Harnessing the wind can provide clean, affordable energy for people living in gusty rural areas. To turn the kinetic energy of wind into usable electric energy, you need to build a wind turbine – or, on a larger scale, a wind power farm. Building one of these farms takes careful planning plus cooperation with local authorities and communities. According to the Canada Wind Energy Association in 2016, wind energy met only 6% of Canada’s electricity needs, leaving plenty of room for development.
1. Evaluating Average Wind Speeds
Before building a wind turbine or wind power farm, make sure the area in which you plan to build receives enough wind throughout the year to justify the project. To gauge an area’s viability, check the Canadian Wind Energy Atlas on the Government of Canada website, or use an anemometer to measure the wind energy at the location. You can also hire an engineer to analyze the topography, aerodynamics, and weather conditions of the area using professional equipment and give you an estimate of the amount of energy your project could yield.
2. Research Setbacks
Address any drawbacks at the location well in advance of building there. Turbines should have road access to make reaching structures for required maintenance easy. Make sure you talk to all your neighbours to get feedback and the necessary approvals, and consider the amount of noise the blades make. If placed far enough from a residential area, a wind turbine is generally no louder than a running refrigerator.
In addition, check with Canadian Wildlife Services to avoid building the turbines in an endangered bird habitat, and contact your local zoning departments to conform to all regulations on building and structure heights. According to the Royal Canadian Air Force, turbines can affect radar signals, so touch base with Canada’s Land Use Department, and provide the exact locations of the proposed turbines to ensure they’re not capable of interfering with signals.
Avoid damaging the air or water in your building area by researching the environmental conditions there. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is a useful source.
3. Choosing the Land
When starting a wind farm, you have the choice of using your own land or approaching landowners for land use agreements. If you have the land but not the money to develop the turbines, consider leasing the land to a wind development company. The developer assumes all the risks, and you take home a small profit once the project is complete.
If you plan on selling part of the electricity back to local electric companies, make sure the land is close to transmission lines, since running these lines costs thousands of dollars. If you have land far from power lines and traditional electrical sources, a wind turbine might be an economic power source for your property.
4. Financial Analysis
According to the Bergey Windpower Corporation in 2017, a single wind turbine cost $48,000 to $65,000 for installation. Make sure you do careful research to find the most reliable turbines, such as by asking industry professionals. The Government of Canada offers clean energy credits to people who install and develop wind farms. Check to see what the current credits are and how long it takes to profit from installation. Keep in mind the average wind turbine produces more than 6 million kilowatt hours per year of electricity, enough to supply 1,500 households.
5. Financing Your Project
For a community project, talk to home owners in the community about pooling resources to complete the project. If you’re going into the project for profit, try talking to investors, or pursue a long-term loan through a bank or credit agency. A fiscal sponsor can help attract donors to fund the project as a nonprofit.
6. Obtaining Permits
Before you start clearing land and erecting the structure, double-check the zoning laws, and talk to all relevant agencies to get the right permits. The Canadian Wind Energy Association can tell you how to get the permits you need, and the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association has more information on the subject.
7. On-Site Construction
Most turbines are manufactured and put together in the factory and shipped out for final assembly on-site. Preparing assembly means constructing access roads to the site and laying turbine foundations to keep the units stable. If building the turbine on-site, rent a crane to install the hubs and blades. The final installation requires an electrician to install and connect wires to the grid. Expect the building process to last six months before the turbine runs as smoothly as it should.
8. Performing Routine Maintenance
Once the turbines are in place, perform regular maintenance to keep the units in top condition. If you can, hire special workers to monitor the performance of each turbine and do preventative maintenance as needed.
With careful planning and consideration, you can build a wind farm that provides years of clean energy for a home or neighbourhood. As long as you follow the laws, get the proper permits, and talk to the right people, you can be on your way to joining the clean energy movement in Canada.