ecoweek.ca Canada's environmental news weekly since 1972
November 1, 2004
Canada becomes first large-area nation with wind energy atlas covering entire territory
MONTREAL, QUE-At the recent Canadian Wind Energy Association Annual Conference and trade show in Montreal, the federal Ministers of Environment and of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), StÈphane Dion and John Efford, unveiled the newly-completed Canadian Wind Energy Atlas, a massive database of high-resolution wind statistics. Canada is now the first large-area country in the world to have a comprehensive Wind Energy Atlas across its entire territory. The Wind Atlas was created with WEST - the Wind Energy Simulation Toolkit - a sophisticated computer modeling program developed by scientists at Environment Canada's Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), in partnership with their NRCan colleagues. WEST allows planners of wind energy projects to look both backward and forward in time to generate a detailed picture of wind patterns - a "wind atlas" - for any location in Canada. This means wind farms can be situated with greater precision. By reducing the need for extensive field studies to verify wind conditions in a given area, development of new projects can proceed much faster. WEST can also be used to forecast wind conditions up to two weeks in advance, eventually providing an estimate of the prediction uncertainty. This will allow electricity generators to predict when auxiliary power sources may need to be brought on-line to supplement the wind generation system. As of September 2004, Canada had 439 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity, avoiding the emission of as much as 1.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas.