Those flags were flapping hard in the wind. The boom was eventually lowered by half over concerns about how powerful the wind was June 5. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

What does it take to max out wind generation? And wind goes kaput in Alberta, again

 

WEYBURN – The last week has once again shown how wind power generation can vary to the extreme in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Anyone who attended the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show in Weyburn June 5-6 would tell you it was very windy, and indeed, extremely windy on Wednesday, June 5. A picker on display had its boom lowered by half because some people were nervous it could topple.

And on that day, Saskatchewan’s 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind power generation produced an average of 485 megawatts, or 78.9 per cent of capacity. Now, there no wind farms in the immediate vicinity of Weyburn, the closest being at Assiniboia and Grenfell. But it was a generally windy day in southern Saskatchewan. At noon on that day, wind at both Assiniboia and Swift Current, the nearest weather station to the largest wind farms in Saskatchewan, was running at 67 kilometres per hour. That’s sustained winds, not counting gusts.

And the next day, also very windy, saw wind generation average 453 megawatts, or 73.7 per cent capacity. These numbers are according to X account @SKElectricity, which posts daily logs from SaskPower’s Where Your Power Comes From webpage. (That page provides no historical records, and only show data from two days previous. It is updated each day at midnight.)

 

In other words, it was so windy on June 5 to be almost intolerable doing much outdoors, and that’s the kind of day it takes to get roughly 80 per cent capacity from the wind fleet. There have been occasional days where SaskPower shows a little over 500 megawatts on average were generated from wind, but those days are infrequent.

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And in Alberta, the wind sucked

In contrast, the early morning hours of Sunday, June 9, saw Alberta’s massive wind fleet produce around 0.6 per cent of its capacity for several hours – and this was when the sun was down, so there was no solar power to be had. X account @ReliableAB provides hourly logs of the Alberta grid, using minute-by-minute data from the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

 

The Alberta wind fleet just expanded, adding another 266 megawatts at Forty Mile Bow Island. The total nameplate wind capacity is now 4,747 megawatts, across 46 wind farms in southern Alberta. That’s a nameplate capacity that’s 837 megawatts greater than the most power SaskPower has ever provided to its customers, back in December, 2021.

 

If you squint really hard, you can see two pickup trucks at the base of the wind turbine. And the average output of wind turbines in Alberta Sunday morning was less than a Generac generator, insert, which would fit in the box of one of those pickups. Generac image via HomeDepot.ca. Assiniboia wind turbines photo by Brian Zinchuk

Alberta’s now 1,568 grid-scale wind turbines produced 27 megawatts at 3:38 a.m. on June 9. That’s the equivalent of 17.2 kilowatts per turbine. You can pick up a 18 kilowatt Generac natural gas/propane standby generator from Home Depot for $6,659 plus tax and have more generating capacity than the average multi-million dollar wind turbine was putting out in Alberta early Sunday morning. And Home Depot will include the shipping for free.

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