Wind and solar energy in Calgary
Alberta is responding to the world’s growing demand for affordable, renewable and environmentally friendly energy. Companies across the province are finding innovative ways to use abundant and renewable resources such as wind and solar energy.
Calgary is seen to be a leader in wind energy production across Canada. Calgary wind energy firms own or operate over 50 per cent of Canada’s installed wind generation facilities. As a province, Alberta has also been a pioneer in wind production and boasts a current installed wind production capacity of 656 MW. An additional 1,040 MW of new generation capacity is currently contracted and under construction in Alberta and over 7,800 MW of wind projects are currently in the queue for future connection to the grid by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO). This is more than double the current installed production capacity for Canada (3,457 MW).
There are currently over 50 major wind generation projects planned across Alberta that have achieved approval for connection to the grid by 2015. In addition, Calgary is home to Canada’s premier wind developers who are active in both Alberta and other global markets.
With Alberta being one of the sunniest provinces in Canada, tremendous potential exists for the solar industry to become a key energy industry in Calgary. Solar power has a long history in Alberta’s oil and gas industry where it is used to power remote monitoring and control systems. However, steady cost reductions have now made solar power a very attractive option for mainstream grid tied systems as well.
According to the Canadian Solar Industries Association, Canada’s total Photo Votaliac (PV) solar power installed capacity reached 94.57 MW in 2009. In Alberta, most PV solar installations are off-grid installations in Alberta’s oil patch and there is growth being seen in large-scale PV solar installations.
Calgary is poised to benefit from micro-solar installations as material costs decline and the provincial microgeneration policy supports growth of the market. In Alberta, microgeneration is defined as up to one megawatt of electricity produced from renewable sources such as solar, small-scale hydro, wind or biomass. With Calgary being Canada’s sunniest city with over 333 days of sunshine a year, it is an ideal location for the growth of micro-solar installations and large scale PV solar installations.
As with many of the renewable energy sub-sectors in Calgary, local companies are developing innovative technology and practices in wind and solar energy. Interestingly, while there are many solar and wind energy projects across Canada, most of the firms operating these projects are based in Calgary.
Suncor, based in Calgary, is a Canadian pioneer in wind power with four wind farms in operation and other projects in the planning stages. The four farms have a generating capacity of 147 MW and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 284,000 tonnes each year. TransAlta, also based in Calgary, is Canada’s largest producer of wind power, operating over a third of the country’s installed wind capacity. In 2010, the firm achieved a major milestone of over 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity in Canada.
In solar energy, Calgary-based Sustainable Energy was formed to design, manufacture and distribute products based on a patented and proprietary power inverter platform which converts extra low voltage direct current inputs into grid quality power with high conversion efficiencies. The technology is unique as it enables solar PV systems to be designed so each module operates at its optimum power point under all conditions independently of the other modules in the system. This system reduces losses from partial shading of the modules due to normal building congestion, and eliminates losses resulting from variances in power output due to manufacturing tolerances. The result is significantly higher yields under real world conditions that can be obtained using conventional solar inverter technologies.