Reports on wind energy's robust health in Canada presume a stiff breeze

Wind Turbine - Kyle MacKenzie

By Maura Forrest

September 18, 2014

Recently CleanTechnica wrote that Ontario’s wind energy industry was supplying 12 per cent of the province’s electricity demand.

The number sounds great. And there is much to be said about the development of wind power in Ontario and the rest of Canada. But that figure needs a little clarification.

That article was written, the author stated, on a blustery day in southern Ontario, with wind speeds reaching nearly 50 kilometres per hour in some places. Wind output was up to 2,300 megawatts, not far from Ontario’s total installed wind capacity of 2,800 megawatts.

But as I write this piece, the treetops in Ontario are barely moving. Wind output is less than 350 megawatts, supplying a modest 2 per cent of the province’s current demand.

On average, wind energy supplies about 3 per cent of Ontario’s electricity demand, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association. That’s not quite the 12 per cent CleanTechnica found.

And that’s because there’s a difference between installed capacity—the amount of electricity that would be produced if wind farms were going full speed all the time—and the amount of electricity that’s actually produced when all those calm, still days are taken into account.

Still, wind energy has come a long way in Canada in recent years. In 2012, wind power accounted for 1.8 per cent of Canada’s total electricity production. That might not seem like a lot, but it’s an exponential increase since 2002. Wind capacity in Canada has increased almost 40 times over since then, from 231 megawatts in 2002 to 8,517 megawatts in July 2014.

The International Energy Agency has estimated that Canada’s wind capacity could top 12,000 megawatts by 2015. That would still only bring us to 8 per cent of Canada’s total forecasted capacity.

A recent report from British-based GlobalData found that the amount of electricity produced globally from offshore wind farms will quintuple in the next six years—a jump likely to happen with little help from Canada.

Currently, all of Canada’s wind power comes from land-based farms, though there are plans for two offshore farms in Newfoundland and British Columbia.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s Robert Hornung said Canada will eventually have to look more closely at offshore wind, because “it does represent a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous resource.”

So long, of course, as the wind cooperates.

Photo Credit: Kyle MacKenzie