During a prolonged drought over the past decade hydroelectric reservoirs in Quebec and in British Columbia dropped to near critical levels. Water levels have steadily dropped in the Great Lakes over the past century while more recently polar ice has begun to melt as Canada’s Arctic slowly warms. Researchers who study changing weather patterns have predicted reduced rainfall over the southern regions of Western Canada in the long-term future. They have forecast that several hydroelectric reservoirs could be depleted during a prolonged drought and that the lack of water could adversely affect Canadian oil production.
One innovative oil company has responded by developing a method of extracting oil from the tar sands with little need for water. A controlled amount of oxygen is injected into the cold ground to ignite a small percentage of the oil. Heat from the controlled combustion melts the surrounding oil that can then be more easily piped to the surface. Other oil companies may develop a means by which to continually recycle water used to extract oil from the earth. They may consider using nuclear energy to pump water via pipeline from northern lakes to oilfields and population centers located south of the 60th parallel.
Evolving long-term weather forecasts suggest increased rainfall over northern Canada to the east of the Mackenzie Mountains and the Great Central Plains. Prevailing winds would likely pick up extra moisture from a warmer Beaufort Sea and carry it into that region. The extra rainfall could encourage new hydroelectric development on northern rivers like the Churchill and the Nelson. Kinetic river turbines could generate electric power from currents in rivers like the Mackenzie, the Peace and numerous other rivers. Pumped hydroelectric storage may be possible between nearby pairs of northern lakes that are at different elevations. A proportion of Western Canada’s agricultural industry could expand northward as increased rainfall in a warmer northern climate extends the growing season.
Initiatives are underway along Canada’s Pacific Coast to generate electric power from ocean waves and tidal currents. Kinetic turbines are being tested at several inlets along this coast where potential for wave energy conversion is possible. Wind energy conversion is becoming more prominent along that region’s coastal mountains. A future decrease in rainfall could see nuclear fission and/or nuclear fusion power stations eventually being built along the coast near population centers like Vancouver. Their exhaust heat may be used to thermally desalinate seawater. Seawater may be pumped into reservoirs in coastal mountains during off-peak periods to be used for hydroelectric storage and reverse-osmosis desalination.
A prolonged drought over much of Western Canada means less cloud cover during longer future summers allowing concentrated solar power technologies to operate north of the 49th parallel. Seasonal geothermal energy storage could be expanded to heat buildings during winter and cooling during longer and hotter northern summers. There are hundreds of depleted oil and natural gas wells across western Canada with enough low-grade geothermal heat at the deep levels to energize low-grade heat engines that could generate electric power for small communities during winter.
The powerful winds that blew over Western Canada during the dustbowl years of the 1930’s could re-appear. Modern wind energy technology could convert some of that energy to electric power at large wind farms and at private small-site installations. Powerful winds that blow over the shrinking Great Lakes during winter could sustain wind energy installations at numerous lakeshore locations. Powerful winds also blow from northwestern Canada over some 1700-islands that lie in the eastern section of Hudson Bay and James Bay where a variety of tower-based and helium filled airborne wind turbines can be installed.
A stack of 5-airborne turbines on a single control line that fly between 1500-ft and 3000-feet could generate some 8-Mw. Up to 2500-stacks could produce a peak of 20,000Mw of power and an average of 8,000Mw that could be transmitted via undersea cables carrying UHV-DC power into Ontario. The airborne wind technology would be harmless to the eider geese that live on several of the islands. Tidal currents that flow through the western channels of Hudson Strait could generate up to 18,000Mw for 2-cycles of 5-hours each day, a portion of which could be sold to Ontario and transmitted via UHV-DC undersea cable.
While hydroelectric power generation may decline in Ontario due to changing weather patterns, nuclear power will play a more significant role in providing power to Ontario the future. Hydroelectric power from Quebec, wind energy from the islands in Hudson Bay and energy the tidal currents in Hudson Strait could also a significant role in future renewable power generation. Depending on future water levels in Lake Ontario, pumped hydroelectric storage at Niagara could store much of the future off-peak nuclear, wind and tidal energy that could become available during peak periods.
Powerful winds blow at elevations of over 2000-feet elevation along Quebec’s west coast that borders Hudson Bay and James Bay. Airborne wind turbines flying at elevations of 3000-feet to 5000-feet along Quebec’s west coast could generate some 20,000Mw of power. They may marginally reduce air temperature and the velocity of moisture-laden winds that blow inland over the hydroelectric watershed areas of Quebec and Labrador and cause a slight increase in rainfall.
There is great potential for over 5000Mw of high-elevation wind power generation over the mountains of Northern Labrador and up to 6000Mw from tidal currents that flow through Gray Strait at the eastern exit of Hudson Strait. Advanced undersea UHV-DC cables could carry that power south and connect into some 6000Mw of hydroelectric power that would be transferred into Newfoundland where there is potential to generate electric power from ocean waves. Most of the renewable electric power may be sold into markets in the northeastern United States and perhaps placed into temporary overnight storage at Niagara Falls at a future time. Power may also be generated from ocean tides at several locations in Eastern Canada and used locally.
The peak seasonal demand for electric power occurs during the northern summer when shortages loom. Ontario’s present strategy suggests a possible shortfall of up to 15,000Mw by 2025. New evolving technology such as airborne northern wind power and power from northern tidal currents may be able to cover much of that projected shortfall. Excess generation capacity could be either be sold into American markets or used to produce hydrogen that could be stored in salt domes. These emptied caverns can measure by up to a mile in diameter by over 5-miles in vertical height and could store compressed hydrogen on a season basis. At some locations Toshiba’s mini nuclear technology could be used to assist in flushing salt out of caverns that may exist in the deep bedrock near oceanic coastal locations.
Changing weather patterns will affect various sectors in Canada’s energy industry and will require change. There are new and evolving technologies that could generate a greater proportion of Canada’s future electric power at centralized commercial-scale installations and at a proliferation of small-site installations. Airborne wind conversion, wave energy conversion, and kinetic turbines are among the evolving technologies. A revision of the energy regulations could encourage expanded small-site development.
Seasonal geothermal storage technology is making a comeback and is used to heat buildings during winter and provide cooling during summer. Concentrated solar photovoltaic (CSP) power conversion is one of the emerging technologies that could play an increased role in future power generation in Southern Canada. Nuclear fusion technology will likely become operational in the decades ahead and provide much needed power.