While turmoil grips the oil industry, wind energy is enjoying positive momentum. According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), 2014 represents a record increase in Canadian wind energy capacity for the second year in a row.
Nearly 1.9 GW in new capacity was added across five Canadian provinces over the past year. Ontario led the way with over half of the new wind energy capacity (just under 1 GW), while Quebec and Alberta added 460 MW and 350 MW respectively. With these additions, Canada has reached a total of 9.7 GW of online wind energy electrical generation capability—enough to power 3 million average Canadian homes annually.
Turbines from Siemens and General Electric, who combined for over half of 2014’s newly installed capacity, propelled most of the increase (pun intended). Siemens topped the group, with installations across Canada including South Kent (279 MW) and Grand Renewable (149 MW). The other projects were mostly split among turbines supplied by Vestas, Senvion, and Enercon.
This year looks to maintain the momentum, according to Robert Hornung, the President of CanWEA. Hornung projects at least 1,500 MW of new wind energy capacity to be added in 2015. Quebec alone has awarded contracts totaling 446 MW of capacity to be split between EDF EN Canada (using turbines from Vestas), Invenvergy (GE turbines) and RES Canada (Siemens turbines).
The Quebec contracts are cited as an example of the improving costs of wind energy. These projects were awarded with $0.063 Canadian/$0.052 U.S. as the average per kWh cost.When the project awards were announced in mid-December, Jean François Nolet, the Vice President of CanWEA, said, “We are glad to see Quebecers reaping the benefits of competition leading to highly advantageous prices.”
CanWEA argues that even with added transportation costs that raise the average price to $0.076 Canadian/$0.063 U.S., the selected wind projects bring increased value over major hydroelectric projects that are currently being constructed.
Hornung expects further improvements in 2015 through new climate change initiatives, as well as expectations of new wind contractawards in Ontario. The minimum prediction for 2015 would break the trend of the last two years—currently CanWEA is predicting 1.5 GW capacity increase for 2015 compared to just under 1.6 GW for 2013 and 1.871 MW last year—but the positive momentum in the Canadian wind market is still tangible even if a new capacity increase record is not achieved in 2015.
The 37 projects completed throughout 2014 constituted investments of more than $3.5 billion throughout the provinces. According to Hornung, “Wind energy has now brought economic growth and diversification to more than 100 rural communities across Canada.” Benefits include revenue streams from land-lease incomes that directly benefit local farmers and landowners to tax revenue incomes that benefit the overall community.
The Canadian capacity increase is in keeping with recent energy trends. Canada is doing its part to meet the 2011 prediction of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in the headline “Onshore Wind Energy to Reach Parity with Fossil-Fuel Electricity by 2016.”
The Bloomberg report cites underlying factors for the recent improvements, such as the combination of falling turbine costs and increased capacity per turbine, that help wind energy chip away at the market share of fossil fuels.
Overall, it was a good year for the Canadian wind energy industry and things are continuing to look up. Whether 2015 and 2016 are also record setting years for wind energy capacity increases remains to be seen—but given the overall trends in renewable energy policies and improving cost factors, it’s certainly a possibility.