Alberta’s electricity future blowin’ in the wind

Conference on wind energy told
Alberta has great potential for
more wind power

By Nola Keeler, CBC News Posted: May 09, 2017 1:44 PM MTLast Updated: May 09, 2017 1:44 PM MT

Alberta could see up to nearly a third of its energy coming from wind generation and other renewable energy sources in the next 15 years.

Alberta could see up to nearly a third of its energy coming from wind generation and other renewable energy sources in the next 15 years. (CBC)

Alberta has huge potential to produce clean energy from wind but so far it is largely untapped, delegates to a conference on wind-generated electricity were told in Edmonton Tuesday.

Even though Alberta was the site of Canada’s first commercial wind farm in 1993, it has fallen behind other provinces in wind power.

Both Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island get more of their electricity from wind than Alberta does.

Right now, Alberta has 901 wind turbines with total capacity to generate 1,479 megawatts of electricity, about six per cent of electricity demand.

But with the province phasing out coal-generated electricity, there is big potential for growing the wind-power industry. The province is the largest market in Canada for new wind-power generating capacity.

“Wind is now the cheapest source of non-greenhouse gas emitting electricity in Canada and along with natural gas, it’s the cheapest source of electricity generation, period,” Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), told the organization’s Alberta Summit conference.

Wind no longer a ‘niche’ energy source

Over the last 10 years, there’s been more new wind generating electricity capacity built than any other form of generation, Hornung said.

“So it’s really moved from being a niche source of energy like it was when Alberta got started, to now it’s very much in the mainstream and one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the world.”

Even more traditional sources of electricity are getting on board with wind power, said Mark Salkeld, president and CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada.

“It’s business opportunity, absolutely,” Salkeld said. “It’s the entrepreneurial spirit of Albertans, of Canadians to see these opportunities. They’re not being kicked and dragged into this energy mixed future. They’re leading the charge.”

Mix of energy sources needed

Canada needs a mix of different types of energy in the future, he said.

“We’re going to need wind, we’re going to need oil and gas, for generations yet to come.”

CanWEA says Alberta’s demand for energy from renewable, green sources is expected to triple to as much as 30 per cent in the next 15 years.

The industry is also looking at the possibility of one day exporting wind energy, said Hornung.

He said wind power could provide a lot of benefits to the Alberta economy.

“That promises some real benefits for Albertans, the communities that host the projects, but Alberta overall in terms of new economic opportunities.”