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.
Wind energy in Canada
More wind energy has been built in Canada between 2008 and 2018 than any other form of electricity generation, with installed capacity growing by an average of 20 per cent per year over the past decade.
Wind energy currently supplies approximately six per cent of Canada’s electricity demand, generating enough power to meet the needs of over three million Canadian homes. There are 299 wind farms operating from coast to coast, including projects in two of the three northern territories. In 2018, Canada’s wind generation grew by 566 megawatts (MW) spread among 6 new wind energy projects, representing an investment of about $1 billion. The installed capacity of wind generation reached 12,816 MW in 2018.
Every Canadian province is now benefiting from clean wind energy.
Did You Know?
- Hydropower Canada, 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. Download a copy of Powering Climate Prosperity: Canada’s Renewable Electricity Advantage for the Council’s recommendations on steps Canada must take to prevent average global temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius.
- 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.
- According to the recent REN21 Global Status Report, a total of 181GW of renewable power was added worldwide in 2018. The Report also found that 11 million people worldwide were employed in the renewable energy sector that same year.
- 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.