Renewable power generation is electrical energy obtained from natural resources that can be naturally replenished or renewed within a human lifespan. There are many types and classes of renewable power generation. Some examples are:
Wind-powered generation is achieved through the use of wind turbines. A wind turbine is a device of varying sizes that converts the wind's kinetic energy into electrical power. Generally, wind turbines work through wind turning propellers or vanes, the vanes rotating a drive shaft and the shaft turning a turbine that generates electrical current. Wind turbines are manufactured in a wide range of vertical and horizontal axis types. Canada's first commercial wind power plant was opened at Cowley Ridge, near Pincher Creek, Alberta in 1993.
Solar power uses a variety of technologies to convert the sun's light and heat energy into electricity. Direct methods include the use of photovoltaic panels which convert light into an electric current, while concentrated solar thermal systems uses lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam that can in turn create steam and turn a turbine that produces electricity.
Hydroelectricity uses water pressure and the movement of water to turn a turbine that then outputs electricity. There is a wide array of applications of hydroelectric generation, including the traditional dam and reservoir, as well as run-of-river, which uses the existing flow rate of a body of water to turn turbines that are placed in the water body. New hydroelectric technologies are also being developed to harness tidal power, where tides exist. In a traditional dam and reservoir set up, water collects in a reservoir, then using gravity is sent down large pipes to turn a turbine that produces electricity. It has the advantage of controllability in that water flow can be controlled.
Geothermal generation is similar to other steam turbine thermal power stations, however the heat is derived from the earth’s core to heat water or another working fluid, which in turn spins a turbine of a generator, producing electricity. The largest conventional resources for geothermal power in Canada are in British Columbia, the Yukon and Alberta.
Biomass generation encompasses generation using a range of natural and man-made fuels sources including thermal, chemical and biochemical. In practice biomass generation is centred on generation from the highly efficient combustion of plants or plant-based materials, or from the combustion of biofuels, which are produced from plant sugars and starches, or biodiesel, produced from leftover food products such as vegetable oils and animal fats. Generation from landfill gas is also a form of biomass generation.
Micro-generation is small-scale generation, generally close to or at the point of consumption. Alberta’s Micro-generation Regulation defines micro-generation as generation that exclusively uses sources of renewable or alternative energy and is intended to meet all or a portion of a customer’s total energy consumption at the customer’s site or aggregated sites. More information can be found on the Micro-generation page.
The government of Alberta initiated the Renewable Electricity Program which intends to have 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030. As a result of the program, Alberta will add 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity to replace coal-fired electricity generation. More information on the Alberta government’s initiatives can be found on their Climate Leadership Plan webpage.