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magazine / mj01

May/June 2001 issue


À LA CARTE
 

Who has mapped the wind?
Map by Steven Fick with text by Mary Vincent

Coal, oil and gas may be dirty, subject to volatile pricing and in questionable supply, but there’s no shortage of wind energy in Canada. As this map demonstrates, many parts of the country have the ideal breezes and gusts to keep wind turbines spinning. Since 200 bc, when windmills were used to pump water in China and grind grain in Persia, wind has been providing power to the people.

Yet while wind is the world’s fastest-growing energy source increasing by some 24 percent a year over the past decade — Canada lags behind. Eight percent of Denmark’s electricity comes from wind, with the goal of reaching 50 percent by 2030. Parts of Germany and Spain are producing 14 and 22 percent, respectively, and India, China and Argentina are making advances. But according to the Pembina Institute, Canada produces only enough wind energy to supply about 40,000 homes. (Alberta alone has enough wind potential to power up three million homes.)


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Canadians have a huge appetite for energy — we consume more energy than the 700 million people of Africa. But research shows that Canadians are eager to adopt clean, renewable energy. So besides being a little more efficient and flicking off a few light switches now and then, perhaps it is time to convince our governments to divert some of the $300 billion in annual global fossil-fuel subsidies to green-energy development. Even the oil companies may be seeing the light: Shell, one of the world’s largest, says that renewables could meet up to 50 percent of global energy needs by 2050.


SOURCE: R. BENOIT, W.YU, NUMERICAL PREDICTION RESEARCH DIVISION, METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE OF CANADA, ENVIRONMENT CANADA

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