Wind power harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air to generate electricity. As of 2016, wind provides 4% of the world’s electricity. It’s one of the fastest-growing renewable energy industries, with 15.6% growth in 2016 alone.
Canada has the 8th highest wind energy capacity in the world at 11,898 megawatts. Wind supplies about 6% of Canada’s energy demand. It outpaces solar and hydro as the fastest-growing power source in the country. Over 30% of Canada’s 6,288 wind turbines are in Ontario.
Most utility-scale wind turbines consist of three components: a tower, a three-bladed rotor, and a generator. The tower raises the rotor to an altitude where wind travels at a high and constant rate. When wind pushes rotor blades, it spins a motor that converts the rotational energy into electricity. The higher the wind speed, the more power the turbine can generate (though many have a brake that will stop the rotor from moving at an unsafe speed).
Wind patterns and speeds vary from place to place. Hills, mountains, trees, and buildings all impact the effectiveness of wind turbines, so most wind farms are in open, rural areas. Since the amount of electricity generated depends on the weather, wind works best as part of a renewable energy strategy that incorporates other energy sources.
Compared to other sources of renewable energy, wind power has a very high return on investment. The average cost of wind energy declined by 69% from 2009 to 2015. In Canada, wind costs $11.14 per kilowatt hour.