Why isn’t there more electricity produced by wind generation in Alberta?
Reviewing the Science
- Explain the difference between a wind turbine and a wind farm.
- A wind turbine transforms what form of energy into electrical energy? How is this different from other forms of electricity produced in Alberta?
- No source is perfect
- Technical Challenges
- Province is built on traditional sources of energy
- Alberta has invested billions in coal-fired and natural-gas-fired power plants
- Huge reserves of fossil fuels
- Infrastructure and available fuels make it harder to switch to wind
- Traditional industries employ 100000s of Albertans
- Wind fluctuates (too little or too much) – consistency is an issue
- Cannot rely entirely on wind power
- Need electricity in urban centres, so would need a lot of new infrastructure to bring wind power from rural areas (transmission)
- Environmental Challenges
- Landscape visual impact of wind farms
- Turbine blades can harm birds and bats
- Necessary roads, transmission lines, and substations add to landscape footprint
- People who live near wind farms complain about noise
- Need a lot of turbines to produce enough electricity to make an impact on Alberta’s overall electricity mix
- Environmental Opportunities
- Completely sustainable (can’t run out of wind)
- Reduce global warming by reducing reliance on fossil fuels
- No fuel extraction or combustion
- Quickly makes up for emissions involved in turbine construction
- Each turbine can produce electricity for 20-25 years
- Consumes no fuel or water
- Zero emissions or nuclear waste
- Economic Opportunities
- Costs money, but once initial investment made, inexpensive electricity for decades
- Becoming more efficient and less costly
- Affordable enough to compete with coal and nuclear
- Help to stabilize electricity costs because wind is always available and free
- Wind farms are low maintenance and one-at-a-time maintenance, so no shut-down (off-grid) time
- Technology development of wind farms will create jobs in construction, maintenance and technological development
- Bring economic activity back to rural areas
- Land-lease income could help sustain rural farms
Exploring the Issues
- How do you think the wind power industry will change in the next 10 years?
- What would help to promote growth in the wind industry?
- What stakeholder perspectives may have been missing from the discussion in the video? What arguments do you think these stakeholders might include to reinforce their perspective?
- What kinds of jobs/careers do you think are related to wind power generation? Consider every step in the process from assessing a windy site to transmitting the electricity produced.
- If you were a farmer in southern Alberta, would you provide some of your land for the development of a wind farm? Why or why not?