Why Wind Works
Answering your questions about wind energy
While wind energy has enjoyed growing success in many countries for several decades, it is a relatively new contributor to the power system here in Canada. As such, it is natural for people to have questions. As a responsible industry, we are committed to ensuring Canadians have the most up-to-date factual information on wind energy.
The Wind Facts pages contain facts and resources that address a number of areas of key interest to Canadians: how wind works, health, reliability, affordability and environment and wildlife.
A Canadian Success Story
Canada is endowed with exceptional wind resources, and almost all provinces and territories have been putting them to work.
In fact, consistent with global trends, wind energy has been the largest source of new electricity generation in Canada for more than a decade.
Wind energy met approximately 6 per cent of Canada’s electricity demand in 2017 – and more than that in jurisdictions such as P.E.I. (29 per cent), Nova Scotia (9 per cent), Alberta (8 per cent) and Ontario (8 per cent).
Further, wind energy has done more than keep lights on and factories humming. It has provided – and will continue to provide – substantial economic and social benefits to local and Indigenous communities across Canada.
Wind energy is providing new revenue streams, benefits agreements, and green jobs that are helping communities thrive, while improving air quality and fighting climate change.
Canada’s wind energy story offers much to celebrate – and an exciting new chapter is about to begin.
Did You Know?
- The Canadian Hydropower Association, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association and Marine Renewables Canada came together with Clean Energy Canada to establish the Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity. The Council engages in research, collaboration and communications initiatives to encourage dialogue for increased use of Canada’s abundant renewable-electricity resources.
- The Trottier Energy Futures Project looks at the changes we can make today to build a low-carbon, sustainable energy future for Canada while taking into account economic, social and environmental concerns.
- Globally, a collaboration initiative of energy research is trying to understand how individual countries can transition to a low-carbon economy through The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project.
How a wind turbine works
Wind turbines work on the same principle that allows airplanes to fly. The wind doesn’t push the blades, but passes over them. The resulting pressure difference between the upper and lower surfaces creates lift, which causes the rotor to turn.
As the blades of a wind turbine turn, the kinetic energy of the wind is converted into mechanical energy, which is transmitted through a drive shaft to an electrical generator in the nacelle. The resulting electrical current travels via underground cables to a substation, where it is converted to a higher voltage for the larger electricity transmission or distribution grid. From there, it’s delivered to the electric utility and customers.
The blades typically start to turn when the wind speed reaches approximately12 km/h and shut down when the winds become too strong, usually around 88 km/h. That operating range means wind turbines produce electricity between 70 and 90 per cent of the time. How much they generate at any given point depends on the wind speed.
Did you know?
- Wind farms are designed to last 25 years or longer and modern turbines require relatively little maintenance compared to other forms of electricity generation such as nuclear power.
- Often at the end of their life, wind turbines are “re-powered”, which involves replacing older equipment with newer technology; the re-powered wind farm will then last another 20 -25 years after that.
- The International Energy Agency released a new study, IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2017, in June 2017. The study predicts that renewable electricity generation will grow by 36 per cent between 2015-21, making it the fastest growing source of electricity generation globally. Onshore wind energy generation will almost double over this period. One reason for the expected growth is that record-low contract prices for wind energy were announced in 2016. The study clearly shows that growth in wind energy as well as other clean energy sources will be necessary if the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement are to be realized.
- IRENA’s REsource provides easy and free access to the largest amount of renewable energy information and data to date. REsource enables users to have rapid access to country-specific data, create customized charts and graphs, and compare countries on metrics like renewable energy use and deployment. It also provides information on renewable energy market statistics, potentials, policies, finance, costs, benefits, innovations, education and other topics.
- Hydro-Québec demonstrates how wind works and explains the relationship between wind turbines and hydroelectric dams.
- In Ontario, the sustainable and economic integration of wind energy is being addressed by organizations such as the IESO and Ministry of Energy.
- Wind Power in Ontario: Track wind’s output!
- Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG; formerly UVIG) maintains a resource library focused on the design, operation and maintenance of integrated energy grids. Articles of interest include ‘Energy Systems Integration: The Next Step Toward Sustainable Energy (May 2018)’ and ‘Comparison of Ancillary Services from Conventional and Renewable Plants (April 2018)’
- CanWEA’s Pan-Canadian Wind Integration Study assesses the operational and economic implications of integrating large amounts of wind energy into the Canadian electricity system.
- Utilities and Wind Power: information from the American Wind Energy Association.