By JUSTIN BULL
June 19, 2014
Last year marked a huge leap forward for Canada’s wind energy sector. With over 1600 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy capacity installed, Canada now has 7800 MW of wind power, enough to supply 3% of the country’s electricity demand, the equivalent of powering two million homes.
The Global Wind Energy Council celebrated this achievement on June 15, declaring it “Global Wind Day” in coordination with the European Wind Energy Association.
Wind energy has made tremendous strides over the past decade. Over 80 nations have installed wind projects, with a cumulative capacity of 318,105 MW. The biggest users of wind are China (91,412 MW of installed capacity), the U.S. (61,091 MW), and Germany (34,250 MW). Spain, India, and the U.K. round out the global leaders in wind with installed capacities from 10,000 to 20,000 MW.
But statistics alone don’t tell the full story. More impressive is the continued growth of the energy source despite market uncertainty.
Nowhere has this uncertainty been more problematic than in the United States. The production tax credit subsidized new wind projects. But Congress reached a stalemate while debating its renewal in 2013. As a result, the wind industry experienced a 92% decline compared to 2012. At the moment, Congress is still debating whether to renew the program or not.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has put in place a road map for generating 15 to 18% of global electricity from wind power by 2050. To achieve these targets will require annual investments between $146 and $170 billion per year.
To make real progress, the IEA estimates that the cost of wind energy will need to drop by 25% for land-based and 45% for offshore projects. The agency also sees more wind capacity being brought online in developing countries, predicting that 50% of capacity will be found in non-OECD countries by 2030.
A list of wind projects in Canada reveals installed capacity across the country, with Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta as the dominant players. Some of the biggest projects benefit from long-term contracts with American buyers. For instance, the Halkirk Wind Farm in Alberta has partnered with Pacific Gas and Electric, a utility focused on serving the Californian market. This reinforces the importance of certainty in the marketplace if investors are to fully embrace renewable energy.