Renewables

Rising Renewable Energy

Canada is investing in renewable energy, which is energy from sources or processes that are constantly replenished, including sun, wind, water and plant materials. Electricity production is usually top of mind when we hear renewables, but renewable fuel sources such as biogas, biodiesel and hydrogen are also on the rise.

Did You Know

The prairies — a leader in energy in all forms

Think the prairies are only home to fossil fuels? Think again. Projections show the prairies are leading the way in renewable energy growth, while national levels will slow in the next three years.

Canada Energy Regulator. Prairie Provinces to lead Canada in renewable energy growth. March 2021.

Renewables vs. Non-renewables

Just as there are many forms of renewable energy, there are many ways to become involved in Canada’s innovative and emerging renewable energy industry.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is radiant light and heat emitted by the sun. We can harness this energy and use it for power, such as electricity. Here’s a look at different types of solar energy. 

Photovoltaic or solar PV: These are the common solar panels you see everywhere, from the top of your solar-powered garden lights and rooftop residential systems, to large utility-scale solar farms that feed the grid.

Concentrated solar: Usually found in large-scale installations, mirrors and lenses are used to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a central collector.

Thermal solar: Water or other liquids flow through tubes to capture energy from the sun in the form of heat, which is then used to generate heat or electricity.

Wind Energy

Wind energy works when the blades on wind turbines capture the wind’s kinetic energy – which converts the mechanical energy to electricity. It’s an impressive form of renewable energy, with a lot of economic benefits. 

In fact, wind energy is now the lowest-cost source of new electricity generation in Canada and there has been more wind-energy capacity installed in the last decade than any other form. There are over 300 land-based wind farms in the country, which are providing renewable energy, and new jobs, too.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the earth. It is harnessed by drilling geothermal wells between 3-10 kilometres deep and extracting the high-temperature heat energy in the form of hot water or steam. A valuable renewable energy source, geothermal energy is used for both heat and electricity. It is a baseload replacement energy source and can be used to fill gaps in demand, unlike intermittent sources such as solar and wind.

Natural conditions for geothermal production exist mostly in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. While Canada doesn’t currently produce any commercial electricity from geothermal, there are currently seven geothermal projects in early stages of development.

Thinking about crossing over to a career in geothermal? Geothermal has a lot of similarities to the oil and natural gas industry, which means certain skills and experience are highly transferable to this emerging sector.

Other Renewable Sub-sectors

Biomass

Biomass is organic matter — plants and animal waste —used as a fuel. In Canada, the most common biomass fuels are derived from wood and burned to generate electricity or heat. Livestock manure, wastewater solids or food waste can also be converted into a renewable form of methane, referred to as biogas or green gas.

Biofuels

Biofuels are energy sources derived from organic matter that comes from plants and animal waste in the form of methane gas or liquid fuels.

Ethanol

As a biofuel, ethanol is a result of fermenting sugars derived from sources including wheat, corn, canola and sugar beets.

Did You Know?

Canada's largest ethanol facility is in Ontario

The facility, located in St. Clair, produces ethanol from corn. The ethanol is then blended into gasoline to reduce CO2 emissions when burned in vehicles.

Suncor. Renewable Fuels.

Energy Storage

The wind doesn’t always blow, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the peaks in wind and solar production don’t always align with electricity demands, so it is important to develop cost-effective ways of storing or supplementing renewable energy to help even out the gaps. 

In 2020, Canada had more than 40 energy storage projects representing a broad range of technologies including lithium-ion batteries, chemical flow batteries, compressed air energy storage, flywheels, hydrogen storage coupled with fuel cells, and thermal energy storage.

Although most people think of using batteries to store energy as electricity, other technologies like flywheels can store kinetic energy, and compressed-air energy storage creates and stores heat. When additional electricity is required, the stored energy can be tapped into and used to produce it on demand.

A Wholistic Solution

Big picture thinking and diversity are the key to future energy production. That’s why many companies are combining efforts in renewables, non-renewables, cleantech, and digitization and automation to meet energy demand, and help the entire industry grow sustainably.

As Canada works toward net-zero goals, renewable energy will continue to play an important role in supplying reliable, and sustainable energy, at home and around the world.

Did You Know

Renewable energy is growing across western Canada

In Alberta, renewables are expected to increase to 26% by 2023 from 16% in 2017. Similarly, Saskatchewan’s renewable share of capacity is expected to increase to 33% in 2023 from 25% in 2018.

Canada Energy Regulator. Prairie Provinces to lead Canada in renewable energy growth. March 2021.

Working in Renewables

Renewable energy projects are similar to oil and gas projects in many ways. Both involve environmental assessments, stakeholder engagement, land acquisition and meeting regulatory requirements. With similar processes, it’s possible to be a leader in oil and natural gas and renewable energy production.

Assess Your Career Change to see how your role in oil and natural gas can transition to the renewable energy sector.

People who will succeed in renewable energy are:

  • Interested in advancing other energy solutions
  • Generate forward-thinking solutions
  • Familiar with project development and construction
  • Willing to work with smaller organizations
  • Comfortable in rural or remote locations
  • Strong at navigating an evolving regulatory environment
  • People-people with relationship-building skills