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Canadian Renewable Energy Poised for Growth

Canada is emerging as a North American leader in the exploration and use of renewable energy resources - wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and water.

Location Canada 2011
Richly blessed with traditional energy sources (oil, gas, coal, forests), Canada is now emerging as a North American leader in the exploration and use of a variety of renewable energy resources - wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and water - building up the world's green economy.

The Global Wind Energy Council's recently released "Global Wind Report 2010" says Canada's wind energy industry added 690 MW of installed wind energy capacity in 2010 - anchoring the nation in ninth place globally for both new and overall installed capacity. In fact, wind energy has increased almost tenfold in the last six years in Canada. Currently the nation's total installed wind energy capacity is 4,285 MW, thanks to 2,570 wind turbines busy turning at 131 wind farms.

"Wind energy is.still a relatively new contributor to Canada's electricity supply," says Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). While 2010's results are encouraging, "we look forward to even greater growth in 2011 and beyond," he notes. According to CanWEA, Canada's wind energy production is expected to triple in the next five years, while North America's total installed capacity is expected to more than double and reach 94.2 GW. Canada's 2010 contribution to wind energy represents $1.7 billion in new investment, and new projects have been commissioned in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Last December, it was announced that Siemens had chosen Tillsonburg, Ontario - the provincial leader in installed wind energy capacity - as the site for the province's first wind turbine blade manufacturing plant. The facility will create 300 full-time manufacturing jobs, and up to 600 regional construction and indirect services jobs.

Canada's solar thermal and solar photovoltaic (PV) industry sectors are poised to experience exceptional growth according to the "Solar Vision 2025" report released in December 2010 by the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA).

According to David Eisenbud, chair of CanSIA's board of directors, "By 2025, solar energy expects to be widely deployed throughout Canada, having already achieved market competitiveness and no longer needing government incentives." Also by that date, he believes solar will be supporting more than 35,000 jobs and displacing 15-31 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

Recently Canadian Solar Inc. and SkyPower Limited announced agreements to create three solar parks in Ontario, a solar power leader in North America. Plans call for the firms to build a 10.5 MW solar park in Napanee - which is already home to First Light Solar Park, Canada's first fully operational solar park developed by SkyPower and SunEdison Canada - plus an 8.5 MW solar park on Thunder Bay International Airport Authority land, and a 10.5 MW project in Thunder Bay on Fort William First Nation land.

The three projects are scheduled for completion by third quarter 2011. Once operational, they're expected to generate about 28 million KWh their first full year of operation and nearly 600 million KWh total over the next 20 years. This is equivalent to producing enough electricity to power almost 50,000 homes and a CO2 offset of taking nearly 90,000 cars off the road over the initial 20 years of the project.

Natural geothermal energy found within the Earth is subdivided into three temperature groups. Low (0-30º C) and medium (30º-80ºC) temperatures can condition buildings, while high temperatures (greater than 80ºC) can generate electricity.

The Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC,, Canada's national association for geothermal heating and cooling, says this well-developed industry is now recognized as a "solid option" by both residential and commercial customers. CGC estimates that more than 80,000 ground-source heat pump systems are installed throughout Canada, with the provinces of Ontario and Quebec accounting for more than 80 percent of pumps installed nationwide in the past four years.

Yet, most naturally occurring high-temperature geothermal resources ideal for producing electricity are located in British Columbia. Although no electricitygenerating geothermal power plants currently operate in Canada, the South Meager Creek pilot project near Pemberton, B.C., shows promise. If this high-temperature resource is fully developed, it could potentially support up to a 100 MW power plant capable of providing electricity to power 80,000 households. The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CANGEA,, Canada's expert group on geothermal power generation, has more information.

Renewable biomass energy stored in organic matter is found in forest and agricultural crop "residues," livestock manure, and even landfill waste. Traditionally used as simple cooking fuel, these days it also generates electricity and heat for commercial, industrial, and residential purposes, and provides fuel for vehicles. The Canadian Bioenergy Association estimates bioenergy meets at least 6 percent of the country's electrical needs.

Biofuels are increasingly taking on larger roles in the nation's renewable energy strategic plans. In 2007, the federal government announced a government biofuels initiative that will invest up to $1.5 billion over nine years to boost Canada's biofuels production.

Last May, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association's "Total Economic Impact Assessment of Biofuels Plants in Canada" report noted that the 28 renewable fuels plants in Canada now operating (or under construction in 2010) provide 2.25 billion liters of renewable fuels annually; generate gross annual economic benefits to the Canadian economy of $2.14 billion; and create 1,038 direct/indirect jobs annually.

With an abundance of offshore and inland marine resources, Canada is also poised to be a worldwide leader in marine energy. Natural Resources Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are now engaged in research to identify and understand the potential effects of marine energy on the environment, and determine how best to harness this renewable resource.

So, too, is the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition (OREC), which works with utilities and innovators to create technologies for moving ocean energy from research to reality. OREC Executive Director Chris Campbell says the tides of Canada's three oceans hold 40,000 MW of energy, and the waves on the beaches of British Columbia hold 20,000 MW of energy. "There's a big question mark thus far in terms of energy in the rivers," he adds.

In March 2010, the National Research Council of Canada and Canadian Hydraulics Centre released "Assessment of Canada's Hydrokinetic Power Potential" - the first of three reports investigating the nation's hydrokinetic power capabilities. (Hydrokinetic systems convert kinetic energy from flowing water into electricity or other energy forms.) The document concludes there is "significant interest in hydrokinetic or in-stream river potential in Canada" for power production using zero head turbines requiring no dams or barrages.

Noting that Canada's vast network of rivers has been harnessed to generate electricity from hydropower for over 100 years, the report adds it also likely contains "significant" hydrokinetic potential for power production. Currently, however, market potential for this technology in Canada is "unknown."

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