Wind energy is one of the fastest growing energy resources in the world. It is an efficient and emission-free renewable energy resource that is already used widely in many different regions across the globe. In Atlantic Canada, proximity to coastlines and isolated ridges provide the region with a wealth of wind energy resources and the opportunity to further expand and diversify our energy portfolio.
Wind energy is generated by turbines, which are often found in clusters called wind farms. The turbines stand between 60 and 90 metres (200 to 300 feet) high and can generate up to 3.3MW of electricity. The amount of wind a turbine is able to generate is determined by the speed and force of the wind. This means that the location of the turbine plays a key role in determining the amount of energy generated. The following maps show wind speeds at 80m above ground level – the height at which many turbines stand. To produce a maximum amount of energy wind turbines are placed where wind speeds are the highest.
One of the leading challenges associated with wind energy is known as load balancing. The output generated by a wind turbine depends on the speed of the wind, which may not be constant. The inconsistency of wind results means more energy is generated when wind speeds are high and less energy is generated when wind speeds are low. These peaks and dips in wind speeds (and therefore wind energy) occur naturally and may not coincide with fluctuations in the regular demand for energy. This can create unbalanced energy loads which, with wind energy specifically, can be difficult to store and stabilize.
Despite the load balancing challenges, wind energy continues to see substantial growth across the globe. In Atlantic Canada, wind energy has been deployed in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia since the early 2000’s, generating up to 64MW and 68MW, respectively. In New Brunswick, four large wind farms are currently being developed in Aulac, Lamèque, Caribou Mountain, and Kent Hills and are expected to begin operation in late 2009 and 2010. Together these wind farms will provide the province with up to approximately 400MW of renewable energy, placing the Government of New Brunswick within reach of their goal to have 10% of all energy consumed be produced from renewable sources by 2016.
The four developing wind farms mark the beginning of wind energy’s role in the Energy Hub story. In the future, wind energy has the potential to play an even greater role, with the Province of New Brunswick’s aggressive strategy that would see up to 4500MW of wind energy produced in the province by 2025. An installment of 4500MW means New Brunswick would be the sixth largest producer of wind energy in the world according to 2007 installed capacity levels.
This exciting opportunity could more than double the province’s current electrical generating capacity and would contribute to the further diversification of the region’s energy portfolio. An investment into renewable energy of such magnitude would create both environmental and economic benefits for the region, particularly the opportunity to export this safe, environmentally-friendly energy surplus to other regions throughout the international northeast.