With new clean energy procurement plans for wind power moving forward, Ontario remains committed to renewable energy, such as wind power. Ontario’s policies have made the province a North American leader in renewable energy and created a strong green energy manufacturing sector. According to the Ontario Ministry of Energy, the province generates close to one-third (more than 2.3 GW) of Canada’s installed wind power capacity and is home to five of the nation’s eight largest wind farms. Moreover, Ontario already derives approximately 3% of its power from wind – a number expected to grow as coal-fired electricity generation is phased out entirely by the end of this year. In 2013, wind power generated more electricity than coal for the second year in a row.
To date, Ontario has more than 18.5 GW of renewable energy online or announced, which includes more than 9.5 GW of solar, wind and bioenergy capacity. The province’s wind industry has grown significantly from just 10 wind turbines less than a decade ago to more than 1,200 today.
Ontario’s recently updated Long-Term Energy Plan sets out Ontario’s energy strategy, including a target of 10.7 GW of wind, solar and bioenergy online by 2021. Moreover, the existing hydroelectric target of 9 GW will be increased to 9.3 GW by 2025.
The Green Energy Act of 2009 enabled the feed-in tariff (FIT) program, which guaranteed renewable energy suppliers specific rates and sparked billions of dollars in investment. The Ministry of Energy and Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) much-anticipated Large Renewable Procurement plan will replace the FIT program for large-scale projects (those with a capacity greater than 500 kW) with a competitive procurement process.
The two-stage evaluation process will move quickly once the procurement process is made public, with officials planning to post the request for qualifications (RFQ) this summer and a short list for the request for proposals this fall, then to ultimately announce accepted proposals in summer 2015.
The RFQ will focus primarily on the applicant and evidence of early community engagement. In all stages, public engagement will be a key part of the decision-making process, to ensure community support prior to development.
The Ontario government’s Speech From the Throne in 2013 made it clear that the province would strengthen municipal participation in the siting of future large-scale renewable energy projects. The new Large Renewable Procurement process will be a reflection of that commitment. To develop the process, the OPA has already been engaging with the public, municipalities, First Nation and Métis communities, and other stakeholders on a design.
Going forward, Ontario’s approach to renewable energy will be balanced and will consider the views of local communities while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the province’s electricity system. If successful, renewable procurement will have a profound effect on business development, innovation and international expansion.
Business development. More than C$21 billion has been invested in cleaner energy generation in Ontario since 2003. The Ontario market’s appeal continues, thanks to benefits that include the following:
- Strategic market access. Analysts predict C$145 billion will be spent on wind installations in North America between 2011 and 2017.
- Agility in the market. The Ontario Energy Report will be issued annually to stay current on supply and demand and review targets for wind, solar and other energy resources.
- Experienced workforce. With more than 1,200 wind turbines already up and running in Ontario, workers know how to build and operate large-scale wind farms.
- Relatively low cost. Overall business costs in Ontario are among the lowest in the G7 and are 5% lower than those in the U.S.
- Strong logistics and infrastructure. Ontario has readily accessible state-of-the-art road rail and water access; raw materials, chemicals and electronics; and manufacturing components, including blades, gearboxes, controllers and generators.
Ontario’s recently updated Long-Term Energy Plan sets out Ontario’s energy strategy, including a target of 10.7 GW of wind, solar and bioenergy online by 2021.
Innovation. Wind energy innovators are well supported in Ontario, with high-quality, low-cost research and development opportunities, including incentives that are some of the most generous among industrialized countries. Moreover, the province is Canada’s engineering hot spot, with more than 73,000 licensed professional engineers, 250 consulting engineering firms, and hundreds of researchers at publicly funded centers across the province.
The role of the province’s major universities is a further demonstration of Ontario’s commitment to the industry and the innovation that is required for its ongoing evolution. The wind energy group at the University of Waterloo provides expert input on wind turbine aerodynamics and aeroacoustics. Researchers at the University of Guelph currently are working on new ways to optimize turbine siting and forecasting production. At the University of Toronto, scientists are developing a power electronic converter system that will integrate a wind unit or wind farm with a battery energy storage system that can deliver electricity to the grid when needed.
International expansion. Ontario’s renewable energy policies have resulted in significant investments from foreign firms.
For example, Florida-based NextEra Energy is currently building six new wind farms in Ontario. The farms are expected to produce more than 460 MW of clean power, and the turbines are considered to be the most efficient in their class.
Several German wind power companies have also set their sights on Ontario: German wind energy leader ENERCON has built a plant in Beamsville to produce power converters and control electronics for its turbines – the company’s first manufacturing facility outside its home market; manufacturer Senvion has chosen Ontario as the site for its first North American blade plant; and Siemens has established its first Canadian manufacturing facility for turbine components in Tillsonburg. There are currently more than 30 solar and wind manufacturing facilities operating in Ontario.
Wind projects are an important part of Ontario’s energy mix, creating thousands of jobs across the province and providing clean, renewable energy to power our homes and businesses.
As per the 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan, Achieving Balance, Ontario plans to make available for procurement up to 300 MW of further wind power capacity through its Large Renewable Procurement in each of 2014 and 2015.
Any capacity that is not procured under these procurements, or not developed under existing contracts, would be reallocated for procurement in 2016. Recognizing that the energy sector changes rapidly, Ontario will continue to revisit those targets on an annual basis. w
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By Mike Stewart
Despite recent tumult in Canada’s most populous province, wind energy remains an important part of Ontario’s energy mix.