Turbine blades and rotor being hoisted into place. Image: John Kirby, Erie Shores Windfarm, OntarioClick image to enlargeIn Canada over the last ten years more wind energy capacity has been built than any other form of electricity generation, says Richard Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

“Wind has definitely moved into the mainstream. Today Canada has the eighth largest wind fleet in the world. Growth has been phenomenal. When I started here in 2013 there were 300 MW of wind energy in Canada. Now we’re at over 12,000.”

CanWEA expects to see about 700 MW of new installation this year, and probably the same for the next couple of years as well. Hornung sees a few different drivers for wind energy development in the future.

The first of these is the drive to reduce fossil fuel use in response to climate change. Here again, the public sector is doing what it can to support wind power development. One example Hornung cites is Saskatchewan, where the provincial government has announced plans to put in place 2,100 MW of new wind energy generation by 2030. The strategy is already underway with a competitive tender for the first 200 MW of generation.

Alberta has announced that it wants to bring 5,000 MW of renewable energy on-stream within the same time frame, Hornung says. “It’s expected the vast majority of that will be wind energy, because wind is the most cost competitive renewable energy source in Canada today.”

The second driver is the fact that Canada’s electricity system is already very clean. About 83 per cent of our electrical power supply does not generate greenhouse gas emissions. This means that Canada is well placed to help power utilities in the US in their own turn to cleaner forms of energy.

“Right now there’s a lot of focus in the northeast US. New York, the New England states, have made aggressive commitments to bring on new renewables, very aggressive climate change targets,” Hornung says. “And they’ll be very challenged to meet those targets simply through the development of renewable energy within their own jurisdictions.” 

Wind turbine parts being manufactured.  Image: Samuel and SonClick image to enlargeAt the end of July, energy utilities in Québec and the Maritimes had submitted bids to supply wind power in response to a call for tenders from the government of Massachusetts. “If Canadian projects are successful, there will be many more opportunities coming forward in those states because of the aggressiveness of the targets that they have set,” Hornung says.

Hornung emphasizes the supply chain opportunities. While wind turbine blades are made of composites, the towers are concrete or steel, and many of the internal components are metal. 

“There are 8000 parts in a wind turbine, so if you break it down to the level of bolts and components like that, there are certainly opportunities for local companies to be involved.” CanWEA is currently participating in a study of Alberta as the next large emerging Canadian market for wind power. The organization is working with Alberta economic development in looking at supply chain opportunities for firms in the province. Results are expected in the fall.

“Wind isn’t just the cheapest non-emitting source of generation in Canada today,” Hornung says. “With natural gas, it’s the cheapest form of electricity generation in Canada if you want to build something new. So as new opportunities emerge for new electricity demand, it’ll be quite natural that every jurisdiction will look at wind to help them meet that challenge.”

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