Canada's wind industry aims high

Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:23pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor and Nicole Mordant

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's wind energy sector has the lofty goal of supplying 20 percent of the country's electricity by 2025, but that target is out of reach without better financial and policy support, say industry executives.

There is more than mounting concern for the environment at stake, say wind companies attending the Canadian Wind Energy Association conference in Toronto this week.

Canada must bolster its wind business now because the cost of power from aging coal- and natural gas-fired generators is likely to climb with a move to carbon taxes, while the economic of wind energy are seen improving.

Moreover, Canada can capitalize on a rich geographical resource. A coastline that stretches more than 240,000 km (150,000 miles) and expansive stretches of open prairie land are ideal locations for wind generators.

"Canada has a lot of opportunities. It's got a great wind resource. It has a large hydro installed base ... Hydro and wind complement each other very nicely," said Vic Abate, vice-president of General Electric Co's renewable energy unit.

Hydroelectric power can help to offset the variability of wind speeds, which causes fluctuations in electricity production. When the wind blows the hydro power can be turned down; when the wind dies down, it can be cranked up.

Today, wind energy production accounts for just 1 percent of electricity demand in Canada, which has the world's sixth largest electricity system.

The bulk of Canada's electricity -- around 59 percent -- is by hydroelectric. Some 17 percent is coal-fired, 16 percent comes from nuclear reactors and 5 percent from natural gas, according to Environment Canada.   Continued...

<p>A view of a wind turbine in Shelburne, approximately 125 km (77 miles) north of Toronto, March 9, 2006. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski</p>