The future of wind energy in Alberta

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From CanWEA website, showing the state of Alberta’s wind market as of 2017

The Province of Alberta is reinventing its energy supply with its Renewable Electricity Program, which targets 30% of the province’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. To take stock of the province’s existing strengths, as well as gaps and opportunities related to that goal, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) commissioned the Delphi Group to study the existing resources, including workforce skills, to support the growth of the wind industry. The resulting report,  Alberta Wind Energy Supply Chain Study , concludes that if wind energy were to meet 90 per cent of the government’s commitment, it would result in an estimated $8.3 billion of investment in new wind energy projects in the province and almost 15,000 job years of employment by 2030.  Many of the skills and occupations required to develop wind projects – such as engineering, construction, operations and maintenance – are transferable from the oil and gas sector. CanWEA is urging the government to provide a long-term renewable energy procurement policy which would encourage investment .

The report is summarized by the Energy Mix, by the National Observer , and in a CanWEA press release.  CanWEA also provides current profiles of provincial wind markets – Alberta’s is here .  CanWEA’s annual conference was held in Montreal from October 3 to 5; the closing press release is here.

The National Observer story features the wind turbine technician program at Lethbridge Community College, and states that in January 2017, a third of the students who entered the College’s wind turbine technician program came from careers in the oil industry.

Wind and Solar industry groups report healthy growth

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Photo from U.S. Energy.gov. Creative Commons license. 

Wind installations in Canada have grown by 18% in the last 4 years, according to the latest statistics released in February by  the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). There are now 285 wind farms, made up of 6,288 wind turbines in Canada, representing about $1.5 billion in investment.  Most wind projects are in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. The greatest growth occurred in Nova Scotia in 2016, mostly driven by the province’s community feed-in tariff program. An article by the UBC Sauder School of Business summarizes the results with emphasis on British Columbia:   “B.C. Lags during banner year for wind power” .

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)   also released new statistics,  on  Feb. 9, showing that wind has surpassed hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electric capacity  in the U.S., and the fourth largest overall.  Texas is the undisputed leader in wind energy, with 25% of the national capacity and nearly 25% of the jobs – including at 40 wind manufacturing facilities in the state. The industry report points out that “Of the $13.8 billion invested by the U.S. wind industry last year, $10.5 billion was invested in low-income counties”, making rural and Rust Belt America among the greatest beneficiaries of wind power development.

The European industry body, WindEurope,  released its latest statistical report on  February  9th, showing “The cost of wind power continues to plummet, and this is particularly the case for the European offshore sector, which has met and exceeded its 2020 price targets by a substantial margin, and five years early. ” In “Off-shore wind moves in to energy’s mainstream”, the New York Times provides an overview, mostly of Europe, and observes, “Offshore wind still represents only a tenth of new generation in the sector, …but investment in the industry nearly tripled in the five years to 2015.”

Finally, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)   published its annual statistics report in the first  week of February;   the 4-page statistical overview  is here  . It reveals that  China is leading the way in installed wind power (34.7% of global installed power) , followed well behind by the United States ( 16.9%) , Germany (10.3%), and India (5.9%) .  Canada ranks 7th  with 2.4% of global installed capacity.

SOLAR INDUSTRY:    According to the 2017 edition of the Solar Jobs Census  released by the Solar Foundation on  February 7, more than 51,000 solar industry jobs were added in the U.S. in 2016 – bringing the total number of Americans working in the industry to 260,000.  A  Bloomberg News summary of  the report ,  “U.S. Solar Industry clamors for workers as employment climbs by 25% “, quotes the Executive Director of the Solar Foundation : “Solar manufacturing, installation, and operation now “employ more [Americans] than Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple combined…These are well-paying, family-sustaining jobs with low barriers to entry, with average wages at US$26 per hour for solar installation.”

The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is also bullish on the industry in its 4th Quarter “US Solar Market Insight” report , conducted by GTM Research and the SEIA. It shows a record-breaking number of solar installations in 2015, so that the U.S. now hosts more than 1.3 million solar photovoltaic installations with enough capacity to power 8.3 million households. The report states: “While U.S. solar grew across all segments, what stands out is the double digit gigawatt boom in utility-scale solar, primarily due to solar’s cost competitiveness with natural gas alternatives.”

For a comprehensive overview of employment statistics for all sectors of the renewable energy industry, see the Jobs in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet, released by the Environmental and Energy Institute (Washington, D.C.) in February.  The Fact Sheet compiles statistics from  many sources, though it relies heavily on the U.S. Department of Energy report, U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) (January 2017),  and the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review (2016) from  International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) .