Answering your questions about wind energy

Why Wind Works

A diverse selection of reliable, clean and renewable sources of energy will help Canada transition to a low-carbon economy.

Wind Energy in Canada

Wind energy is one of the fastest growing major sources of new electricity around the world. In 2015, clean wind energy grew by 23 per cent in Canada, representing over $3 billion in investment and creating 10,500 jobs. In 2015, Canada’s installed capacity surpassed the 10,000 MW threshold, establishing the industry’s position as a mainstream source of cost-competitive and reliable electricity supply.

Every Canadian province is now benefiting from clean wind energy.

Interactive image courtesy of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA)


Did You Know?

  • Wind energy is growing in more than 90 countries around the world at an average annual rate of 22 per cent a year because governments, citizens and electricity system operators alike have found a reliable, clean, and safe form of energy … and at a good price.
  • The Canadian Hydropower Association, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association and Marine Renewables Canada came together with Clean Energy Canada to establish the Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity. The Council engages in research, collaboration and communications initiatives to encourage dialogue for increased use of Canada’s abundant renewable electricity resources. Download a copy of Powering Climate Prosperity: Canada’s Renewable Electricity Advantage for the Councils recommendations on steps Canada must take to prevent average global temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius.
  • The Trottier Energy Futures Project looks at the changes we can make today to build a low-carbon, sustainable energy future for Canada while taking into account economic, social and environmental concerns.
  • Globally, a collaboration initiative of energy research is trying to understand how individual countries can transition to a low-carbon economy through The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project.

Wind Energy in Canada at a glance

Current installed capacity: 11,205 MW

Installed Capacity E
  • Current installed capacity: 11,205 MW
  • Wind Farms: 259
  • Wind turbines: 6,066
  • Current per cent of Canada’s domestic electricity demand met by wind: 5 per cent 
  • Equivalent number of Canadian homes powered by wind: over 3 million
Last updated December 2015

How a wind turbine works

Wind turbines work on the same principle that allows airplanes to fly. The wind doesn’t push the blades, but passes over them. The resulting pressure difference between the upper and lower surfaces creates lift, which causes the rotor to turn.

As the blades of a wind turbine turn, the kinetic energy of the wind is converted into mechanical energy, which is transmitted through a drive shaft to an electrical generator in the nacelle. The resulting electrical current travels via underground cables to a substation, where it is converted to a higher voltage for the larger electricity transmission or distribution grid. From there, it’s delivered to the electric utility and customers.

Find out how a wind turbine works by using the Harness the Power of Wind interactive image at the top of this page.

  • Wind energy is part of a “balanced energy diet” and is making a growing and positive contribution to our energy supply mix.  
  • Studies have shown that when a utility diversifies its power portfolio with the addition of wind energy, it can meet demands more reliably. 
  • Wind energy is a highly flexible form of electricity, and easily complements other sources of electricity such as hydro, solar or even natural gas. 
  • As more wind energy is added to the energy system the overall carbon dioxide emissions of the power grid will continue to drop.
Windfacts How Wind Works (1)

Did you know?

  • The blades typically start to turn when the wind speed reaches approximately13 km/h and shut down when the winds become too strong, usually around 90 km/h. That operating range means wind turbines produce electricity approximately 85 per cent of the time. How much they generate at any given point depends on the wind speed.
  • Wind farms are designed to last 25 years or longer and modern turbines require very little maintenance.
  • Often at the end of their life, wind turbines are “re-powered”, which involves replacing older equipment with newer technology; the re-powered wind farm will then last another 20 -25 years after that.

A balanced energy diet

Wind energy is a highly flexible form of electricity, and easily complements other sources of electricity such as hydro, solar and natural gas.

Windfacts Balanced Energy Diet
  • Wind energy is helping to create a more modern, cleaner and flexible electricity system in countries around the world and here in Canada. With a world-class wind resource, we are just scratching the surface of our clean wind potential! Canada needs a variety of reliable, clean and safe sources of new energy to meet our growing electricity demand and to help reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from our electricity sector.
  • Studies have shown that when a utility diversifies its power portfolio with the addition of wind energy, it can meet demands without reducing reliability.
  • As more wind energy is added to the energy system the overall air emissions of the power grid will continue to drop.

Did you know?

According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), wind energy’s contribution to the Ontario electricity system continues to climb. At approximately five per cent of the province’s electricity demand, Ontario was the first jurisdiction in North America to eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation. 


Reliable power partner

Wind energy is a reliable power partner

Windfacts Reliable Power Partner
  • Large amounts of wind energy are already being reliably and cost-effectively integrated with the electricity grid; utilities around the world continue to recognize the value wind energy can play within a larger interconnected electrical transmission system.
  • State-of-the-art wind forecasting techniques allow utilities and grid operators to anticipate and plan for increases or decreases in wind energy output.
  • With wind forecasting, changes in wind energy output are factored into grid operations much like variations in demand – both change over a matter of 30 minutes or even hours (not a matter of seconds, such as when fossil or nuclear plants trip unexpectedly off line, or a tree falls on a transmission).
  • Wind energy is a natural partner with hydro, Canada’s heritage energy asset. The wind blows strongest in winter when water reservoirs are lowest; water reserves are often highest when wind resources are typically lower. 

Did you know?

  • Based on real world operational experience, most electrical grids can obtain at least 20 per cent of their total electricity from wind energy without having to make substantial changes to the existing electrical grid. In fact, in some jurisdictions such as Denmark, wind has at times supplied 100 per cent of the electricity needs of the country.
  • "The experience of countries and regions that already have a high wind penetration (from 5 per cent to 20 per cent of gross electric energy demand) has been that the existing reserves are deployed more often after wind power is added to the system, but no additional reserve capacity is required”. (Wind Power Myths Debunked, Milligan et al., IEEE, 2009 v. 7, no. 6’)

Resources

Follow these topics in more detail using the following resources


Questions? We'll Answer

is it legal to place a windmill and connect it(so it povers your house) all by myself?
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why there are no combined wind-solar systems?it can be done by modifying the existing wind systems by adding stack effect solar thermal systems.
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Assets
Norstar Wind looks to produce the model NS 50-23. Any feedback about this machine?
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Dear sir Could you provide us contact or information about 50kw wind turbines produced by this canadian manufacter called: Norstar Wind Ontario?
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Does the Alberta Government allow Wind Farms on public lands yet? If not, it seems rather hypocritical to promote wind energy.
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Why hasn't Canada followed the immensely successful USA renewable energy 30% tax credit incentive? Will they now that Harper govt is out?
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