Wind, solar and storage operators are on the front lines of climate change

Matt Côté | March 20, 2024

Why is “Operating in a Changing Climate” the theme for this year’s CanREA Operations Summit?

By Mathieu Cote, Director, Operators Program, CanREA 

The climate is changing. This might have been a controversial statement not too long ago. But after the year we had in 2023—historic heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, ice-storms, droughts—there is no longer any doubt: This ain’t your granddaddy’s weather.  

For the renewable energy and energy storage industry, the changing climate brings continual challenges.  

No one knows this better than the boots on the ground—the skilled professionals who operate Canada’s wind, solar and storage assets. They have to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at them as they operate, manage and maintain sites across Canada. 

When it comes to managing the effects of climate change, there is no master manual our industry can consult. They can, however, depend on each other—and distilling and sharing the collective experience of our operators is what the CanREA Operations Summit is all about.  

Predicting the unpredictable 

Renewables operators across the country are dealing with ever-more unpredictable conditions: wind regimes are changing, sites are subjected to wildfires (both the fires themselves and the smoke which can limit solar productivity) droughts, severe icing, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.  

People on the ground must be ready for all this and whatever else is still to come. Luckily, Canadian operators are some of the most resilient and resourceful people I know. And, as the Director of CanREA’s Operators Program, I know quite a few.  

While the rest of the country has been arguing about climate policy, operators have focused on finding solutions—and they have important insights to share with the rest of us. 

Which is why I (with some strong hints from my Operations Network) decided to make “Operating in a Changing Climate” the theme for this year’s CanREA Operations Summit.  

Climate conditions today prepare us for the future 

For the first time, CanREA’s annual Operations Summit (April 10-11, 2024) will take place in Calgary.  

Operators will learn about the changes we’ve already seen, what these changes tell us about what’s to come, and how operators can better prepare themselves and their assets for the climate of the future.  

For example, there will be sessions on how wind power potential is changing around the country, as well as a panel dedicated to the health and safety risks of extreme weather events, which we’re seeing more and more. 

Wind, storage and storage operations professionals are on the front lines of climate change, and we’re going to need all the knowledge and expertise we can get. 

We are each other’s best teachers 

One way wind, solar and storage operators have been able to keep abreast of the latest climate challenges and figure out what works best is by learning from each other. 

In that spirit, this years’ Operations Summit will host both the National Solar Operators Round Table and the National Wind Operators Round Table. These two sessions will be built on the foundations laid by regional groups like the Ontario Wind Operators, the Comité d’Opérateurs Éoliens du Québec, as well as CanREA’s Atlantic Operators group and Western Operators Group.  

All of them have been exchanging information, technical best practices, tips and tricks for years. Exchanges like these make for a more informed operator, which inevitably makes the projects themselves safer, more resilient and more efficient. 

We’re levelling up this regional concept by bringing operators from coast to coast together to network, make connections, learn from one another, and share a wealth of knowledge. 

Getting the job done 

Of course, none of these challenges will be met if we don’t have qualified, trained personnel, in sufficient numbers, to get the job done. To realize the full growth opportunity for Canada’s renewables, we need to invest in growing a skilled workforce.  

This is why we will provide an update on CanREA’s National Workforce Strategy in Action at a plenary session at 4 p.m. on April 10. 

Navigating the snow 

Snow has been an issue in Canada longer than there has been a Canada. And it always will be. As the climate changes, there are changes to how snow needs to be dealt with (or not!). 

The matter of snow will be discussed at the Operations Summit in a panel on the various ways solar operators can deal with snow. Not to mention ice. And extreme heat. And severe weather of all kinds.  

Whatever the weather, it will be a great show in Calgary this year. See you there! 

Be sure to visit the event website for details. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect with Canada’s leading renewable energy and energy storage operators. Register today!  

You can view the full program and register here.