What do you do when the wind isn’t blowing?
Wind is a perfect complement to water power. When the wind is blowing, you store the water behind the dam. And when it is calm, you release the water and generate power at the dam. Canada has a lot of existing water power generation. In most of Canada, there would be no need to build any back-up generating capacity, since the water storage already exists locally, or in a nearby province. In addition, wind turbines generate their power when it is most needed. Winds in Canada are stronger in the winter, so power generated by wind turbines is higher in the winter. This is also the time of peak power demand, as electricity is in greater demand for heating and lighting. Wind also generates more power during the day than at night. This again matches peak loads.
Wind turbines produce power in wind speeds above about 13 km/hour. In most places where wind turbines are located, the wind would be above this speed 70-80% of the time. Production then increases until it hits a maximum power produced at 55 km/hour. Wind turbines will typically shut down at wind speeds above 90 km/hour for safety reasons. These numbers will vary depending on the model of turbine selected.
Yes and no. Many US states have net metering laws, that require the utility to allow you to connect. On a windy day, when your power use is low, you can run your meter backwards. And on calm days, you purchase power from the utility as usual. You then pay only on your net power consumed. Canadian provinces do not have net metering laws, so it is up to your local utility. Some of them allow it. Some don’t. The wind industry has been encouraging provinces to adopt net metering laws that would require utilities to connect small scale generators like wind and solar.
Natural Resources Canada estimates that Canada has almost 30,000 megawatts of developable wind resource. This compares to the current installed base of 200 MW, and would be enough to supply 15% of Canada’s electricity supply. Since Canada gets less than 25% of its power from fossil fuels, generating 15% of our power from the wind would reduce fossil fuel emissions (mostly coal) dramatically. In addition, many in the industry believe the wind resource is far greater than this. With wind, literally, the sky is the limit.
Studies have shown that the average wind turbine kills 2 birds per year. This is less than the average car or house cat. In addition, wind turbines have no air or water emissions. So replacing other forms of generation with wind generation improves the environment, and therefore improves the survival rates of all species, compared to traditional sources of generation.
The current generation of turbines is quieter than in the past. The sound heard is the “swoosh, swoosh, swoosh” of the passing blades, similar to the waves on a beach, only more regular. There is virtually no mechanical sound from a modern wind turbine. You can carry on a conversation at the base of a wind turbine without difficulty. Still, you should locate turbines at a sufficient distance from residences so as to avoid conflicts with neighbours.
Virtually all regions of Canada have areas with good wind resources. Production from wind increases with the cube of the wind speed, so 10% higher wind speed provides 30% more production. Therefore, it is important to find the best winds. Oceans and large lakes, wide open prairies, and certain hill or mountain areas often have good winds. Canada has commercial wind turbines in five provinces and the Yukon, and there are plans for further installations in almost all the rest of the provinces.