Harnessing energy from the wind has been around for centuries with some of the first windmills used in Europe back in the 1700s! Today, wind power is increasingly helping Canada meet its energy needs by supplementing and sometimes replacing conventional non-renewable sources of energy. Wind power not only helps ensure a sound supply of energy, but it's also an environmentally friendly solution to electrical generation.
Currently, Canada's installed wind power capacity is 440 megawatts, which is still less than 1% of the country's overall electrical generation. But wind power projects are growing, especially in Ontario. Last year, the Ontario government made a commitment to build 335 megawatts of wind power, representing about 237 wind turbines. These wind energy projects are an important step in meeting Ontario's commitment to have 5% renewable energy in place by 2007. To learn more about Canadian wind energy projects, visit the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
Energy from wind is captured through a turbine that converts wind power into electricity. Stand-alone turbines for residential, agricultural, and business use come in a variety of sizes, each with the capacity to service different needs. They include:
- "Micro Systems" (100 watts or less) which can power lights, electric fences, radios and other small devices.
- "Mini Systems" (100 watts to 10 kilowatts) which can supply power to cottage/domestic water pumps, emergency lighting, alarm systems, small refrigerators and other medium size devices.
- "Small Systems" (10 kilowatts to 50 kilowatts) these turbines are large enough to supply energy to farms and businesses and can even sustain small camps.
- "Grid-Connected Systems" are large-scale wind projects with the goal of supplying the electrical market with electrical generation.
If you see wind energy in your future, it's important to do your homework first. First, you should assess whether wind energy is feasible in your area by performing an "anemometer study." This study measures how often the wind blows in your area and at what speed. Don't move forward without getting this assessment done!
Once you have a good review of your project’s site, research how much energy you need in order to determine the best size turbine. Do you need power everyday? What's your maximum power requirement? By combining the information from your anemometer study with your estimated power needs, you can explore which turbine is the right one for you.
To learn more about investing in wind power, please visit Natural Resources Canada for a lot of great information.