Electricity Fuel Source Technical Papers
Wind Fast Facts
- Wind power supplied 7.56 TWh (1.3 per cent) of Canada’s electricity generation in 2011. There were 5,265 MW of installed wind capacity in Canada as of December 2011.
Wind Power Basics
- Wind power is created when energy from the sun combines with the rotation and tilt angle of the earth to create changing temperature differentials within the earth’s atmosphere. These differentials cause the air to circulate and create kinetic energy in the form of wind.
- Turbines can be used to capture kinetic energy from wind and convert it into electricity. The amount of energy is determined by the speed of the wind. Wind speed is usually strongest during cold winter months and at night, but can vary depending on geography, the time of year, and even the time of day.
- Wind turbines are composed of three main components: the blades, the tower, and the nacelle, which contains the shaft, gear box and generator. When the wind blows it moves the blades located at the top of the tower, which in turn move the shaft. The shaft is connected to the gearbox, which rotates the generator, creating a magnetic field which produces electricity.
- There are different sizes and types of wind turbines and installations. “Small wind” involves smaller turbines powering a house, farm, business or small community. A wind farm or “large wind” provides electricity to the electricity grid. “Offshore wind” involves turbines placed in the shallow water along shorelines to take advantage of higher and more consistent wind speeds available over water.
Wind Power in Canada
- Since 2007 wind capacity in Canada has increased by 75 percent. Today, Canada’s installed wind capacity is 5,265 MW.
- Canada’s diverse landscape, including mountains, prairies, and the longest coastline in the world, provide great potential for wind power. The amount of wind power that can be added to the Canadian electricity grid depends on a number of factors, including the technical potential for wind power, the cost of wind power compared with other options, transmission availability, and the need to balance the variable nature of wind power.
Benefits of Wind Power
- Wind is a clean renewable source of energy that has relatively little impact on the surrounding area, with the exception of aesthetic and noise concerns.
- Depending on turbine availability and permitting, a wind farm can be constructed quickly and at a variety of scales. Wind energy also provides significant economic benefits to rural communities where wind projects are being constructed, such as new investments, employment, municipal tax payments and land lease income for landowners.
Challenges to Development
- Public Acceptance – In order to construct a wind project, all stakeholders must be properly informed and the support of landowners, municipal government and the local community must be obtained. Developers must receive written approval and agreements from affected parties and meet provincial, federal and electricity system regulatory requirements. Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) and project safety concerns are particularly high in areas where no precedent has been set and the public does not understand the impacts of a wind power project.
- Economics – The cost of electricity generation from wind includes the capital cost of the installation, as well as its operational and grid interconnection costs. Utilities must also consider the economic impact of having to back-up an intermittent source of power with other sources of generation. Although the cost of wind power has declined, increasing demand for wind turbines and rising commodity prices are likely to dampen this decline in the future. However, many wind projects in Canada receive support from the federal government, making them more financially viable.
- Forecasting, Operations and Grid Integration – Wind is a variable source of energy. This means it does not generate all the time – in fact, it typically blows hardest when demand is light (such as at night). As a result, wind will always require a stable energy source, such as hydro power or natural gas, as a back-up. In order to guarantee that back-up generation takes up load when wind declines and deactivates when wind comes online, the wind must be accurately monitored and forecasted.
- Maintenance – Frequent start-up and shut-down cycles can negatively impact wind turbines and result in additional maintenance costs. The complexity of wind technology requires turbine technicians and service personnel to be specially trained through formal training programs.
- Availability – The rapid growth of global wind energy capacity has caused the demand for wind turbines to significantly exceed supply. Wind turbine components are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, and long waiting lists are resulting in longer project lead times. Manufacturing capacity is beginning to increase around the world to address this issue.