Renewable energy generation through wind power reached another significant milestone in June. Canada joined the club of nations with over 10 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind energy capacity becoming the seventh nation to do so. The other members of this exclusive club are China (the leader at over 114 GW of installed wind energy capacity), Germany, Spain, the US, India, and the United Kingdom.
The Ontario-based K2 Wind Power Project pushed Canada past 10GW of capacity as it went online earlier in the month, prompting Robert Hornung, the President of CanWEA, to say that “meeting the 10,000 MW milestone confirms that Canada is a global leader in wind energy development.”
Ontario is the Canadian provincial leader with 3.92 GW of installed wind energy capacity. Quebec comes in second with 2.88 GW, Alberta is third at 1.47 GW, and the remaining approximate 1.75 GW of capacity is spread throughout the provinces and territories. Every Canadian province along with the Yukon and the Northwest Territories have operating wind turbines, servicing over 100 communities and providing enough power to satisfy three million average Canadian homes for the year—comprising almost 5% of the total Canadian demand for electricity.
Wind energy has accounted for more of Canada’s new energy capacity over the last five years than any other type of energy generation, including hydro and solar. The annual average in new wind capacity is approximately 1.3 GW, with 2015 currently on track to beat that average.
CanWEA proclaims on its website that “The Data Is In: Wind Energy Has Become the Leading Choice for New Electricity Generating Capacity.” This page contains a convincing graph depicting the contributions of alternate energy sources over the last five years in replacing traditional coal-fired power plants. While all alternatives—gas, combined cycle turbine, nuclear, wind, hydro and solar—have shown steady increases (with the exception of nuclear which has stayed flat), the rate of increase in wind installation has considerably outpaced that of the other replacement technologies.
The graph shows that in 2014 new wind installations provided more than twice the amount of new energy capacity compared to any other technology. According to CanWEA, the 5.69 GW of Canadian wind energy has been installed over the previous five years, contributing 38% of all new power-generating installations in Canada over that time period.
Given these statistics, it’s safe to say that Canadian wind energy is riding a wave of momentum. Can the momentum last, or will the wind die down (metaphorically speaking)? It seems likely that the momentum will continue.
Wind energy is trending upward in other areas of the world as well, creating a collective momentum as well as useful economies of scale. The growth of European wind power is even more robust than that of Canada. Wind Power in Europe finds that for the last fifteen years wind power has been the greatest source of new installed energy capacity throughout Europe. Over that time period 116.8 GW of new European wind energy capacity was installed. In 2014, wind accounted for a whopping 44% of the new European power installations at 11.8 GW.
There is a place for all renewable energy technologies in the transformation away from high-carbon footprint energy generation systems—but for the past few years, data shows that wind is taking the lead in generation capacity. If trends hold, wind energy will maintain that lead well into the future.