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A realistic assessment of wind energy potential in the North

July 29, 2012

Five years ago the Pembina Institute published a paper where the authors reviewed recent reports to suggest northern Canadian locations with the best potential for wind energy development.

The Pembina Institute creates sustainable energy solutions through research, education, consulting and advocacy. It promotes environmental, social and economic sustainability in the public interest by developing practical solutions for communities, individuals, governments and businesses.

In their report “Assessing the Potential Uptake for a Remote Community Wind” by John Maissan and Tim Weiss looked at Category 1 and 2 locations. Category 1 are Large communities and industrial facilities. This category includes large communities (with an average electrical loads of 2 MW or higher) as well as industrial facilities in remote areas. Examples include Iqaluit, Yellowknife, Les Îles de la Madeleine, and the Diavik and Ekati diamond mines. Category 2 are small remote communities that are accessible either seasonally or year-round by air, water, or road.

For category 1 locations the authors rated 17 large communities and industrial sites. All were rated low, unlikely or low-medium as far a potential for wind energy is concerned. Interestingly, two of the 17 locations are now pursuing wind energy:

For category 2 locations the authors rated some 90 communities for their wind energy feasibility. Many were rated good or excellent.  A few notes:


The Pembina report was useful and informative on the subject of wind energy potential sites. There seems however to be little correlation between the expenditure of money from government on one hand and the high potential sites on the other. The greatest take up for wind energy has been a diamond mine and a nickel mine, ie. from the private sector.