Wind turbines are a common site in many European countries – Denmark, for example, generates 20% of its electrical supply from wind energy. Lower production costs, technical improvements in reliability and productivity, and the increasing cost of traditional sources of energy (oil and gas) have driven the expansion of wind energy production in Canada. Since 2000, actual installed capacity of wind energy has increased from 137 MW to 4,588 MW.
Along with this increase in generation capacity, the physical size of wind turbines has increased dramatically since 1980.
For a 1.8 MW turbine (typical for a wind farm in Canada) there are four main large components: the nacelle (63,000 kg), turbine blades (39 m long), turbine tower (65 m tall and 132,000 kg), and foundation (9-10 m deep and 4 m across).
It is anticipated that over the next 6 years, 16,000 jobs could be created in construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of renewable energy projects, as well as direct employment in manufacturing. Estimates suggest that utility scale wind requires approximately 10-15 jobs per annual MW of generated electricity. Historical employment data suggests that the majority of employment is in the manufacturing and installation of wind turbines, with approximately one quarter of wind industry employment split between operations and exporting.
In the long term, investments will be needed in marketing, skills training, and research and development. Some of the most advanced wind turbine research in the world is being conducted in Ontario and this innovation will help to establish the region as a major player in the global wind industry.