December 11, 2012
The Observer
John Miner

Official says wind power prospects excellent

The wind turbine industry is talking water.

For years, wind energy development has been successfully promoted for its environmental benefits — generating electricity without greenhouse gas emissions or other air pollutants.

But now the head of the association that represents more than 400 wind energy companies in Canada says one of the biggest benefits is that turbines don’t need water to work.

“Wind energy will help to reduce our growing thirst for fresh water in the energy business,” Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said at a media briefing session Tuesday.

The International Energy Agency has estimated 66 billion cubic litres of water were consumed globally to produce energy in 2010 and that number is projected to increase 85% by 2035.

A CanWea study in Alberta found that a 150-megawatt wind farm uses 480 million fewer litres of water a year than a gas facility of the same size, Hornung said.

The water argument could be crucial for the industry as governments across Canada weigh how they’ll fulfil their electricity needs after 2016. Ontario is expected to start its energy review in 2013.

Hornung said wind energy will be in a competitive position with its costs dropping and energy efficiency increasing.

He said wind energy is more cost competitive than new nuclear generation, small hydro developments and coal, when carbon capture and storage is factored in.

In the short term, the prospects for wind energy in Canada are excellent, he said.

The industry set a record for wind energy development in 2011 and is close to matching that again in 2012. Next year is expected to be another record year, with most of the new development taking place in Quebec and Ontario.

Development this year was slower than expected in Ontario, with wind farms taking longer than anticipated to gain permit approvals.

That was due in part to opponents, who appealed the permits granted to wind farms, Hornung said.

So far, wind energy developers have won all the appeals, he said.

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Wind energy in Ontario

  • Ontario has 1,093 turbines, producing 2,020 megawatts, the most in Canada.
  • Four new projects were completed in 2012.
  • Nine projects are scheduled for 2013, adding more than 400 MW