As we work toward a more sustainable energy future, renewable energy is going to be an increasingly important part of the global energy mix. Suncor is a significant player in renewable energy in Canada. Our investments to date are focused on wind power and biofuels, although we continue to monitor other long-term opportunities, including solar.
Many of our stakeholders have asked about the longer-term perspective on renewable energy, with an emphasis on wind power and biofuels in Canada and the U.S. In response to these questions, Suncor commissioned a report from IHS CERA to provide a view to inform the discussion.
Read the IHS CERA report
Wind power is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity generation in the world. Suncor was an early entrant into Canadian wind power with our first project startup in 2001. We are currently involved in six operating wind farm projects — five of which are joint ventures. The total installed wind capacity of these operations is 255 megawatts, enough to power about 100,000 Canadian homes per year. Subject to regulatory approvals, we have two additional wind power projects in Ontario expected to commence operations in 2015. This will increase our total installed wind capacity to 395 megawatts.
Despite support for wind power in general, individuals living in close proximity to our proposed projects have raised concerns about the installation of wind turbines near their homes. This is common in any community where a significant development project is planned. Some of the primary concerns expressed relate to the interruption of views and the potential for impacts to regional property values. Concerns around the potential for health risks also remains though studies have found no linkage between wind turbines and health related issues. We continue to support fact based, scientific studies aimed at addressing these concerns.
Suncor endeavors to work in an open, respectful and transparent way, engaging with communities early to alleviate and resolve issues wherever possible. While these conversations can be difficult, our preference is always to reach mutually acceptable solutions. Our wind projects strive to meet or exceed all regulations. For example, our project design philosophy aims to minimize visual impact, reduce turbine density and maximize setbacks wherever practical.
We believe that wind power is a safe and reliable energy source. It is efficient, emissions-free and one of the most economically recognized forms of renewable energy.
Wind energy is, and is expected to be, a key component of Suncor's commitment to advancing different forms of energy.
We also operate Canada's largest ethanol production plant, near Sarnia, Ont. In 2011, Suncor completed a $120 million expansion of the St. Clair ethanol facility, doubling its capacity to 400 million litres per year. In August 2012, the plant achieved a production milestone of 1.5 billion litres of production.
Virtually all the ethanol produced at the St. Clair plant is blended into Petro-Canada gasoline. "Since it is a requirement for various biofuels mandates across the country, we can either purchase the product or we can produce it," says Jim Provias, VP renewable energy. "By operating the St. Clair plant, we are better able to control cost and quality, further reinforcing the value of Suncor's integrated operating model.
Suncor's commitment to renewable energy
Suncor's combined renewable energy portfolio currently displaces about one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year - the equivalent of the annual tailpipe emissions of about 225,000 cars.
"Developing renewable energy is part of Suncor's long-standing climate change action plan," says Gord Lambert, executive advisor, sustainability and innovation. "It is also another way we strive to create energy for a better world. In other words, we are committed to continuous improvement in environmental performance when it comes to developing the oil sands and other sources of oil and gas, while also investing in new sources of energy for the future."
The company's commitment to advancing different forms of energy also makes good business sense. Wind power and biofuels are some of the energy sources for the future —and Suncor wants to be among the providers of multiple energy solutions through what we believe are strategic, and relatively low-risk, investments.
"Going forward, a much greater diversity of energy sources is going to be the order of the day," observes Lambert. "We're going to need it all: conventional, unconventional and renewable energy sources. You can't really forgo any of it."