Earlier this year, Canada became one of only seven nations in the world to surpass 10 GW of wind power capacity, and wind energy's growing cost-competitiveness in the country has set the stage for Canada's next 10 GW, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).
CanWEA, which is hosting its 31st annual conference and exhibition in Toronto this week, notes that Canada hit the 10 GW mark when the 270 MW K2 Wind project near Goderich, Ontario, came online.
During the conference's educational sessions, delegates discussed the framework behind CanWEA's Pan-Canadian Wind Integration Study, which CanWEA says identifies operational and planning strategies to ensure reliable and efficient integration of at least 20% wind energy in Canada – boosting its capacity well beyond the current 10 GW mark.
CanWEA says surpassing the 10 GW milestone is part of another banner year for wind energy in Canada, with approximately 1.5 GW of new capacity expected to come online by the end of this year, led by new installations in Ontario and Quebec. This year's new additions come on top of a record year in 2014, when 37 projects totaling 1,871 MW were brought online.
"Government, policymakers and utilities of today are looking to balance cost-effective electricity supply with growing pressure to clean up their power grids and diversify their generation mix," said Jean-Francois Nolet, CanWEA's vice president of policy and communications.
"The Alberta government, with its recent pledge to act on climate change and diversify its economy, is a good example of opportunities on the horizon to integrate more renewables," continued Nolet. "As an industry, we're better positioned than ever to respond to these challenges."
Nolet provided a number of examples of where the evolution of the industry is creating opportunities. He pointed to the contracts awarded late last year in Hydro-Quebec's most recent request for proposals (RFP), which set a new low average price for wind in Canada of 6.3 cents/kWh. Regarding Ontario, he referenced the industry's confidence that further evidence of the wind energy's cost-competitiveness will be apparent when Ontario awards contracts through the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)-led Large Renewable Procurement program later this year.
"Wind energy, as the last Quebec RFP proved, is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in many Canadian provinces," Nolet said. Even in markets where natural gas generation might be cheaper, he added, wind energy provides a hedge against inevitable rising carbon costs.
During the CanWEA conference, leaders also highlighted the economic benefits of wind energy in Ontario.
According to the results of a new study released on the event's opening day, wind energy in the province will have stimulated over C$14 billion in economic activity in the province by 2030 – providing well-paying jobs to thousands of workers and injecting millions of dollars directly into local economies.
The Ontario-focused study, titled Wind Dividends – An Economic Impact Analysis from Ontario's Wind Procurements, was prepared for CanWEA by Compass Renewable Energy Consulting Inc. using an economic model developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
"Ontario made the decision years ago to carve out a leading role in the growing clean energy economy, and it is paying off," CanWEA President Robert Hornung told conference attendees. "We have long known that wind energy is one of the most environmentally sustainable sources of electricity available today, and this study provides proof positive that it generates significant economic benefits, as well."
"Ontario has become a North American leader in renewable energy and a cleantech manufacturing powerhouse," said Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, during the conference's opening keynote address. "Our government maintains a strong commitment to wind energy, and we appreciate an ongoing partnership with CanWEA in building a greener supply mix and a stronger wind energy sector in Ontario."
According to CanWEA, the Ontario study found that in the 25 years from 2006-2030, total economic output from wind project investment in the province will top C$14 billion, including C$110 million that will flow directly into local economies in the form of land lease payments, municipal property taxes and community vibrancy funds. The industry will create 72,000 full-time equivalents, paying over C$5 billion in wages and benefits over the 25 years, the group adds.
"Ontario's choice to be the leading wind energy market in Canada has returned many economic benefits," said Hornung. "As other jurisdictions consider a greater penetration of wind energy in their electricity systems, "this study clearly shows that the economic benefits associated with wind energy development are significant."
Inside photo courtesy of CanWEA: Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli speaking during the opening keynote address.