Wind Power

Wind power was the first of the second generation renewables to become cheaper than coal, and as a result its popularity has absolutely exploded in the last 15 years. British Columbia has many excellent locations for wind farms, but wind power expansion has been slow compared to some other provinces and some other countries.

Image Source: Sungjin Kim / Moment

Wind Power

By the Numbers

40 x

Number of times over that wind power could supply all the world's electricity

2 Megawatts

Generating capacity of today's average wind turbine


Number of 2 MW wind turbines needed to replace 1,000 MW of coal or gas fired power


of all electricity in Denmark provided by wind power

486 Gigawatts

Worth of wind farms in operation around the world by 2016


Increase in total wind capacity between 2000 and 2016

Last Updated: February 2017

Andrew Farris

Humans have harnessed wind power for thousands of years, using sails to propel ships and windmills to pump water. It has, however, only been in the past 40 years that wind has been viewed as a viable way to generate electricity on a grand scale.

The appeal of deriving power from the wind is obvious: the wind is free, inexhaustible, and always blowing somewhere. The modern wind turbine, pioneered by American and Danish companies following the oil shocks of the 1970s, employed the tried and true angled propeller used by aircraft, to catch the wind, spin, and then use the rotational motion to drive an electric generator. Although other designs exist, the propeller-based Horizontal-Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT) is the one most commonly associated with wind power. Its primacy has been cemented in recent years by its continued technological development.

Like all second generation renewable energy technologies, wind power technology developed slowly through the 1980s and into the 1990s. In the past fifteen years however wind has become the first of these new technologies to reach economic competitiveness with fossil-fuel based forms of electricity generation. As a result, worldwide interest has surged. Generating capacity exploded from 6.1 gigawatts in 1996 to 468 gigawatts in 2016, so that now wind produces over 3% of the world's electricity. Ninety-eight percent of these wind farms are onshore as offshore wind farms are not quite as economically competitive.

Denmark, one of the world leader in wind power, already gets approximately 42% of its electricity from wind turbines, both onshore and offshore. Wind power is expected to continue growing for at least another decade alongside other renewables, such as solar. Canada has been moving up the leader table in wind power in recent years, and now has the 7th most installed capacity, 2.6% of the world’s total wind turbines. Plans for the continued development of wind farms are on the board in all the provinces and territories, with Ontario and Quebec leading the way. B.C. was the last province to take to wind power, but its geography makes it well-suited for wind power generation; with long coastlines, large plains and mountains generating high wind speeds. Four wind farms have been built since 2009 and a fifth, the largest, is currently under construction.

Wind does face many challenges. Even though wind turbines are massive, standing hundreds of metres tall, they only generate a comparatively small amount of energy: The typical turbine being built right now has a name-plate capacity of a mere 2 MW, but they are growing. The problem of irregular windiness and periods of no wind is known as intermittency and it brings the 2 MW generating capacity closer to 0.6-0.8 MW. That means in order to completely replace a single 1,000 MW coal power plant, over 1,200 2 MW wind turbines will have to be built, a considerable industrial undertaking.

Residents living near proposed wind farms often oppose them on visual grounds, or because of the irritating swishing noise they make. Some commentators claim the high and low frequency noises made by the turbines can cause a range of health problems, even cancer. Numerous studies have found these concerns to be unfounded. In at least one case the idea of wind turbine syndrome has been promoted by fossil fuel lobbying groups. The swiftly rotating blades have also been known to kill birds, though studies show this issue has also been overblown and is mostly linked to older and now obsolete wind farm designs.

Wind farm developers are rapidly improving the integration of wind-based electricity into the power grid. Progress is being made in terms of development, improved efficiency of turbines and getting locals on board with installation in public areas.

As a result many governments are putting their faith in wind power. Germany, the USA, France, India and Turkey all installed over 1,000 MW of wind power in 2016. China, has invested enormously in wind and is now the world leader and as of 2016 a third of all the world’s wind turbines are in China. In 2010 they announced an ambitious plan to install 100 GW of wind capacity by 2020. Instead they've rocketed past that target, hitting 168 GW by the end of 2016. The field of wind energy is moving extremely rapidly and growing in leaps and bounds. Because of this wind is likely to play an increasingly prominent role in our energy economy.

  1. Global Wind Energy Council, “Global Installed Wind Power Capacity (MW).” 2016.
  2. Global Wind Energy Council, “Wind in Numbers.” 2015.
  3. Krohn, 2009.
  4. Jacobsen, 2016.
  5. Global Wind Energy Council, “Global Installed Wind Power Capacity (MW).” 2016.
  6. Wikipedia, “List of wind farms in Canada.”
  7. Renewable Energy Source, "Debate on The Wind Energy Challenge."
  8. Global Wind Energy Council, “Global Wind Statistics 2016.”

How Wind Power Works

  • Winds are caused by the sun's heating of the earth, and the earth's rotation.
  • 90% of the world's turbines are the Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine design (HAWT) and have a big propeller.
  • 10% of wind turbines are Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT) that come in many designs and good in built up areas.
  • Small wind turbines can be purchased individually and are popular in some rural areas.

The Wind

The winds that travel around the earth have two different driving mechanisms. The first mechanism is uneven heating of the earth by the sun: equatorial latitudes receive more of the Sun's rays than the polar latitudes. The differential heating of the earth leads to variations in atmospheric pressure; wind is simply the rush of atmospheric gases from high pressure areas to low pressure areas. In this sense wind power is actually another form of solar power. The second mechanism is the rotation of the earth, which, through the Coriolis Effect, causes air to be deflected from the north-south wind patterns and creates winds that blow east and west. At high altitudes winds caused by these two forces are quite constant but lower to the earth's surface the topography (ie. mountains and oceans) distorts the winds and causes it to move in more complicated patterns.

Horizontal-Axis Wind Turbines

There are two main designs of wind turbines that capture the wind's energy. The basic, most commonly used wind turbine, the Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT) is rather simple, using large angled propeller blades to catch the wind. When the wind passes through the blades, it causes the entire blade assembly, known as a rotor, to spin around a central nacelle atop a tall tower. Inside the nacelle is housed a gearbox which converts the low-speed incoming rotational force into high-speed outgoing rotational force, powerful enough to run an electrical generator also housed in the nacelle.

At left is a Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine and at right a schematic of the turbine's blade assembly and nacelle.
Metaefficient: Guide to Efficient Living

Modern wind turbines employ a number of refinements that make them safer and more efficient than their predecessors just 20 years ago. The nacelles on most HAWT turbines can be controlled to face into the wind where they will have the greatest efficiency. On small turbines this can be done with an anemometer, while at large wind farms more elaborate computer-controlled systems are used. In stormy conditions, when winds are extremely high, the rotor can be damaged, and the blades are faced perpendicular to the wind in order to keep them from spinning out of control. Brakes can also be employed to keep the blades from spinning too fast.

Many of the newest utility-grade wind turbines are very tall. That way they can access the winds higher off the ground, which are stronger and more constant. They also have longer blades, increasing efficiency through a larger area interacting with the wind. The most common 2 MW turbine is usually between 40 to 60 metres tall. They are getting bigger and more powerful though: The most powerful wind turbine in the world, the Vestas V164, just entered production in Denmark. At 220 metres it’s as tall as a 62-storey building. 7 MW turbines built by Siemens are likely to become the standard for offshore farms in the near future. A number of wind turbine manufacturers around the world are racing to build the turbines bigger, with 10 and 20 MW designs in the pipeline.

Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines

A type of Darrieus VAWT mounted atop a building. These are efficient at catching wind coming from many directions at different speeds.
Energy Insight

There is another wind turbine design that has been developed alongside the HAWT: the Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT). Though comprising only about 10% of modern wind turbines currently in operation, there are a wider variety of VAWT designs. The designs include the Darrieus, Giromill and Savonius turbines. They all work on the same basic principle: the rotors spin around a central vertical tower, generating power for the gearbox and generator located at the base of the tower.

Three examples of the many different kinds of Vertical Axis Wind Turbines. A is a Darrieus, B a Giromill and C a Savonius.

The disadvantages of VAWTs are the reason they have such a small market share. Generally VAWTs are less efficient than the HAWTs since, as they are placed perpendicular to the wind, when one side is being blown by the wind, the other is moving in the opposite direction against the wind. As a result the power coefficient of modern VAWTs average 0.3-0.4, while the newest HAWTs have an efficiency of 0.5. Since they are not usually placed on towers and are closer to the ground, they don't access the higher more constant winds that HAWTs tap into. The more powerful centrifugal forces acting on the eggbeater-like blades on Darrieus wind turbines also put more stress on the blades and can cause them to bend or break.

Small Scale Wind Turbines

There are also smaller scale wind turbines available. These turbines can be set up for individual household, rural or agricultural use. The cost of residential wind turbines has decreased substantially since the 1980s and the turbines have become more efficient. Small scale wind turbines generate a tiny, but growing, portion of the renewable energy market.

A small backyard wind turbine that can provide somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5-25 kW of power.
TV Energy

Small scale wind turbines are mainly horizontal axis wind turbines but there are small scale vertical axis wind turbines as well. Most small scale wind turbines are less than 25 metres tall and have rapidly rotating blades. Some of these turbines are put on rooftops. Some turbines also have vanes that will point them into the wind to increase their efficiency. Small wind turbines can be purchased for as little as $800.

Until 2012 Saskatchewan’s SaskPower offered rebates to customers who installed small wind turbines or solar panels on their homes which were net-metered to the grid. The small turbines produced far less power than was expected, a disappointing result. This was likely because the vast majority of these small turbines were HAWTs which were likely not high enough off the ground and highly sensitive to the turbulence of nearby buildings or hills. Small VAWTs would likely have worked much better in these conditions, though solar panels were also shown to be far and away a better investment in the local market.

  1. Steel, 2015.
  2. Chinchilla, 2011.
  3. Ragheb, "Wind Turbines in the Urban Environment."
  4. Canadian Geographic, "Small-Scale Wind."
  5. Oddie, 2013.

Geography of Wind Power

  • Wind farms are most efficient where the winds are strong and constant.
  • Places with an Annual Mean Wind Speed (AMWS) of around 15 metres per second are best.
  • Local opposition, proximity to transmission lines, pre-existing roads, and mountainous terrain are all important considerations for siting a wind farm.
A global wind atlas map showing which areas in the world have the most wind. You'll notice that Canada's eastern and western coasts are amongst the windiest places in the world.
Oracle Education Foundation

Efficient wind farms obviously require strong and constant winds. There are four main factors that affect the winds and allow engineers to accurately predict which places will be the best sites for wind farms. The first is pressure gradient which is generated by differences in atmospheric pressure between two adjacent areas. The second is frictional force which is increased by features on the earth's surface such as trees and mountains. The third factor is the Coriolis Effect which deflects the direction of wind flow on the earth's surface. Finally, elevation plays a major role in wind speed as there are fewer obstacles at higher elevation to block wind creating higher wind speed.

These factors make certain sites particularly well suited for wind farm development. Some of the best sites for wind turbines are in mountainous areas, such as the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. Wide open plains such as Tornado Alley and the open ocean are also great for wind power.

The suitability of a site can be determined by measuring the Annual Mean Wind Speed (AMWS). From this number can be derived the expected capacity factor at a given site over the year and therefore how many MWh can be expected to be produced.

In practice only the most efficient wind turbines, which are just entering the market today, can reach capacity factors above 40%. Wind developers will ideally aim to develop sites with capacity factors above 35%, meaning sites with winds upwards of 5 m/s and to a maximum of 25 m/s.

Other factors must be considered when choosing a site for a wind turbine. For instance, at what times of day and what times of year is the wind most likely to blow? Finding a site where the winds coincide with times of highest electricity demand is helpful in integrating wind energy into the power grid. In most jurisdictions, power use peaks in the late afternoon and evening. In British Columbia people are far more likely to desire home heating during winter, rather than air-conditioning in the summer.

People often object to wind farms near their homes, resulting in protracted permitting processes and legal battles. To expedite the process wind developers seek to build away from densely populated areas.

There are a few other considerations. To keep down costs it is also helpful to find sites that are not difficult to access, such as places where logging or mine roads already exist. Wind turbines are expensive to erect and maintain on mountain slopes, and mountain winds contribute to wind shear which has the potential to damage the rotor blades, thus ruling out much of British Columbia.

Finally, it is helpful to find sites that are in close proximity to existing transmission lines, as the building of new transmission lines can add significantly to costs. This is especially the case for offshore wind farms and has contributed to the slower development of that sector.

Meeting all of these requirements considerably narrows down the number of potential sites for wind farms. British Columbia is mountainous, with many areas that are hard to access or with populations who object to having wind turbines in plain sight. This can offer part of the explanation of British Columbia’s early lag behind the other provinces in developing its wind capacity.

A map showing the major transmission lines in British Columbia. Transmission lines are major infrastructure projects and extending them is expensive. Building wind farms far away from existing transmission lines greatly increases the cost.
BC Hydro
  1. Danish Energy Agency, "Vindturbines In DK.", 5.

Economics of Wind Power

  • Wind power is the first second generation renewable technology to become cost competitive with fossil fuels.
  • The cost of wind power has dropped 95% over the last 30 years.
  • In many places wind power is now cheaper than coal and some types of gas power generation.
  • Offshore wind farms are more expensive, but they are more efficient and will become more popular as the price drops.

How well does wind stack up against the other energy sources economically? Onshore wind is already cost competitive with coal and even gas and becoming cheaper all the time, while offshore wind is quickly catching up.

Wind power is a domestic power source, requiring no energy imports from potentially unstable regions, nor is the fuel subject to price fluctuations. However, the price of wind energy can vary significantly depending on the location of the wind farm and the consistency of the wind. A 2015 U.S. Energy Information Administration report compared expected prices of electricity from different plants built in 2020.


Wind came out essentially the cheapest, save geothermal, tying the most efficient type of natural gas plant and massively beating coal or hydro. Even this report might hugely overstate the expense of wind power—the Advanced Energy Economy Institute criticized the report for putting wind prices so high. They point to a Department of Energy report that showed wind prices had already fallen to a jaw-droppingly low $23.5 MWh nationwide.

Even without the support of massive subsidies, wind energy is becoming cheaper than coal. This is a major development and today most of the countries that have relied the most on coal for their electricity are the ones now investing most heavily in wind (China, USA, Germany, India). China has reached the upper limit of the amount of coal it can produce without rapidly exhausting its supplies. It's no coincidence that they are now the world's biggest producers of wind energy. Denmark and Germany used to rely on poor quality lignite coal for their power, but high percentages of their electricity now comes from wind. Ontario is phasing out all of its coal power plants and building wind farms. All these changes only began happening after wind became cost-competitive with coal. The lesson here is that economic competitiveness is key for any renewable energy to catch on.

The Costs behind Onshore Wind

For onshore wind about 75% of the costs are up-front one-time costs just to get the turbines up and running, making it very capital intensive. Of that share, three quarters is for construction of the turbines and another 9% for the transmission lines connecting them to the power grid. The remainder goes to building foundations and access roads, and paying rent to landowners. Once the wind farm is built the final 25% of costs all go into routine maintenance, spare parts, and the eventual decommissioning of the turbines 20 years later.

A gearbox being hoisted into the nacelle of a wind turbine. This piece of machinery is a big share of the cost of wind power.
Paul Anderson

Wind power wasn't always as competitive as it is today: continuous technological innovations and the development of an economy of scale have meant that the price of wind energy has dropped 90-95% since the first wind farms came online in 1980. Wind power's new-found status is instructive in the importance of sustained technological innovation and the economics of scale. Offshore wind energy has been declining in price but not reached the same level as onshore wind. If the past trends are any indicator we can reasonably conclude that offshore wind will eventually become cost-competitive.

The High Price of Offshore Wind

Future development of wind power is looking to move offshore where winds are stronger and more constant. Offshore farms average 4,000 hours per year of full-load generation, as opposed to 2,000-2,500 for onshore. The turbines can be much bigger, and most of the 7 MW and up mega-turbines currently in development are slated for deployment offshore. Furthermore they can solve the NIMBY problem as wind turbines installed at least 11 km offshore are hidden by the curvature of the earth.

Despite these advantages offshore wind is still in its infancy: As of 2014 there were 84 offshore wind farms around the world, all in Northern Europe, comprising 2% of global installed wind capacity.

The problem lies in an offshore wind farms different cost structure. As the Wall Street Journal reported, "Offshore, turbines only make up one-third of the project cost, says the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. About 25% of the cost comes from the platform to hold the turbine up, 24% from increased maintenance costs, and fully 15% from building new undersea transmission lines."

A diagram showing the comparative sizes of land-based wind turbines and ones further offshore. Deep-water turbines on floating platforms may eventually be several orders of magnitude bigger than existing onshore turbines.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The turbines used for offshore are larger, and cost about 20% more than their onshore counterparts, while the foundation and transmission lines cost 2.5 times as much as a comparable onshore development, though they can generate twice the amount of energy.

There are also different environmental factors to consider in an offshore wind farm, such as salt build up on blades, increased corrosion of the structure from salt water and battering by storms. Nevertheless the world has tremendous potential for offshore wind development, and as the technology matures and the economics improve we can expect to see a surge in offshore wind development.

Wind is made visible from clouds created by the turbulence from a Danish offshore windfarm. One recent article published in the journal Nature Climate Change claimed that large numbers of offshore wind turbines may be able to weaken the power of hurricanes. Whether they could survive the hurricanes themselves is open to debate.
  1. U.S. Department of Energy, 2014.
  2. European Wind Energy Association, "Wind Energy – The Facts: The Economics of Wind Power."
  3. American Wind Energy Association, "Economics of Wind Energy."
  4. Krohn, 2009.

Environmental and Social Issues

  • A vocal minority of people oppose wind farms near their homes.
  • Some people believe that wind turbines cause negative health effects, but there is no scientific evidence to support this belief.
  • There is widespread belief that wind farms pose a unique danger to birds, but studies show this fear is wildly overblown.
  • Wind power produces fewer carbon emissions than practically any other form of energy.
  • Since each turbine only produces a relatively small amount of energy, major market penetration will require building thousands of turbines.

Opposition to wind farms from local residents is one of the biggest hurdles an expansion of wind power faces. Though wind power is the most popular alternative energy today, intense and directed lobbying from NIMBY groups has managed to stall and force the cancellation of many projects. Polling however indicates that the silent majority of people, at least in some areas, support wind farms within sight of their homes. Educating the public about the validity (or lack thereof) of the alleged health effects, and creating consensus on the use of wind power, will be essential for determining the future of wind power.

Not In My Back Yard

One intensely debated aspect of wind energy is NIMBYism—which stands for Not In My Back Yard. It is a term used to describe people who may support an idea like renewable energy in principle, but are opposed to developments happening near where they live. With wind energy this most commonly manifests itself in complaints about the way wind turbines impact the landscape visually, and with the noise they create.

Protesters in the UK opposed to a wind farm.
Renew Economy

Since wind turbines can stand several hundred meters tall, and they are grouped together into farms, their visual impact on a landscape can be large. In this context one essay writer describes the two differing reactions people have to the visual impact wind farms have on a landscape.

One finds the sight of the wind farm beautiful in a very deep, heartfelt sense, and if you ask her, she'll say that the perception is intimately connected, even shaped by, her understanding of the larger ecological context of energy. The other literally recoils from the sight of the wind farm, as an ugly, even offensive blemish on the wondrous, untouched naturalness of the vista.

The point is not whether or not one of these views are right, but that many people who live near wind farms developments take the latter view.

Wind Turbine Syndrome

The second major issue of concern to local residents is the noise created by wind turbines, both low frequency and therefore inaudible to humans, and high frequency which is audible. One doctor Nina Pierpont, coined the term Wind Term Syndrome to describe negative health effects experienced by some living near the turbines that she blamed on the low-frequency noise. The symptoms described in her book included migraines, high-blood pressure, ringing in the ears and other stress related illnesses. Pierpont’s book has been criticized as deeply flawed, lacking in scientific rigour and prone to a number of biases, but it has become a standard talking point amongst those opposed to wind farm development.

Fully 18 scientific studies have carefully examined Pierpont's claims and found that wind turbine syndrome, when it’s not simply fabricated, is a psychosomatic response to anxiety felt by those who really dislike wind turbines. One study in Australia found that health complaints related to wind farms only appeared after anti-wind lobbying groups began including wind turbine syndrome in their talking points, and the symptoms only occurred in the communities they targeted, not in those where anti-wind farm activists had not been lobbying. Australia’s most prominent promoter of the dangers of 'wind turbine syndrome' is the Waubra Foundation, which has well documented ties to Australian coal utilities.

Epsilon Associates, an acoustic consulting firm, studied low-frequency noise effects and have concluded that though early American wind turbine designs (that is, over a decade old) did create low frequency noise which could potentially lead to health problems, all new models that employ sound-dampeners do not. The study concluded "wind turbines at maximum noise at a distance more than 1,000 feet from a residence do not pose a low frequency noise or infrasound problem." At this distance wind turbines met all low frequency noise regulations, including the most stringent ones set out for classrooms and hospitals.

The sun sets behind a wind farm. One complaint from people living near wind farms is that at dawn or dusk the day the blades can cause pass in front of the sun, causing an irritating flashing for a few minutes. Wind engineers work now to site farms in such a way as to prevent this occurring.
Fiji One

Despite the widespread media attention to the supposed health impacts of wind power, there remains no peer-reviewed evidence that "wind-turbine syndrome" exists. The term "wind turbine syndrome" does not appear in any medical literature anywhere.

Power of NIMBY

Concerns about the aesthetics of wind, and the (largely debunked) health impacts, have helped contribute to a groundswell of opposition to wind farm development. In Canada and around the world, ambitious policies to expand wind power are running into fierce opposition. Studies show that people support wind power in principle above all other forms of energy generation. That support can become more muted, or downright hostile, when people find out they are going to be living near a wind farm.

The most widely-reported case of NIMBYism around wind energy is the Cape Wind project, America's first proposed offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. In 2001 it was proposed to build 130 turbines between 6 and 17 km offshore with a maximum generating capacity of 454 MW.

Immediately some local residents objected and formed the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, seeking to derail the project. The region is a vacation location for many of America's most powerful families and for once America's political class, both Democrat and Republican, stood united in their opposition to America's first offshore wind farm. The Alliance received the support and money of the Kennedys, Secretary of State John Kerry, Republican Governor Mitt Romney and oil and coal magnate Bill Koch.

Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in 2005 that could be said to encapsulate the NIMBY position. Opening with "As an environmentalist, I support wind power, including wind power on the high seas," he then argued that the farm's "Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines will steal the stars and nighttime views." That the spoilt views, Kennedy continued, would cost "up to 2,533 jobs because of the loss of tourism - and over a billion dollars to the local economy."

Polls taken in 2007, after the project had been hotly debated for six years without a decision on the matter showed that a majority of the state's population (84%) and local residents (58%) supported the Cape Wind Farm. Despite this support continual lawsuits and legislative maneuvering has meant the project has yet to begin construction a decade later. Though the project received the federal government's go-ahead in April 2011 as of spring 2016, fully 15 years after it was first proposed, the project has yet to be built.

Though many commentators argue that the power and influence of those opposed to Cape Wind are an exceptional case of NIMBYism, this opposition is often hugely effective and has had an enormous impact on the development of clean energy sources around the world. One 2011 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that fully 45% of clean energy projects had been scrapped because of NIMBY opposition.

Canada's own local NIMBY activists have forced the scuttling of several wind farm developments. Over 51 Not In My Back Yard anti-wind farm groups have sprung up in Canada in the last decade. Ontario wind developers have scrapped at least three wind farm proposals in the past few years because of pressure from these groups. Hearing these concerns in an election year, the Ontario government put a surprise moratorium on offshore wind farms until further research was done on their health impacts. "On-shore, there is 30 or 40 years of peer-reviewed science ... there's no evidence of health impacts from onshore wind, but offshore wind is completely different," said then Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid. 59He failed to explain how the health impacts may differ. Wind farms are not required to undergo a full environmental impact assessment, unlike fossil fuel or nuclear developments. This has sparked outrage from activists who are demanding complete assessments.

Some early studies show that the silent majority do in fact support wind farms near their homes. A wind development in Berkeley Vale in the United Kingdom was abandoned because of aggressive lobbying from a group called Save Berkeley Vale. Yet a poll of those living within six miles of the proposed wind turbines however found that 66% of residents supported the turbines and only 12% opposed. A poll taken of 1,200 residents from Washington, Oregon and Idaho showed that 79% of rural residents and 87% of urban residents supported wind farms being built within sight of their homes. Only 14% and 8% were opposed respectively.

Threat to Birds

There is a third reason for loud public opposition to wind farms: They kill birds. The towers are hundreds of metres tall, and in high wind conditions the blades spin at speeds of 80 metres per second. It does not take much imagination to predict what might happen to a bird that flew into the path of a blade.

It was one of the first utility-scale wind farms in the U.S., California's 4,000 turbine Altamont Pass development that first drew publicity to the issue. It was found to be killing on average 4,700 birds of prey a year, including such rare species as raptors, burrowing owls, golden eagles and red-tailed hawks. This farm raised the ire of conservationists and turned the issue of bird deaths into a major stumbling block for wind development.

In what has turned out to be a glaring oversight, the Altamont Pass farm sits in the middle of a key route for migratory birds. In the early phases of the technology little thought was given to this. Furthermore, the now-obsolete turbines that make up the Altamont Pass wind farm attract birds with their lattice-work towers and blades. These appear to birds as attractive places to perch. The small rotors on these turbines have smaller surface areas and therefore spin much faster than newer models.

The Altamont wind farm in California, one of the first major wind farms, was built in the path of many migratory birds and rarer birds of prey. This wind farm has accounted for a high share of total wind farm bird deaths in the United States.
CK Vango

Scientists and engineers have made huge strides in mitigating bird deaths and win crucial support from bird conservation groups. Regulations have been enacted banning the construction of wind farms near migratory bird routes.Wind turbine technology has also improved markedly. The turbines now sit atop solid concrete round towers which do not look to birds like appealing perches. In addition, it is thought future wind farm development will be redirected offshore, where birds fly much more rarely. Studies show that offshore wind farms pose a reduced risk to birds.

Though these efforts have certainly reduced bird deaths related to wind farms, they cannot be completely eliminated. A comprehensive 2013 study by the Canadian Wildlife Service estimated about 23,000 birds were killed by wind farms a year.

A bat killed by a wind turbine in Croatia.

While tragic, this compares quite favourably with the number of bird deaths related to other human activities. Environment Canada estimated 200 million birds were killed by cats in this country. 25 million by hitting power-lines, 25 million by hitting buildings, 14 million by hitting vehicles, 5 million from hunting, 2.7 million from pesticides, 2.2 million from agricultural mowing, 1.4 million from forestry and 220,000 hitting communications towers.

This means wind farms account for approximately 0.009% of the total birds killed by human activities in Canada. We should also factor climate change into the bird deaths argument. Our failure to adopt wind power will hasten climate change, and this will in all likelihood lead to the extinction of thousands of bird species. If one were to take a cost benefit analysis from the birds point of view, preventing this argument appears even more specious.

Climate Change

Since the actual running of the turbines contributes no greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, it is the construction, maintenance and eventual decommissioning of the turbines that contribute to emissions and ultimately climate change. So how much of a climate impact does building wind turbines have? And how effective are they at offsetting carbon from other sources of energy?

A 2006 study by Britain's Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology compared the carbon footprints of the various non-fossil fuel based forms of energy generation. Wind energy was found to be in a virtual dead-heat with nuclear power: offshore wind releasing 5.25 and onshore 4.64 grams of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere per kWh while nuclear emitted approximately 5 grams. hydroelectric was close behind, ranging from 2 to 10 gCO2eq/kWh, but tidal, solar photovoltaic (PV) and biomass lagged well back: they ranged from 25 to 80 gCO2eq/kWh. Though of course all of these are still several orders of magnitude better than the fossil fuels.

For wind, 98% of the carbon emissions released are during the manufacturing and construction process. The tower and foundations are made of steel and concrete while the rotors are made of fiberglass, all materials that are fairly carbon-intensive to manufacture. Once the turbine is erected the other 2% is accounted for by the regular maintenance trips to the turbines, for any spare parts, and then the eventual decommissioning of the turbine after 20 years. Offshore turbines emit slightly higher emissions since, though the manufacturing techniques are largely the same as onshore, more concrete is required for the foundations. Wind then is one of our best options for electricity generation in a carbon-constrained world, better even than solar.

A Problem of Scale

One may be surprised to see wind's carbon emissions in such a close tie with nuclear power. After all, the construction of nuclear facilities, the mining and refining of nuclear fuel and then dealing with the waste undoubtedly emits substantial amounts of carbon emissions. This can be explained by the differences in scale. Just a few tons of nuclear fuel can create tremendous amounts of electricity and run a 1,000 MW reactor for months or even years.

A construction team installs an Enercon E-126 turbine which has a capacity of 7.5 MW, enormous by the standards of earlier wind turbines.

Individual wind turbines are tiny by comparison: the standard size in the world is 2 MW, though 2.5 MW and 5 MW models are becoming more widespread, and a 7 MW turbine is being deployed. Keep in mind even the smaller turbines are very large: the Spanish 2 MW Gamesa G87 is fairly average, standing as high as 142.5 meters, and weighing up to 350 tons. There is enough steel in one of these turbines to manufacture over 200 automobiles.

We must also take into account the capacity factor. Because of the intermittency of the wind, a wind farm has an annual capacity factor of around 30-40%, that is, the farm produces only about 30-40% of its actual rated power throughout the year. Nuclear power plants, like fossil fuel plants, can essentially run 24/7/365 except for periodic maintenance or equipment failures. That means they have a capacity factor of around 90% and therefore a 1,000 MW-rated nuclear power plant will actually produce two and a half to three times more power than a 1,000 MW-rated wind farm in a year.

Depending on the capacity factor then, we can conclude that anywhere from 1,175 to 2,250 2 MW wind turbines will be needed to replace that single reactor. This many wind turbines will require a large area of land because the turbines need to be spaced far enough apart that there is no interference (turbulence) between the turbines. Turbines are generally spaced 5-10 turbine diameters apart. Now the problem of scale is beginning to become apparent.

A mmassive 200 tonne crane lifts a wind turbine's rotor into place. The size of the people and equipment beside the turbine give you a sense of the scale of these machines.

If wind is to start actually making a sizable contribution to global electricity production and begin to unseat fossil fuels it will require many thousands of wind farms and hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of massive wind turbines across the world. Scientists at the IPCC maintain that we must reduce our carbon footprint by at least 80% by mid-century to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The size of this challenge cannot be overstated, nor can the urgency of our striving to confront it. Meeting these targets with renewables will mean a building programme of such magnitude and speed it will necessarily be one of the largest undertakings in human history.

  1. Good, 2006.
  2. Watson, 2013.
  3. Rourke, 2013.
  4. Sourcewatch, “Waubra Foundation.”
  5. Acoustical Society of America, 2010.
  6. CanWEA, "Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects: An Expert Panel Review," 2011.
  7. Chapman, 2011.
  8. Doyle, 2006.
  9. Kennedy, 2005.
  10. Daley, 2011.
  11. Lacey, 2011.
  12. Canwest News Service, 2006.
  13. Canadian Press, 2011.
  14. Grover, 2011.
  15. Banse, 2011.
  16. Rittler, 2005.
  17. Fairley, 2007.
  18. Zimmerling, Pomeroy, d’Entremont, & Francis, 2013.
  19. CBC News, 2013.
  20. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 2006.
  21. Gamesa Corporation, "Gamesa G87 – 2 MW Product Brochure."
  22. British Wind Energy Association, "Blowing away the myths."
  23. Nuclear Energy Institute, "U.S. Nuclear Plants Statistics."
  24. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, "Wind Farm Area Calculator."
  25. Power-technology, global power industry news, "Roscoe Wind Farm, USA."


  • Political support for wind is growing as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Governments are promoting wind power with tax incentives and Feed-In Tariffs.
  • Wind turbine manufacturers are growing rapidly and becoming politically powerful.

The politics surrounding wind power are similar to some of the other second generation renewables. Interest in all of them is propelled by the desire of many governments to find an alternative to fossil fuels. A number of reasons can be listed for this shift: fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change, they are finite resources that will be depleted, many countries are worried about the security risks of relying upon imported fossil fuel and the volatility in the price of oil.

Many governments have mandatory renewable energy targets which determine how much energy must be generated by renewable sources. The British, Chinese and American governments have announced plans to generate 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Canada already gets 63% of its electricity from renewable resources (primarily hydro) and has no national target. Nine provinces do however. British Columbia hopes to reach 93% renewable energy by 2020. Currently B.C. generates 86.3% of its power from renewable sources, most of which is hydroelectric power, a first generation renewable technology.

In fulfilling these new mandatory targets, governments are increasingly promoting second-generation renewable technologies with tax incentives or Feed-In Tariffs. Thanks in part to this government support 35% of all new generating capacity in the U.S. since 2005 was wind, greater than coal or gas.

A Vestas turbine. Tiny Denmark's early enthusiasm for wind power has allowed the country to develop global giants of wind technology like Vestas.

Primarily it's the economics of wind power that is fueling its rapid growth in world power generation. Unlike solar, geothermal or tidal, wind is already cost-competitive with fossil fuel-based forms of electricity generation even without government subsidy, and oftentimes it’s the cheapest option available.

In the past decade this form of energy has benefitted from the development of an economy of scale. There are now massive Danish (Vestas), German (Enercon), American (GE Wind Energy) and Chinese (Sinovel and Goldwind) firms rapidly expanding and bidding for contracts to build wind farms all over the world.41 Canada purchases most of its wind turbines from Vestas, Enercon and GE, though turbine manufacturers are starting to appear in Ontario. The other second-generation renewable technologies have yet to fully mature and will likely see large gains in efficiency and economics in the years ahead. Until this happens, wind energy is likely to continue to dominate the renewables market.

  1. REN 21, 2007, p. 21.
  2. Government of Canada, 2011.
  3. Government of B.C., 2011, p. 6.
  4. Shahan, 2011.
  5. CanWEA, 2016.

Around the World

  • Wind turbines were developed in Denmark and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Since 2000 wind power capacity has been expanding at breakneck speed, with 468 GW of installed capacity by 2016.
  • Much of this growth has come from China which now has 42% of the world's wind turbines.

From 1900 to 1973 small wind turbines were used to generate tiny amounts of electricity in remote locations. Governments and businesses in Denmark and the United States experimented with larger wind turbines for power generation but investors showed little interest in the technology. In 1973 the Arab oil embargoes shocked the Western World and prompted a surge of interest in finding fossil fuel alternatives. Just as this event triggered the rise of France’s nuclear power industry and Germany’s solar power industry, the oil shocks kick-started wind power. Several departments of the United States government including NASA, the National Sciences Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) combined funding to experiment with a number of wind turbine designs during the 1970s and 1980s.

These first utility-scale wind turbines came in a variety of two and three bladed designs and were revolutionary in their day, though small, inefficient and primitive by 21st Century standards. The world`s first wind-farm, the MOD-2 cluster of turbines, built by Boeing, was completed in Washington in 1981. The cluster could produce a record-breaking output of 7.5 MW. This site was dismantled in 1986 after its five year test period, which was considered a huge success by project managers.

The experimental MOD-2 cluster of wind turbines in Washington state that provided a crucial early boost to wind power research in the 1980s.

These modest beginnings laid the groundwork for modern wind turbine design. They allowed engineers to begin to address many of the problems of intermittency, wind speed changes, gearbox design and aesthetics, proving wind power could one day be economically competitive with fossil fuels.

Wind power's development stalled during the 1990s when fossil fuel prices sank again, undercutting its economic competitiveness. In 1996 America's largest wind turbine producer, Kenetech, went bankrupt.

In the past 15 years wind power has taken off again. Installed capacity of wind turbines has grown more than 30-fold in the past 16 years. In 1999 wind turbines were worth 13.6 GW of power; in 2016 that number is now 468 GW, meeting around 3% of the world`s electricity needs. Industry groups like the Global Wind Energy Council believe that generating capacity could reach 2,000 GW by 2030, supplying 17-19% of the world’s electricity.

These aren’t pie in the sky numbers. In almost year since 2000 more wind power capacity has been installed than the year before. The new record set in 2015 was 63 GW, up from 40 GW in 2010 and 11 GW in 2005. Most of the development has been concentrated in developed countries and China, so it seems likely interest in wind power will grow in the rest of the developing world too.


Wind power is well-suited geographically for Europe and the United States, both global leaders in the industry since the 1990s. In the former case, the Baltic Sea basin and Spain's rugged topography are well suited for large offshore and onshore wind farms. Denmark leads the world in reliance upon wind power, producing 42% of its electricity from wind turbines. Germany, the world's fourth largest economy, has 40 GW of installed wind farms.

In the United States, the notoriously windy 'Tornado Alley' stretching north from the Texas Panhandle to Minnesota and Wyoming is an ideal location for widespread wind farm construction. In 2009 oil baron T. Boone Pickens proposed the Pickens Plan, a $1 trillion investment in hundreds of thousands of wind turbines along this north-south belt in order to generate 200 GW, or 20% of the United States electricity supply by 2020. As of 2016 however this dream appears far from being realized, with wind accounting for 75 GW and 4.5% of electricity generation. The Pickens Plan appears to have shifted its focus from wind power to natural gas development.

28 states currently have wind farms and much of the development has been dependent upon the continuation of a Production Tax Credit which congress extended for five years in 2015, a move that is expected to contribute to 19 GW more power by 2020.

The United States also has tremendous potential for offshore wind generation which has the added bonus of being in close proximity to its electricity-hungry coastal areas, though none of these have yet been developed.

A worker stands atop a recently completed offshore wind farm in China.
Daily Tech

China surpassed the United States in installed wind capacity in 2011, and in 2016 boasts 145 GW of power, doubling the American total. This unparalleled expansion has astonished experts as it represents a 100 fold increase in a decade. In 2014 the People’s Republic doubled its 2020 goal to 200 GW, and looks set to achieve it. This growth has stemmed from Chinese government policies mandating that all renewable energy produced must be purchased by grid operators, as well as large subsidies to wind turbine manufacturers and operators. China's long coastlines and giant windswept plains helped too. Despite this massive growth in wind power, it's still only 3.3% of China's electricity mix and China's coal-fired power plant sector is growing almost as quickly.

Other countries around the world are adopting wind energy at a rapid pace, and now over 100 countries have wind farms. India has a large and expanding fleet of wind turbines. Wind farms are being built in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Following the Fukushima nuclear accidents in March 2011 Japan’s prime minister stated his country intends to move decisively towards renewable energies, specifically wind, and away from nuclear power in the decades ahead, though by 2015 they were still lagging with only 3 GW of power.

One of the first wind farms in south Asia.
  1. The Economist, 2008.
  2. Boeing, "MOD-2/MOD-5B Wind Turbines."
  3. Business Wire, 1996.
  4. Global Wind Energy Council, 2014.
  5. Randall, 2015.
  6. Pickens Plan, “The Plan.”
  7. Randall, 2015.
  8. Global Wind Energy Council, “Global Wind Statistics 2016.”
  9. Xinhua, 2016.
  10. Renewable Energy Focus, 2013.


  • Canada has been expanding wind power considerably in recent years.
  • Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are the leaders, with Quebec having especially favourable geography for wind power.
  • The Ontario government's support for wind power has partially contributed to a massive rise in electricity prices.

Canada currently has the 7th most installed wind capacity in the world. That’s 11 GW worth, around 5% of Canada's total electricity demand. This is impressive for a country that had almost no wind farms at all fifteen years ago and in some senses was a relative latecomer to the wind game. Since then Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta have emerged as the leaders of Canada's wind industry with 4,361, 3,262 MW and 1,500 MW of generating capacity respectively. As in the rest of the world, generating capacity of wind power is set to grow rapidly, especially in Ontario and Quebec.

Geographically, Canada is well suited for wind power. The windswept belt that stretches across America's central plains extends into Canada's Prairie Provinces, and is a large part of the reason Alberta has a number of small wind farms. This does not explain Saskatchewan’s lukewarm interest in wind and despite its similar windy conditions only has about 15% of the wind capacity of Alberta.

A wind farm in Alberta's Rocky Mountain foothills operated by oil and gas giant Enbridge.

Quebec has been referred to as the "Saudi Arabia of Wind" by a spokesperson of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. The potential for wind farm developments there are huge. Quebec has typically relied upon hydroelectric dams for the bulk of its electricity needs, but with most of the province's best hydroelectric potential already tapped out by the province's eight million residents, the government has turned to wind farms for future generation capacity. The Gaspe Peninsula in particular is seen as having the most potential for large-scale wind farms, while in the sparsely populated north many communities are considering small-scale wind farms to fulfill their electricity demands.

Geographically, the Maritimes are blessed with an abundance of wind, and in the past decade a number of small wind farms, ranging in size from a single turbine to 44 at Prince Edward Island's West Cape 2 farm, have been built. These smaller wind turbines go a long way to satisfying the smaller electricity demands of these provinces: wind energy accounts for 18% of P.E.I.'s electricity demand. By 2013 that number is projected to rise as high as 30%, one of the highest rates in the world for any jurisdiction.

The Case of Ontario

The 199.5 MW wind farm near Shelbourne Ontario, one of Canada's largest wind farms.

Further east, Ontario's government has been undertaking aggressive economic policies aimed at reducing the province's carbon footprint, the cornerstone of which was the Green Energy and Green Economy Act of 2009. That legislation phased out coal-fired power plants and replaced their electricity capacity with a smorgasbord of cleaner natural gas and renewables, especially wind. The Niagara Escarpment in Southern Ontario is subjected to strong and constant winds and has been the site of all Ontario's wind farms to date. Wind farm installations peaked in 2015 at around 1,400 MW and are expected to hit about 1,000 MW in 2016. In 2017 new farm installations are expected to drop off to almost nothing as the province’s Feed-In Tariff expires.

These wind power investments have had a major stimulating effect on Ontario’s depressed manufacturing economy, with many of the new turbines being manufactured in the province. A study by Compass Renewable Energy Consulting projected out to 2030 that 73,000 people would be employed directly or indirectly in the wind power industry, adding $7 billion to the province’s GDP and prompting $14 billion in business investment. It is thought that by developing an indigenous wind power industry these last few years, Ontario can insert itself into the global supply chain for wind turbine components and continue to derive economic benefits from the wind industry for years to come.

Development of wind power has been a hotly contested issue in Ontario, especially as the rates paid by Ontarians for electricity have gone up dramatically and become some of the highest in North America. The Green Energy and Green Economy Act appears to have been at least partially the culprit. The provincial government locked itself into hugely expensive long term contracts with independent power providers who built wind farms. Since those contracts were signed the price of wind power has come down dramatically but the government is unable to renegotiate the contracts, leaving taxpayers to give largely pointless subsidies to independent power producers, some of whom operate wind turbines.

If Ontario is to continue its dramatic wind development it will need to get control of its spiralling electricity prices. A recent study by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce found that 1 in 20 businesses were considering leaving the province for somewhere where the electricity is cheaper. A poll by Leger found that 81% of Ontarians thought high electricity prices posed a threat to the economy.

Other jurisdictions have managed the integration of wind without exploding utility bills. Germans have cheaper electricity bills than most places in North America and support for the transition to a post-fossil fuels economy, the Energiewende, remains sky-high. Yet on some days they get as much as 75% of their power from renewables. On a windy day in July 2015 Denmark generated 140% of its electricity demand from wind power, yet electricity costs are around 13 cents per KWh, some of the lowest in the EU.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association is aiming for wind power to produce 20% of the country's energy by 2025. In order to reach this goal the total installed capacity has to increase to 5.5 times by that time.

  1. CanWEA, "Installed Capacity", 2015.
  2. Wikipedia, "List of wind farms in Canada."
  3. Environment Canada, "Canadian Wind Energy Atlas."
  4. Government of Prince Edward Island, 2009.
  5. Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 2009.
  6. Canadian Wind Energy Association, “Wind Dividends: An analysis of economic impacts from Ontario’s wind procurement,” 2015.
  7. CBC News, 2015.
  8. Taber, 2015.
  9. Morris, 2015.
  10. Kroh, 2014.
  11. Eurostat, 2015.
  12. Nelsen, 2015.
  13. Nelsen, 2015.
  14. Canadian Wind Energy Association, "Windvision 2025: Powering Canada's Future."

British Columbia

The Meikle wind farm near Tumbler Ridge in north-eastern B.C. At a cost of $400 million, the farm's 61 turbines have a total of 188 MW of generating capacity.
Vancouver Sun
  • B.C. was the last province to build a wind farm but now has five totalling 488 MW.
  • The best locations for wind farms are in the Peace River region in the province's northeastern corner, and the northern part of Vancouver Island.
  • The Canadian Wind Energy Association has identified sites that could generate 5,250 MW of power at reasonable rates.

If one were to examine Environment Canada's Wind Atlas, British Columbia's onshore wind energy potential stands above all the other provinces except Quebec. B.C. however was the last province to build a wind farm. Wind power development finally took off in BC following BC Hydro's Clean Power Call in 2008, which sought to spur utility investment by Independent Power Producers. The first wind farm opened in 2009 and in 2016 the fifth is under construction. Four are in the Peace River in the province’s northeast and one at the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

A wind atlas of British Columbia. Only areas in red and orange have annual average wind speeds greater than 6 metres a second, the minimum suitable for a wind farm. Nevertheless because B.C. has so far tapped very little of its wind resources there remain many suitable sites for wind farms.
BC Hydro

The windswept Rocky Mountain foothills of the Peace Region are an ideal spot for wind farm development: 19 of the top 20 best sites for wind farms are in this region, according to a B.C. Hydro assessment. The region is also conveniently close to the major transmission lines that power the Peace River dams. The Peace is also sparsely populated, neutralizing most NIMBY-related objections to wind farms. Other regions meeting these criteria are northern Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and the Kootenays.

The first wind farm in BC was the Bear Mountain Wind Park built near Dawson Creek, featuring 34 Enercon turbines. At the Dokie Power Project opened in 2011, 48 Vestas V90 turbines generate 144 MW of power. The Quality Wind Project near Tumbler Ridge generates 142 MW while Port Hardy’s Cape Scott Wind Project generates 99 MW. There’s also one 1.5 MW turbine atop Grouse Mountain overlooking Vancouver. These all come to 488 MW of capacity, while the Meikle Wind Farm also near Tumbler Ridge will be the biggest yet at 185 MW. To put this value into context for B.C., in 2007 the province had 12,609 MW of capacity from hydroelectric dams and 2,223 MW from fossil fuels. All of the companies constructing these farms are B.C. based start-ups.

So far this amounts to a modest 1.6% of the province’s electricity demand. B.C. has a lot of room to grow wind's share. B.C. Hydro estimates the province has 16,425 MW of onshore wind potential. In the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s Wind Vision 2025: Strategy for British Columbia, they identified 5,250 MW of wind energy sites that could be harnessed for less than $105 per MW by 2025. This is only slightly more expensive than power from the Site C Dam. Fulfilling this Wind Vision would generate 7,500 person-years of long term employment, and triple that during the construction phase. This would provide a $3.7 billion boost to provincial GDP and $16 billion in business investment. B.C. could also benefit from the manufacturing skills derived from developing the wind vision. There’s already a small turbine manufacturer in Surrey, B.C., Endurance Wind Power, who sells its turbines for export across North America and in Europe.

A 2012 assessment by consulting firm GL Garrad Hassan found the price of wind in this province had been falling much faster than expected. Wind is now the cheapest renewable resource on offer in most contexts, significantly lower than B.C. Hydro’s own estimates.

Wind Farms in British Columbia (2016)
  1. Environment Canada, "Canadian Wind Energy Atlas."
  2. Wikipedia, “List of wind farms in Canada.”
  3. Wikipedia, “List of wind farms in Canada.”
  4. CanWEA, "2012 assessment of wind energy costs in B.C.", 2012.
  5. Alterra Power Corp., "Dokie Power Project, British Columbia."
  6. Wikipedia, “List of wind farms in Canada.”
  7. Centre for Energy, 2012.
  8. Canadian Wind Energy Association, "Windvision 2025: Powering Canada's Future."
  9. Energy Source Guides, “Large wind turbine businesses in Canada.”
  10. Advanced Energy Economy Institute, 2015.


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Watson, Rebecca. "The "Science" of wind turbine syndrome." Popular Science. October 25, 2013. Cached April 11, 2016.

Wikipedia. "List of wind farms in Canada." Cached April 10, 2016.

Xinhua. "China’s new wind power capacity rises 60%, hits record high." March 2, 2016. Cached April 10,2016.

Zimmerling, R., Pomeroy, A., d’Entremont, M. & Francis, C. "Canadian estimate of bird mortality due to collisions and direct habitat loss associated with wind turbine developments." Aviation Conservation and Ecology. 8 (2): 10. 2013. Cached April 11, 2016.

When no treaty was signed between the government, and no war was fought over the land, first nations groups in Canada are entitled to the land on which they have historically lived and still inhabit.
In solar thermal energy collectors, the Absorber Area refers to the area absorbing the radiation
A technique where acidic solutions are pumped into a well, melting away debris about the bottom of the well and allowing the gas to flow more freely.
An electrical current that reverses its direction at regularly recurring intervals. Abbreviated to AC.
A series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. Used for industrial and/or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or release energy.
A device used for measuring wind speed.
The average speed (and direction) of the wind over the course of a year.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC): A 21-nation group of Pacific-Rim nations that seeks to promote free trade, raise living standards, education levels and sustainable economic policies. Canada is a member.
The artificially increased discharge of water during the operation of hydroelectric turbines during periods of peak demand.
Small particles released into the atmosphere as part of the flue gases from a coal plant. Fly ash is dangerous for human health but most power plants use electrostatic precipitators to capture it before release.
The waters off the Atlantic provinces that has been producing oil and gas since the 1990s, and continues to have considerable untapped oil and gas potential. The region has similar geology to the oil-rich North Sea.
'The ionizing radiation which we are all inescapably exposed to every day. It comes from radon gas in the ground, the sun, distant supernovas, and even elements inside our own bodies. The average exposure is around 361 mrem per year for a person in Washington state (it varies by region).
Base-load power is that provided continuously, virtually year-round to satisfy a regions minimum electricity needs. Hydro and nuclear power are well-suited for base-load grid needs.
A renewable fuel in which soy or canola oil is refined through a special process and blended with standard diesel oil. Biodiesel does not contain ethanol, but research is underway to develop diesel blends with ethanol.
Renewable energy made available from materials derived from biological sources.
Natural gas, or methane, that is created by microbes consuming organic matter. Usually found near the Earths surface and is usually immediately released into the atmosphere.
Biological material from living, or recently living organisms such as trees, grasses, and agricultural crops. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel.
A facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and chemicals from biomass. The biorefinery concept is analogous to petroleum refineries, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum.
Bitumen is "petroleum that exists in the semi-solid or solid phase in natural deposits. Bitumen is a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses."
Bottom Ash: Bottom ash are small particles that result from coal combustion, but unlike fly ash they are too heavy to be released into the atmosphere and must be stored.
Canadian Environmental Protection Act: Passed in 1999, CEPA is "An Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development."
Cap and Trade: A system where the government sets a limit on how much of a pollutant may be emitted. It then sells the rights to emit that pollutant to companies, known as carbon credits, and allows them to trade the credits with other companies. The EU has implemented a cap and trade program for carbon dioxide.
Carbon Footprint: A calculation based on the set of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an organization, event, product, or person.
Carbon Sink: A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores carbon-containing chemical compounds for an indefinite period.
Carbon Monoxide: A deadly gas produced from the tailpipe of cars that burn gasoline.
Capacity Factor: The ratio of the actual output of a power plant over a period of time and its potential to output if it had operated at full nameplate capacity the entire time.
Cellulose: An organic compound consisting of several hundred to over ten thousand linked glucose units. Cellulose comprises the structural component of the cell wall in plants, many green algae. It is the most common organic compound on Earth comprising about 33% of plant matter.
Cellulosic Biomass: Fuel produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants that is mainly comprised of cellulose.
Cellulosic Feedstock: The inedible cellulose which comprises most plants and trees. Yields are much higher as any part of the plant can be used and because they do not compete with food, therefore, cellulosic feedstock is an ideal candidate for large scale sustainable biofuel production.
Cetane Rating: Also known as cetane number (CN), this is a measurement of the combustion quality of diesel fuel during compression ignition. It is a significant expression of diesel fuel quality.
Clean Power Call: A request sent out by B.C. Hydro to private power utilities for new electricity-generating projects totalling 5,000 GWh/year. B.C. Hydro will help fund the successful projects and then buy power from them once completed.
How efficiently a turbine converts the energy in wind into electricity. Just divide the electrical power output by the wind energy input.
Using the energy left over from one primary energy conversion to fuel another. The most prominent example of this are natural gas co-generation plants which first feed fuel into a gas turbine. The residual heat from that reaction then heats water to spin a steam turbine.
Collector Area: In solar thermal energy collectors, the Collector Area refers to the area that intercepts the solar radiation.
A mixture of hydrocarbons present in natural gas. When gas is lowered below the hydrocarbon dew point, a condensate, that is, a liquid, forms. These can be used for combustion just like oil and gas. These are also known as natural gas liquids.
Generation of electricity using fossil fuels.
Gas reserves that form beneath porous layers of sandstone. Until recently this has been the only kind of gas commercially extracted.
When bituminous coal is baked at high temperatures it fuses together ash and carbon, creating coke. Coke can then be used to reduce the oxygen content of iron, strengthening it and creating steel.
A force generated by to the earths rotation which deflects a body of fluid or gas moving relative to the earths surface to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. It is at its maximum at the poles and zero at the equator.
Decentralized Electricity Generation: Decentralizated electricity generation is a concept used to describe a large number of dispersed energy generators, often closely integrated with the people that use the electricity. Wind turbines and solar panels are good examples: they can be put within communities, be owned by members of the community and generate electricity for it. Alternatively centralized energy generation, far more common in North America, is where a small number of large plants owned by utility companies (hydro-electric, nuclear or fossil fuel) generate large quantities of electricity.
The portion of the oil business that involves refining the crude oil, bringing it to market and selling it. Gasoline service stations are the most lucrative part of downstream operations.
Effluents: Gases or liquids released by a human-made structure, in this case flue gases from a coal-fired power plant.
Electrolyte: Usually a solution of acids, bases, or salts, electrolytes are substances with free ions which make them effective electrical conductors.
Electrolysis: A simple technique for splitting water atoms to obtain hydrogen, driven by an electrical current.
Requirements that set specific limits to the amount of pollutants that can be released into the environment by automobiles and other powered vehicles, as well as emissions generated by industry, power plants, and small equipment.
Transforming one form of energy into another. Most energy conversions that run our economy are conversions from a primary source to electricity (wind or nuclear) or movement (oil).
Energy Currency: Energy that is usable for practical purposes. These include electricity and petroleum which power appliances and vehicles.
A measurement of the amount of energy stored in a given volume.
Energy Return On Investment (EROI): This is the ratio of usable energy obtained over the amount of energy required to get it. The oil sands has a low EROI because instead of being sucked out of the ground in liquid form the oil must be painstakingly mined and heavily refined, a process that requires large quantities of energy itself.
An energy source is the means by which energy is generated. The energy profiles each deal with a different source of energy, and most are simply means to attain the energy currency we all use: electricity.
Enhanced Geothermal System: A new technology, EGS does not require natural convective geothermal resources, but instead can draw power from the ground through extremely dry and impermeable rock.
The provincial Environmental Assessment Office is a politically neutral agency tasked with reviewing major construction projects in B.C. Their purview includes assessing the environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects over the lifecycle of projects.
A blend of ethanol and diesel fuel. plus other additives, designed to reduce air pollution from heavy equipment, city buses and other vehicles that operate on diesel engines.
A policy device that encourages investment in renewable energies, usually by guaranteeing power producers that their energy will be bought.
In food processing, fermentation is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. In simple terms, fermentation is the chemical conversion of sugars to ethanol.
A finite, or non-renewable resource, is one where a limited amount exists. Once the existing stocks of that resource are exhausted there will be no more, at least in any reasonable human time scale. Only so much fossil fuels and uranium exist on earth, making these finite, non-renewableresources. The wind, sun and tides are renewable resources since it is impossible to run out of them.
First Generation Renewable: Well established renewable technologies that emerged early on in the Industrial Revolution. These include hydropower, biomass combustion and early geothermal power.
Fission is a nuclear reaction where a heavy atom is hit by a neutron, causing it to split into lighter atoms, release more neutrons, and huge amounts of energy.
Flat-plate collectors are a type of non-concentrating solar energy collector, typically used when temperatures are below 200 degrees F. They are often used for heating buildings.
Flex-Fuel Vehicle: Also known as a dual-fuel vehicle, this is an alternative fuel vehicle with an internal combustion engine designed to run on more than one fuel, usually gasoline blended with either ethanol or methanol fuel.
Flue gases are the gases that are released into the atmosphere by a flue, or pipe, from the steam boiler.
Many biofuel feedstocks such as corn, sugarcane, and soybeans are also key sources of food for millions of people. Production of crops for bioenergy may displace other food-related crops, increasing the cost and decreasing the availability of food. The central question is one of ethics: Should we use our limited land resources to grow biofuels when the same land could be producing food for people?
Fracking: Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting high pressure fluids into deep, geologic formations, in order to fracture the rock and render it more permeable.
Fuel Crops: Crops grown specifically for their value as fuel to make biofuels or for their energy content.
Fumaroles: Openings in the Earths crust that emit steam and gases.
Gasohol: Otherwise known as fuel ethanol, gasohol has been distilled and dehydrated to create a high-octane, water free alcohol. All water must be removed because a water-alcohol mixture cannot dissolve in gasoline. Fuel ethanol is made unfit for drinking by adding a small amount of a noxious substance such as gasoline.
Geothermal Gradient: The rate at which temperature increases deeper into the earth, towards the earth's molten core.
Geothermal Task Force Team is a government program that aims to: develop policies, in collaboration with affected agencies, related to tenure issuance, examine the regulation of the use of geothermal resources not currently covered by legislation, build a royalty and resource rent model for geothermal resources, and develop a science based review of the known geothermal resources in the province.
Geyser: Springs characterized by intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by steam.
Giromill Turbine: Uses lift forces generated by vertical aerofoils to convert wind energy into rotational mechanical energy. They are powered by two or three vertical aerofoils attached to a central mast by horizontal supports.
Glut: A situation where the market has been flooded with goods and there is more supply than there is demand causing the price of goods to drop.
Gravity Survey: A technique of measuring minute changes in the Earths gravity field. This allows geologists to map lighter and denser rocks underground.
Green Energy and Green Economy Act of 2009: Legislation by the province of B.C. to boost the investment in renewable energy projects and increase conservation, create green jobs and economic growth in Ontario. Part of Ontario's plan to become a leading green economy in North America.
Head: The term head refers to the change in elevation of the water.
Head Differential: The difference in pressure due to the difference in height of water level.
Heat Exchangers: These are used in High-Temperature and Low-Temperature applications to transfer heat from one medium to another. In Low-Temperature Geoexchange systems they are built into the heat pump.
Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT): Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine. These are the most common types of wind turbines and look like aircraft propellers mounted atop towers.
Hydrocarbons: A compound of almost entirely hydrogen and carbon. This covers oil and natural gas. Coal, the third fossil fuel, contains so many impurities it is usually disqualified from this title.
Hydrostatic Head: The distance a volume of water has to fall in order to generate power.
Intermittent Energy Source: Any source of energy that is not continuously available due to a factor that is outside of direct control (ex. Wind speed or sunshine).
An internal combustion engine operates by burning its fuel inside the engine, rather than outside of it, as an external, or steam engine does. The most common internal combustion engine type is gasoline powered, followed by diesel, hydrogen, methane, and propane. Engines typically require adaptations (like adjusting the air/fuel ratio) to run on a different kind of fuel than they were designed for. Four-stroke internal combustion engines (each stroke marks a step in the combustion cycle) dominate the automotive and industrial realm today.
Kinetic Energy: The ability of water falling from a dam to do work, that is, to generate electricity. Water stored above a dam has potential energy which turns to kinetic energy once it begins to fall.
Levelized Cost of Electricity: The cost of generating electricity (capital, operation and maintenance costs). Measured in units of currency per unit of electricity (ex. kWh).
Magnetic Survey: A technique for measuring the intensity of magnetic fields from several stations.
Manhattan Project: The massive Anglo-American-Canadian scientific undertaking which produced the atomic bombs that helped end the Second World War. It marked the birth of the nuclear age and scientists were immediately aware of the potential to use use nuclear power for civilian use.
Market Penetration: The share of the total energy market a specific energy source has in relation to its competitors. So the market penetration of wind power would be measured by its share of the electricity market, while ethanol would be compared to other vehicle fuels, not to total primary energy use.
Matrix: In geology, this is the finer mass of tiny sediments in which larger sediments are embedded.
Methanol: Methanol is produced naturally in the anaerobic metabolism of many types of bacteria, and is ubiquitous in the environment. Methanol is toxic in humans if ingested or contacted on the skin. For its toxic properties and close boiling point with ethanol, that it is used as a denaturant for ethanol.
Miscanthus: A low maintenance perennial grass which is thought to be twice as productive as switch grass as it has a longer growing season, greater leaf area, and higher carbon storage per unit of leaf area.
MMBtu: A unit of measurement which means a million Btus (British thermal units). A Btu is roughly the amount of energy it takes to heat a half kilogram of water from 3.8 to 4.4 °C. MBtu is used for a thousand Btus.
Moderator: A moderator is used to slow down neutrons, which enables them to react with the atoms in the nuclear fuel. If enough atoms react then the reactor can sustain a nuclear chain reaction.
M Mount St. Helens is an active volcano located in Washington state. It is most famous for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980 where fifty-seven people were killed, 250 homes, 47 bridges, 24 km of railways, and 298 km of highway were destroyed.
Mud-Pools: Pools of bubbling mud. Also known as "paint-pots" when the slurry of usually grey mud is streaked with red or pink spots from iron compounds.
Nacelle: The housing atop a wind turbine that holds the gearbox, generator, drive train and brakes, as well as the rotors.
Name-Plate Capacity: The intended full-load sustained output of a power plant. For example an average wind turbine's name-plate capacity is 2 Megawatts. The capacity factor is the actual output, so for that 2 MW wind turbine with an efficiency of around 30-35% (average) then it has a more realistic capacity of around 0.7 MW. Most power stations are listed in terms of their nameplate capacity.
National Energy Board: A regulatory agency established by the federal government in 1959 that is primarily tasked with regulating oil and gas pipelines that cross provincial and national borders.
National Energy Program: A set of policies enacted in 1980 that sought to make Canada energy independent. Petro-Canada was created and oil prices were kept artificially low to protect consumers. Shares of oil revenue were diverted to the federal government who used them mostly in the eastern provinces to offset a decline in manufacturing. The program was extremely unpopular in western Canada and was discontinued shortly thereafter.
Nuclear Renaissance: A term used by politicians and the media for the renewed interest in nuclear energy in the past decade. Many countries are now expanding their civilian nuclear programs.
Octane: The octane rating of a fuel is indicated on the pump – using numbers such as 87, 90, 91 etc. The higher the number, the greater the octane rating of the gasoline.
Oil in Place: The total hydrocarbon (oil and gas) content of a reservoir. Sometimes called STOOIP or Stock Tank Original Oil In Place.
Oil Patch: A term for the Canadian oil industry. This specifically means the upstream operations that find and extract oil and gas, mostly in Alberta but also B.C., the other prairie provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Oil Window: The range of temperature at which oil forms. Below a certain temperature and kerogen will never progress to the form of oil. Too high and natural gas is formed instead.
OECD: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is a 34 country organization dedicated to advocating democracy and the market economy. Membership is largely limited to Western Europe, North America, Australia and Japan, what are often considered the world's developed nations. Sometimes referred to in the media as the "rich countries' club".
Passive Seismic Survey: A way to detect oil and gas by measuring the Earths natural low frequency movements.
Peak Power Demand: Power demand varies over minutes, hours, days and months. Peak power demand are the times when the most people are using the most power. To meet this demand extra sources of power must be switched on. Some forms of electricity generation, such as natural gas turbines, can be turned on quickly to meet peak power demand and are better suited for this purpose than others, such as nuclear, which are better as sources of baseload power.
Permeability: A measure of the ability of a porous rock to allow fluids to pass through it. High permeability in the surrounding rocks is needed for the formation of gas reserves.
Photovoltaic Cell: A non-mechanical device typically fabricated from silicon alloys that generates electricity from direct sunlight.
Pickens Plan: Investment of $1 trillion into wind power in the U.S.A., named for an American oil tycoon. The plan aims to reduce the amount of foreign oil imported to the U.S.A. while providing economic and environmental benefits.
Pondage: The main difference between small and large hydro projects is the existence of stored power in the form of water which is held back by dams at large hydro stations. Some small hydro projects have pondage, however, which are small ponds behind the weir of a dam which can store water for up to a week.
Potential Energy: The energy stored in a body or a system.
Porosity: Closely related to permeability, this is a measure of the amount of "voids," or empty space in a rock where gas or oil can pass through to collect in a reservoir.
Possible Reserves: Possible reserves are a class of unproven reserves that geologists use for oil that they are only 10% sure is present in the ground.
Purchasing Power Agreement: A contract between two parties, one who generates power for sale, and another who is looking to purchase it. B.C. Hydro buys power from companies that build their own power generating stations.
Primary Battery: A primary battery is one that is non-rechargable because the electrochemical reaction goes only one way. It gives out energy and cannot be reversed.
Primary Gas: The degeneration of decayed organic matter directly into gas through a process called "thermal cracking." This is opposed to secondary gas which is formed from decayed oil that has already formed.
Probable Reserves: Probable reserves are a class of unproven reserves that geologists use for oil or gas that they are at least 50% sure is actually present.
Proven Reserves: An amount of a resource any resource to be dug out of the ground (oil, coal, natural gas or uranium in energy terms) that geologists have a 90% or higher certainty can be extracted for a commercial gain with the technology available at the time."
Recompleted: The process, by which an old oil well is redrilled, fractured, or has some other technology applied to improve the amount of oil recovered.
Reforming: In oil refining, reforming is using heat to break down, or crack, hydrocarbon atoms and increase their octane level. This technique creates some left-over hydrogen which can be collected and used.
Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): Law that requires electric utilities to produce some portion of their power from renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal or biomass. RPSs are necessary to keep renewables competitive in an era of cheap natural gas electricity.
Rent-Seeking: The practice of using resources to compete for existing wealth rather than to create new wealth, often to the detriment of those who seek to reform societies or institutions. Economies that fail to diversify away from oil are often pre-dominated by a rent-seeking mind-set where people become more pre-occupied with securing the windfall resouce profits for themselves, usually oil, rather than seeking to develop new industries.
Reserves: The fraction of the oil in place that can be considered extractable. This depends not only on the geology, but the economics (is oil expensive enough to make extracting it profitable?) and technology.
Reserve Growth: When an oil or gas field is first discovered, reserve estimates tend to be low. The estimates of the size of the field are expected to grow over time and this is called reserves growth.
Ring of Fire: The Pacific Ring of Fire is a region of high volcanic and seismic activity that surrounds the majority of the Pacific Ocean. This region is essentially a horseshoe of geologic activity, characterized by volcanoes, earthquakes, deep sea trenches, and major fault zones.
Riparian: The term riparian refers to the wetland area surrounding rivers or streams. A riparian ecosystem refers to the biological community supported by an area around a river.
Savonius Turbine: Uses drag generated by the wind hitting the cup, like aerofoils, to create rotation.
Second Generation Wind Turbine: Technology that is only now beginning to enter the market as a result of research, development and demonstration. These are: solar, wind, tidal, advanced geothermal and modern bioenergy. Much hope has been placed upon these technologies but they still provide only a fraction of our energy.
Secondary Battery: Rechargable batteries are sometimes known as secondary batteries because their electro-chemical reactions can be reversed.
Secondary Gas: When oil is subjected to so much heat and pressure it degenerates into gas. The process through which this happens called "thermal cracking."
Secondary Recovery Schemes: When so much oil has been sucked out of an oil reservoir it will lose pressure and the oil will no longer flow out of the reservoir from natural pressure. When this happens secondary recovery schemes can be employed. This means that fluids or gases are pumped into the well to increase pressure and push the remaining oil up out of the well.
Shale: A type of sedimentary rock with low permeability, which was once thought to prevent any commercial extraction of the gas inside. Fracking allows gas developers to access it.
Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR): Initially devised as a technique for detecting submarines. An emitter sends off pulses of sound. The pulses bounce off objects and return to a receiver which interprets their size and distance.
Spot Market: A market where commodities are traded for immediate delivery. A future market on the other hand is one where delivery is expected later on. Because of the dependence of gas users on those who are at the other end of the gas pipeline, the natural gas market is mostly a futures market.
Steam Coal: Steam coal is coal used for power generation in thermal power plants. This is typically coal that ranges in quality from sub-bituminous to bituminous.
Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO): Vegetable oil fuel. Most diesel engine vehicles can run on it so long as the viscosity of the oil is lowered enough for complete combustion. Failure to do this can damage the engine. SVO is also known as pure plant oil or PPO.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve: An emergency store of oil maintained by some governments and corporations. The U.S. Department of Energy holds 727 million barrels of oil.
Subcritical Power Plant: A coal-fired power plant that operates at less than 550ËšC. Because the temperatures and pressures are than other plants, these plants operate at a low efficiency, around 33-35%. These plants are still the most common in the world and many are under construction
Supercritical Power Plant: Supercritical plants are coal powered power plants that can sustain temperatures of 550ËšC to 590ËšC and transfer up to 40% of the coals energy into power. This technology has only come into use in recent years. Most new coal-fired power plants built in the West are supercritical.
Switchgrass: One of the dominant native species of the North American prairies, tallgrass is being researched as a renewable bioenergy crop. It is a a native perennial warm season grass with the ability to produce moderate to high yields on marginal farmlands.
Thermal Power Plant: A thermal power plant is any that is powered by a steam turbine. The steam is created by heating water which in turn spins the turbine. Most coal and gas power stations operate in this way, as do all nuclear plants. Coal powered and gas plants are often just called thermal plants.
Total Carbon Cost: The amount of carbon dioxide emitted during an action or a process. One exmaple is building a natural gas plant. The total carbon cost would include everything from the carbon emitted to get the materials to build the plant, to the carbon emitted in the building of the plant, and the carbon emitted during the operation of the plant.
Unconventional Gas: Unconventional gas reserves come in many different geological formations, and include tight gas, shale gas, coalbed methane and methane hydrates. Extraction of these sources has only just begun and has hugely extended the lives of many gas fields and unlocking many new ones. The unlocking of unconventional gas reserves in the last five years has revolutionized the global energy system.
Ultracritical Power Plant: These are coal thermal power plants that operate above 590ËšC and can attain efficiencies above 40%. These plants are just coming into service.
Undiscovered Reserves: The amount of oil and gas estimated to exist in unexplored areas. Much of B.C. has not been thoroughly explored for fossil fuel potential and many of the estimates of B.C. fossil fuel resources rely on the concept of undiscovered resources
United States Geological Survey (USGS): The United States Geological Survey. The department responsible for estimating American fossil fuel reserves. They also conduct many studies that span the globe.
Unproven Reserves: Oil reserves in the ground that petroleum geologists are less certain are there, but have strong reason to believe is present. Unproven reserves can be broken down into probable reserves and possible reserves. These numbers are used within oil companies but not usually published.
The portion of the oil business that involves finding oil and extracting it.
Uranium is a heavy metal that is naturally radioactive. An isotope, U-235 can be enriched to support a nuclear chain reaction. Uranium is used in many nuclear power plants.
A 2,730 MW dam built in north-eastern British Columbia along the Peace River during the 1960s.
Any activity where humans bore down into the Earth to access reserves of oil or gas trapped in underground geological formations.
These are produced from wood residue (like sawdust) collected from sawmills and wood product manufacturers. Heat and pressure are used to transform wood residue into pellets without chemical additives, binders or glue. The pellets can be used in stoves and boilers.
A remote mountain in Western Nevada where the U.S. Department of Energy has planned on storing all of the country's spent nuclear fuel underground since the 1990s. The proposal met stiff opposition from local residents and in 2009 the project was cancelled.