Friday, March 23, 2007

Wind Energy - A Substitute for Solar in the North

A good news to begin with - Wind power is the fastest growing segment of the renewable energy sources. :) Denmark generates 20% of its energy demands from wind power. Global wind energy capacity has sustained growth rates of over 25% (source: The Pembina Institute). And, Canada plans to generate 5% of its energy demands by 2010 from wind power.

For a few years now I had always wondered how the colder countries of the North like Canada, Sweden, Norway, etc. will be able to take advantage of solar energy. The reason is that both the availability of sunlight and the efficiency of solar panels go down drastically in those regions due to climatic conditions. I never realized that some of these countries are actually very lucky to have wind power like no where else in the world. Western Canada for example has abundant natural wind available year round that some of the hotter regions of north American doesn't have.

As expected of responsible corporations this energy source is now being invested and tapped into and being developed into a parallel revenue stream by some energy companies. Suncor, in Canada, has already been named as one of "10 Green Giants in Business" by Fortune magazine this year. It has invested in wind power for approximately 140 MW ( ) of power generation in Canada from wind power, although there was no mandate from any regulatory authority to do so. This is anticipated to reduce the CO2 emissions by 400,000 tonnes, half of which has already been achieved.

Here are three biggest advantages that a wind turbines and wind energy has:

  1. It has got very little footprint. Turbines can be installed in the rural areas and the land below them can still be used for farming.
  2. Energy partnership can be inked with the local farmers where the energy company promises the farmers a percentage of energy generated. This will not only ensure availability of land but also much needed power to the farmers, specially for irrigation.
  3. The cost of wind power or wind energy has come down to almost 4 cents per KWh, a decrease of 80% in the last 20 years.

Images are from Suncor website.