Canada can get more than one-third of its electricity from wind energy without compromising grid reliability – and at the same time, realize economic and environmental benefits, says a long-anticipated wind integration study issued by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).
According to CanWEA, the Pan-Canadian Wind Integration Study (PCWIS) is the first to take a detailed national, system-level look at the production costs and benefits of high wind energy penetration in Canada and helps identify potential operational challenges and the most efficient solutions.
The study presents utilities, system operators and policymakers with a technical platform showing data they’ve never had access to before so that they may learn about the development of provincial, regional and North American energy policies that are realistically achievable and technically sound.
“Understanding the implications of integrating a greater amount of wind energy into Canada’s electrical system contributes to our goal of developing clean energy resources and moving our country towards a low-carbon economy,” says the Honourable Jim Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources. “The Government of Canada supports clean energy technologies that encourage energy efficiency, bring cleaner renewable energy onto a smarter electricity grid, and promote sustainable economic growth and competitiveness.”
The study considers four pan-Canadian scenarios with wind energy supplying between 5% and 35% of the country’s forecast system load in 2025, including power flows across the border. The analysis concludes that 20% and 35% wind penetrations can be achieved in a reliable and efficient manner.
“Affordable, reliable, zero-emission electricity generation, like wind energy, will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by helping to clean the electricity grid so that clean electricity can be used to power vehicles, buildings and industry and generate export opportunities,” says Robert Hornung, CanWEA’s president. “This technical study contributes to our understanding of how we can make the most effective use of a valuable, but underutilized, clean energy resource to make the kinds of deep emissions cuts ultimately needed to address climate change.”
With respect to the estimated cost of new transmission tie-lines between provinces and between Canada and the U.S. needed to accommodate high penetrations of wind, the findings show that costs would be recovered within a few years. Further, the additional backup generation required to balance wind energy’s variability is shown to be modest, amounting to a small fraction of total wind generating capacity.
At the installation levels studied, wind production displaces output from the most expensive and least efficient power plants, which the scenarios show to be mostly natural gas- and coal-fired generation.
The economic benefits of the wind resources in the study scenarios have two components. Firstly, there is a reduction in production costs in Canada as a result of displacing thermal generation with wind energy. Secondly, there are revenues from increased exports to the U.S. The study did not quantify investment costs of new generation or its interconnection.
“The project confirms Canada has high-quality wind resources in all provinces and makes laudable contributions to the study and understanding of wind integration issues,” explains Charlie Smith, executive director for the utility variable-generation integration group and an active member of the study’s technical advisory committee. “A notable example is its examination of what changes can be made in the operations and forecasting of existing thermal and hydroelectric generation to take advantage of available wind energy in a cost-effective way.”
“The project team included among their efforts a number of sensitivity analyses to confirm the PCWIS results are robust and dependable; the Canadian wind resource is outstanding and matches the load over the course of a year remarkably well,” adds DNV GL’s Dariush Faghani, project advisor to CanWEA.
GE executed the project in partnership with Vaisala, Electranix, EnerNex and Knight Piésold. Guidance was provided by CanWEA, DNV GL and a technical advisory committee, which includes representatives from the following groups:
- Alberta Electric System Operator;
- BC Hydro;
- Independent Electricity System Operator;
- ISO-New England;
- Manitoba Hydro;
- Midcontinent Independent System Operator;
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory;
- New York Independent System Operator;
- Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group; and
- Western Electricity Coordinating Council.
The PCWIS was co-funded by CanWEA and Natural Resources Canada through the ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative, while Environment and Climate Change Canada provided data and modeling input.
The Pan-Canadian Wind Integration Study is available on the CanWEA website.