for Canada’s wind turbines market beyond 2016.

Hornung said the growing Canadian industry needs to ensure that future wind energy projects have broad community support while governments protect signed contracts, provide policy stability in respect to grid connections and improve permitting processes.

“We need to depoliticise and promote wind energy through honest discussion, addressing concerns of key decision-makers,” Hornung said.

The wind farm sector has to work with others to create a space where political leaders can honestly and frankly acknowledge challenges facing electricity generation in the nation, he said.

Included among those challenges, Hornung said, is the fact that electricity prices are going to increase in Canada, the nation needs to invest significant amounts in new electricity infrastructure and all new electricity generation is more expensive than existing generation.

What also needs to be acknowledged, he added, is that wind power is increasingly cost-competitive with all forms of new generation.

The nation, which now has wind farms in all 10 provinces, will end 2011 with about 5,400 MW of total installed wind farm capacity, he said, which is enough to power 1.5 million Canadian homes every year.

Canada will set a record for new wind energy installations in 2011 of close to 1,400 MW, he said, adding the old record was 950 MW.

Hornung said 23 new wind farms would be built in 2011, representing €2.5 billion in investment and 13,500 person-years of employment.

The next five years will provide significant business opportunities in Canada for the wind power sector, he said. The country’s installed wind energy capacity will more than double by 2016 to as much as 14,000 MW, he predicted, with more than 1,000 MW expected to be added each year.

Hornung added that CanWEA remains committed to having 20% of Canada’s power come from wind energy in 2025.

Chris Rose,