Wind is created by the sun. The sun heats our planet to different temperatures in different places and at different times. This unequal distribution of heat is what produces wind as warm air rises and cooler air descends to fill the void. Wind is the ongoing movement of this air.
Canada is a windy country, since mountains, plains and coastlines are all places of strong winds. Canada has some of the best onshore and offshore wind resources in the world, which fuel more than a hundred wind farms which represent just over 7,800 megawatts of total capacity. This means wind energy is supplying about 3% of national demand in 2013.
In Canada, wind energy is being captured across the country. In fact, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are all researching or developing wind energy as part of their energy mix.
- The province of Ontario ranks first in wind production.
- Alberta ranks 3rd in Canada for installed wind capacity.
- All of the electricity produced in Prince Edward Island comes from wind.
Wind turbines are used to harness the wind and generate electricity. Wind turns the turbine blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to the generator and makes electricity. A local transformer is then used to step up the electrical voltage, so that the electricity can then be sent through transmission and distribution lines to homes, businesses and other users.
Over the millennia, humans have captured wind to sail ships and power mills. Today, modern turbines convert wind to electricity. Humans have been harnessing the wind for centuries – using windmills to power corn mills, and water pumps for irrigation of crops and livestock. Today wind turbines are used to harness energy for commercial and residential use.
Single small turbines, up to 300 kilowatts, can be used in a variety of applications and are sometimes combined with other energy sources such diesel generators and solar photovoltaic systems to provide a reliable source of power.
Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation
Utility-scale turbines, 500 kilowatts and larger, are used to provide power to the electricity grid. These are often grouped together in wind farms or wind power plants.
- A wind turbine pays for itself in less than a year
- Durable, lasting up to 25 years
- Does not emit greenhouse gases, pollutants or waste
- Lowest overall life cycle CO2 emission of all energy sources
- Low maintenance costs
- Concrete base of a turbine has a small footprint
- Less construction material used than for many other sources of energy
- Up to 80% of a turbine can be recycled
- The amount of energy used to make, install and dispose of a turbine is the lowest of all renewable energy sources
- The wind sector heavily invests in potential environmental impact studies
- Estimated gross domestic product (GDP) contribution exceeds $1 billion
- Offshore turbines can create new underwater habitats
- Storage technologies need to be improved
- Does not produce energy on demand
- Not every location is appropriate for a wind farm
- Mortality rates in bats are higher in proximity of wind turbines
- Ground temperature and erosion may increase directly under a turbine
- Some residents do not want wind farms in their neighbourhood, either for aesthetic or health reasons
- More studies are needed to understand Wind Turbine Syndrome