Wind Energy

Table of Contents

  1. Description of the Technology
  2. State of the industry
  3. Is wind energy right for me?
  4. Benefits, drawbacks and considerations
  5. Regulatory issues
  6. Selling electricity to the grid
  7. Additional resources

Description of the Technology

Wind turbines harness the power of the wind and convert it to useful forms of energy. Wind energy can be used to create mechanical power, such as to pump water or aerate ponds, or to generate electricity.

The key components of a wind turbine system are the turbine itself, the tower it is mounted on, and for electric systems, the transmission or distribution lines that carry the electricity to its destination. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) Electricity Generation Using Small Wind Turbines at Your Home or Farm Factsheet has more information about the technical components of a wind turbine.

State of the Industry

Wind turbines are a common sight in Europe. For example, Denmark derives almost 30 per cent of its electricity from wind energy. Wind energy is also becoming more common in Canada. Currently, Ontario is leading the way in installed megawatts.

Is Wind Energy Right for Me?

Many wind turbines have been installed in farming areas across Ontario because of the wind resource that is available in these open areas. The right site is clear, unobstructed and exposed to steady winds. Proper site assessments are important because some turbines are designed to cut out in high winds, and some cannot operate if the wind speed is too low.

You can consider small-scale wind energy use for your farm, either for mechanical purposes or to generate electricity. Alternatively, leasing your land to a commercial wind power developer can generate income and allows you to continue to farm without needing to oversee maintenance of the turbines or securing the financing to install the system.

Wind turbines can have a significant visual presence, whether as an individual unit near the farmstead or as part of a large wind development. With the growth of the wind sector in Ontario, this has become an increasingly important issue.

Benefits, drawbacks and considerations

There are benefits, drawbacks and other factors to consider when thinking about wind energy for your farm.

Benefits:

  • A proven track record for remote water pumping or pond aeration on the farm.
  • One of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy.
  • Potential revenue from replacing your own power use, sale of electricity to the grid or from leasing land to a developer.
  • Well-suited to rural areas with wide open spaces and consistent wind resources.
  • Helps contribute to Ontario's clean energy supply and reduces the reliance on non-renewable energy sources.

Drawbacks and considerations:

  • If you are developing your own project, you need to carefully consider up-front project costs, maintenance costs and expected electricity output, and ensure you are meeting all regulatory requirements. You will likely need to seek professional advice.
  • You need to carefully consider all of the details of any land lease agreements with wind project developers, and seek professional advice.
  • For off-grid systems, you will need to consider that there might not always be enough wind to meet your energy needs.
  • Wind turbines may generate low levels of noise.
  • Neighbours may object to the presence of a wind turbine, or how it looks.
  • There is the potential for wildlife impacts from wind turbines. These considerations must be addressed through relevant authorities during the planning and approval process.

Regulatory issues

Make sure turbines are sited in accordance with applicable provincial and/or federal regulatory requirements. Ontario's regulatory approval process for electrical wind energy projects is the Renewable Energy Approval (REA). The REA process considers and protects natural spaces by prohibiting development in specified natural areas, establishing setbacks from significant features, and requiring projects to assess and prevent harmful environmental impacts. For more information, see the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change's (MOECC) Renewable Energy Approvals website.

If your proposed turbine will be situated in the vicinity of an airport, please contact Transport Canada to ensure you meet their requirements.

Municipal approvals, such as building permits and road use permits, may also be required.

All electrical systems, regardless of size, must comply with applicable electrical codes. Systems must also be inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority.

There may be other approvals required, depending on the details of your project. It is the responsibility of the project developer to investigate all requirements.

Contact the Ontario Ministry of Energy's Renewable Energy Facilitation Office (REFO) at 1-877-440-7336 (REFO) or REFO@ontario.ca for more information about electricity project approvals.

Selling electricity to the grid

You may wish to explore the Ontario Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program if you are developing your own electricity project and you want to connect to the Ontario grid and sell electricity. The FIT program offers long-term electricity contracts for eligible wind projects with an electricity generating capacity of more than 10 kilowatts (kW), up to 500 kW. The microFIT program is designed for projects 10 kW and smaller.

Getting a FIT or microFIT contract is not guaranteed - you need to review the program eligibility rules carefully, and you need to check with your local distribution company (LDC) regarding availability of connection capacity. Due to the high level of interest in the FIT and microFIT programs, there is limited capacity for the grid to accept new generation in some areas of the province.

Visit the Independent Electricity System Operator's FIT program and microFIT program websites for more information on both of these programs.

Another option for projects up to 500 kW is net metering. Net metering allows you to generate power for your own needs, and sell any extra electricity to the grid for a credit on your electricity bill. Credits can be carried forward for up to one year. There must still be enough grid connection capacity for projects to participate in net metering.

Contact your local distribution company (LDC) for more information on net metering. Use the Independent Electricity System Operator's online list and map to determine your LDC.

For projects larger than 500 kilowatts, refer to the Large Renewable Procurement process web page.

If you have any questions about selling electricity to the grid, contact the REFO at 1-877-440-7336 (REFO) or REFO@ontario.ca.

Additional Resources

Publications and Websites

There are a number of helpful publications on wind energy available, including:

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture's list of suggestions for farmers has helpful information for landowners planning to lease their land to commercial wind developers.

Associations


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 22 April 2009
Last Reviewed: 27 February 2015