Wind Energy: Helping Alberta Green its Grid
Wind energy is an established and growing player in the Alberta electricity market, providing clean and renewable electricity for Albertans. Generating four per cent of Alberta’s electricity in 2014, wind energy helps to diversify Alberta’s electricity generation mix.
Canada’s first commercial wind farm, today owned by TransAlta, was installed at Cowley Ridge in Southern Alberta in 1993. Alberta now ranks third in Canada with an installed wind energy capacity of 1,471 MW. The amount of electricity produced by the province’s wind farms is equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power approximately 625,000 average sized homes for one year.
Alberta’s electricity system is at a crossroads. Federal regulations require the phase out of the coal fleet over the coming decades and the Alberta Government has indicated it wishes to accelerate this process.
If this coal-fired generation is replaced with natural gas, Alberta will experience a short-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and will then see greenhouse gas emissions increase again with growth in electricity demand. The only way to achieve long-term and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is to maximize the use of non-emitting renewable energy sources, like wind and solar energy, to replace coal-fired electricity while maintaining system reliability.
With a more climate-friendly electricity grid, Alberta can then also use electricity to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors through the electrification of transportation, heating/cooling and some industrial processes.
Increasing wind energy use in Alberta also makes economic sense as wind energy is cheaper than any other form of electricity generation in Alberta today with the exception of natural gas. When one considers the carbon and commodity price risks associated with natural gas, however, wind energy is clearly cost-competitive today.
Wind can diversify Alberta’s electricity supply mix while bringing other advantages as well. Wind energy generates electricity without emitting air pollutants, particulate matter, or waste of any kind. It uses much less water than conventional power plants. It can be brought on line quickly at a scale that matches increases in electricity demand, creating more efficient outcomes for consumers and ensuring a reliable electricity supply. And because wind is a decentralized generation source, it brings new income and jobs to rural communities, places where that kind of economic boost is often needed the most.
There is no doubt that Alberta’s high quality wind and solar energy resources represent a huge opportunity to build a 21st century electricity system and help the province transition to a low-carbon economy. It has been estimated that $US8 trillion in investment will flow into the renewable energy sector globally over the next 25 years.
Despite the economic and environmental benefits of increasing wind and solar energy supply in Alberta, however, Alberta’s electricity market design does not provide wind and solar energy developers with the revenue certainty required to finance their capital intensive projects – making it extremely challenging for Alberta to compete for renewable energy investment. As a result, renewable energy is not forecast to grow substantially in Alberta over the next 20 years without an evolution in Alberta’s electricity market structure.
The new Alberta climate change action plan provides the Alberta government with an opportunity to take the actions required to enable Alberta to successfully attract renewable energy investment into the province – for the benefit of Alberta and Albertans.
Visit the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s Wind Facts Alberta webpage for more facts, infographics and pictures related to wind energy in Alberta.
Wind by the numbers in Alberta (September 2015)
Number of Installations: 37
Number of Wind Turbines: 941
Total Installed Capacity (MW): 1,471
Average Turbine Capacity (MW): 1.56
Wind energy is providing clean, affordable power and investments for Alberta. Successful host communities are being further sustained by growth in incomes for rural landowners, new tax revenues, and employment opportunities for trades people and contractors. Download the Alberta Wind. For My Community. brochure to see just a few of Alberta’s success stories.
Community Engagement and Public Consultation
Effective and meaningful community engagement is fundamental to the success of a wind energy project and ultimately to the success of the industry nationally.
CanWEA’s Best Practices in Community Engagement and Public Consultation guide has been designed to support wind energy project developers in continuously improving their work with local communities while ensuring that they meet and strive to exceed provincial requirements for public consultation.
CanWEA offers additional technical information and full reports to its members. Visit the members only website and browse through CanWEA’s extensive Resource Library today. Not a member? To learn more visit CanWEA’s membership page or email email@example.com.