Future of Renewable Energy in Canada's Arctic -- FRENCA

Reliance of communities in Canada's Arctic on fossil-fuel based power generation exposes them to high costs and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, such power generation results in strong point sources of greenhouse gases and other airborne pollutants. A pair of feasibility studies commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund and the Government of Nunavut found that integration of renewable energy generation (both wind and solar power) is cost-effective for communities in Canada's North. The proposed research is a collaboration of atmospheric scientists and engineers from the University of Victoria, the Université de Québec à Montréal, and the University of Alaska, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, the Government of the NWT (GNWT), the Hamlet of Sachs Harbour, Hydro-Québec, Manitoba Hydro, and the Ouranos Consortium to produce and study predictions of future wind and solar power resources in Northern Canada, with a particular focus on coastal communities.

The four specific research problems to be addressed are:

  1. A study of how wind power and solar irradiance in Canada's Arctic will change in the future (due to anthropogenic- human caused - change and natural variability), and to what degree future variations in these two resources might complement each other.
  2. Detailed observations of near-surface atmospheric variability using an instrumented tower in Sachs Harbour. These observations will allow us to understand the relationship of wind and solar power in this coastal community with larger-scale weather variations; to ground-truth our prediction models; and to provide essential information regarding the physical operation of wind turbines in this climate (e.g. mechanical stresses and ice loading).
  3. Further developing the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM) for high-latitude applications. While the CRCM provides the best tool we have for predictions of future climates in Canada's North, relatively little work has been done so far in determining how well it simulates near-surface processes in this environment. We propose carrying out detailed sensitivity studies using the model, the results of which will be used to guide model development. This work will result in a substantial increase in predictive capacity for environmental variability (and in particular wind and solar power) in Canada's Arctic.
  4. An extension of the engineering/economic analysis previously undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund for the present climate at a subset of community sites, considering different energy system model formulations and different renewable energy systems (e.g. airborne wind energy), and extending the analysis into the mid-21st Century to assess possible risks associated with climate change.

All predictions of future climates (and associated renewable energy resources) are uncertain. Some uncertainties, associated with observational gaps and model biases, can be reduced with continued research. Others, such as those associated with natural internal variability of the climate system, cannot be reduced and therefore must be quantified. The proposed research will improve modelling capacity (both environmental and energy systems) in Canada's North through systematic analysis of the models and collection of new and valuable data. Through analysis of natural variability of wind and solar power resources, it will also quantify the range of possible renewable energy futures in this region. Particular attention will be paid to coastal regions, as it is expected that changes in summertime sea ice extent will result in changes of the wind and irradiance regimes.

FRENCA Researchers