Faced with the Kyoto Protocol and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Canada by 20%, Canadian governments and industries are paying more attention to renewable energy alternatives than ever before. Near Kincardine on Lake Huron, Ontario’s Energy Minister John Baird recently opened Ontario’s first commercial wind farm, a project that finally became a reality after five years of operating as a single wind turbine.
Ontario is following Alberta’s earlier foray into renewable-energy wind farms and joining Saskatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon in exploring alternative energy resources. The city of Toronto has plans for an offshore wind turbine project.
"It's encouraging to see alternative energy projects like the Huron Wind Farm being established throughout Ontario," said Baird, referring to the five-turbine wind farm near the Bruce Power nuclear facilities, which will reportedly supply enough certified green electricity for up to 3,000 homes a year. "We must continue to support clean energy production to ensure there's a sufficient supply of electricity to meet our needs now and into the future."
Huron Wind Farm is a partnership between Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which is the province’s largest supplier of “certified green power,” and British Energy Canada, the United Kingdom's largest electricity generating company and the majority partner in the Bruce Power nuclear generating stations. Huron Wind Farm green power will be marketed and distributed to commercial and industrial customers in Ontario.
One advantage of wind farms is the speed with which production can be brought online in comparison to construction of nuclear and thermal generation plants. This project was announced in March of 2001, construction began in July of 2002 and the wind farm was declared open in November.
However, officials involved may not yet fully appreciate all the principles of renewable energy since they promote a parallel between wind and nuclear power that seems to ignore the significant difference in safety and long-term pollution between these two options.
"Clean electricity produced at Huron Wind is a good solid investment for the future," said Duncan Hawthorne, Executive Director of British Energy's North American Operations. "It will complement the clean electricity produced at the Bruce Power nuclear facilities. Neither source contributes to climate change or global warming."
Wind power may currently represent only a very small percentage of energy production in Canada, but it promises unlimited growth. According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, the global wind energy potential, even excluding environmentally sensitive areas, is roughly five times current global electricity use. Wind power is the world's fastest growing energy source with sustained growth rates exceeding 30% per year. At the beginning of 2002, world-wide wind-generated capacity exceeded 24,000 megawatts. Costs are down to between CN8¢ per kilowatt-hour and CN12¢ and falling steadily. With large-scale production, costs are predicted to drop to between CN 5.5¢ per kilowatt-hour and CN3.4¢.
Alberta, the oil and gas capital of Canada, and therefore a province with a huge investment in greenhouse emission production, is a leader in adopting wind power for practical application. In September, Calgary’s light rail transit switched to wind-generated electricity produced by Vision Quest Wind Electric Inc.. Vision Quest also contributes wind power to more than 3,000 residential and 200 commercial clients through a private Alberta electric utility and operates sixty-seven wind turbine power plants in Alberta, most with annual production of about 2 million kilowatt-hours each.
This year, Canadians across the country found out how unreliable and expensive existing electricity production can be. Wind power will not completely replace Canada’s dependency on other generation methods, but it will provide a practical, low-cost source of reliable energy. More and more Canadians will join the growing number of property and business owners who build or own a turbine.
Just remember, wind turbines have reliability rates greater than 98%, which puts them on par with Canada’s icon of reliability -- the present-day farm tractor. A nice thought in black outs and brown outs!