A report from Quebec-based renewables research centre Nergica suggests offshore wind can play an important role in helping Canada reach net-zero by 2050 and boost the clean energy economy.
Offshore wind power is produced by placing wind turbines or wind farms in bodies of water. Canada’s abundant lakes and proximity to oceans provides ample space for offshore wind production. But as Nergica points out, Canada has no operating offshore wind projects. Ontario, the largest Canadian province, still holds a moratorium on offshore wind.
In Offshore Wind Power in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities, Nergica states wind power is key to the Canadian net-zero puzzle, citing research from the U.S. National Renewable Energies Laboratory (NREL) that predicts Canada must install 150 gigawatts of wind power capacity for carbon neutrality, compared to the 14.3 gigawatts currently installed.
The report argues offshore wind has advantages for clean energy production, manufacturing jobs and the local environment, which warrants further exploration.
"We need to give ourselves the means to meet this challenge, by drawing on the expertise developed by Canadian industry and labour, particularly in the wind energy, offshore operations, and shipbuilding industries,” Frédéric Côté, a general manager at Nergica, said in a release.
Nergica last published a report analyzing the impact of climate change on wind power in North America.
Why Canada should consider offshore wind
Offshore wind faces obstacles in Canada such as high costs compared to onshore wind, and regulatory constraints between provinces. But Nergica points to the advantages of energy diversity and the need to install the 150 gigawatts of wind power capacity by 2050 for Canada to hit its climate target.
Canada boasts a “prime geographic location” which offers suitable sites along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Great Lakes region. There is also an innovative Canadian labour force that can match the diverse needs of offshore wind, according to the report.
Offshore wind locations in Canada
The research centre analyzed the three main areas in Canada with high potential for offshore wind.
Canada’s Atlantic seaboard has “one of the best wind potentials in the world,” Nergica said, with wind speeds generally exceeding nine metres per second – close to speeds observed in the North Sea. But the cold climate during winter poses risks like production losses, and the wind farms would have to co-exist with intensive human activity in ports and fishing zones.
In May, the Canadian government released an updated plan to support developing offshore wind farms in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Pacific coast also holds great wind potential according to the report, with average wind speeds between eight and 10 metres per second. Nergica found the best potential in Goose Island Bank and Dogfish Bank.
Though wind speeds in the Great Lakes are not as high as those in Canada’s bordering oceans, an important benefit is how offshore wind could be in proximity to most of Ontario, which is Canada’s most populated province and its economic engine.
Nergica said Canada has reached an advanced stage of development for offshore wind, and can learn from the efforts of countries like Finland that managed to build offshore wind despite similarly frigid winters.
Ontario and Quebec could benefit the most from offshore wind, the paper said, by offering consistent and reliable power and being freed from land regulations.
To boost offshore wind in the country, Nergica laid out a series of recommendations.
The first is to clearly define regulatory requirements for offshore wind projects. The government is urged to provide “developers with all required information to understand the approval, permitting and follow-up processes necessary to develop and commission an offshore wind project,” and establish a transparent and inclusive community involvement process for decision-making, among others.
Secondly, active collaboration between international partners in offshore wind is encouraged to foster innovation and accelerate the uptake of emerging technologies. This could take the form of promoting collaboration and coordination between governments to harmonize policies and regulations for offshore wind and support R&D for offshore technology with global partners.
To encourage and support offshore wind project development at home, Nergica prescribes creating incentives for investors and developers, facilitating data collection that is open access and training a skilled workforce.
Nergica said Canada has wind farm operators like EDF Renewables or Innergex, construction companies like SNC-Lavalin with energy infrastructure experience and technology providers like GE Renewable Energy that can aid in offshore wind production.
Finally, Nergica suggests supporting R&D with grant projects, catalyzing collaboration between educational institutions and investing in specialized training programs.
“In conclusion, Canada boasts remarkable offshore wind potential, which would be regrettable not to exploit. The advantages in terms of economic and energy development are considerable and would help the country consolidate its position as a leader in sustainable development.”