Interesting Facts About Windpower

Do wind turbines really save on energy emissions?

Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy from moving air to electricity. Since the resource is not reliant on the combustion of fuel it can generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gases resulting in decreased carbon emission to the atmosphere. According to Natural Resources Canada, six 65 kW wind turbines installed in Newfoundland are expected to produce approximately 1 million kWh of electricity per annum and reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 750 tonnes. This translates to 126 cars off of the road. A life cycle analysis of a 2MW turbine conducted by researchers at the International Journal of Sustainable Manufacturing examining the energy used to build, maintain, operate and decommission versus the power produced resulted in an energy payback period of 5.2 to 6.4 months. In other words, in less than a year a wind turbine will recover all of the energy required to build and operate it.

Is wind energy expensive?

In 2015 Lazard, an international financial advisory and asset management firm performed a study examining the total cost of building, operating and maintaining a power plant. This in depth study showed that on-shore wind power had the lowest cost of energy when compared to a large variety of generation techniques such as solar, hydro, natural gas and coal combustion. As development increases and technology improves, the cost of wind is plummeting. In the United States the price of wind has decreased 90% since 1980 and in countries such as Australia, wind is now cheaper than coal and natural gas (Wind Energy Foundation). A study in Australia showed that during a warm period of 1 week, wind energy reduced average prices by more than 40%. Without wind power the cost of generation during this period of high demand exceeded 90$/MWh.

Lazard study comparing the cost of energy with a variety of resources. Click to enlarge.

Does wind energy create jobs?

According to The International Renewable Energy Agency, in 2015 wind industry provided more than 1,081,000 jobs worldwide. The wind industry is becoming more multinational, as the industry matures and more manufacturing is established in new markets. A Cost Analysis done in 2016 found that the three top markets for small wind (with a capacity of 100 kW or less) included the United States, Canada and the UK. In Canada the green energy job market continues to grow. As of 2015 the number of people employed in the renewable energy sector surpassed the number of jobs in the oil sands (Clean Energy Canada).

IRENA data showing the rise in employment in the Wind Energy Sector (2012-2015). Click to enlarge.