Solar panels west of Medicine Hat, Alberta, on Nov. 27. It was 3 p.m. at the time, and as you can see, power production was likely minimal. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

At noon in Alberta on Friday, Dec. 8, both wind and solar were producing very little power, despite the sun being at its highest point in the sky and additional units being added to the generation mix almost every week in recent weeks.

Alberta now has 42 grid-scale solar facilities listed on the Alberta Electric System Operator page. And at noon, 20 of them were producing exactly zero power to the grid. While a small handful of the newest entrants onto the generation list might still be in startup phase, that’s only a few, not nearly half the fleet. Again, that’s at noon, when the solar potential is at its highest point throughout the day.

Overall, the now 1,575 megawatts of solar capacity in Alberta was generating 116 megawatts at noon. That’s 7.4 per cent of nameplate capacity.

Alberta solar power generation at 11:59 a.m., Friday, Dec. 8. MC is maximum capacity in megawatts. TNG is total net to grid, and DCR is dispatched and accepted contingency reserve. Alberta Electric System Operator.

The Travers Solar Facility in Vulcan County, Canada’s largest at a nameplate capacity of 465 megawatts, was producing only 55 megawatts.

All of this can be explained by the heavy cloud cover blanketing southern Alberta at noon, and what was coming out of those clouds. Southwest Alberta around Calgary had heavy snowfall warning. Lethbridge had snow. The southernmost foothills had “patches of dense fog with near zero visibility.” Heavy cloud, dense fog and snow on solar panels all tend to account for minimal solar power generation.

A large number of Alberta’s wind turbines are in that area, and almost by definition, dense fog generally means low wind conditions.

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And so, it wasn’t any better on the wind side in Alberta. Far from it.

Thirty of the 44 grid-scale wind farms were producing precisely zero power.

Alberta wind power generation at 11:59 a.m., Friday, Dec. 8. MC is maximum capacity in megawatts. TNG is total net to grid, and DCR is dispatched and accepted contingency reserve. Alberta Electric System Operator.

Alberta’s nameplate wind generation capacity is now 4,491 megawatts. And at noon they were getting 133 megawatts – or 3 per cent of capacity.

But it was even worse a few hours earlier. X bot account @ReliableAB, which posts hourly updates on the status of the Alberta grid using data from the AESO page, noted at 9:38 a.m. wind was generating 56 megawatts out of a possible 4,491. That’s 1.2 per cent capacity. Low wind conditions like this had persisted throughout the morning, even as solar was still ramping up from sunrise. At that moment, solar was producing 23 megawatts. That means out of a total 6,066 megawatts of grid-scale wind and solar in Alberta, the province was getting only 79 megawatts, or 1.3 per cent capacity.

At that moment, 94.6 percent of power in Alberta was coming from fossil fuels. This is a key point, because the federal government is moving to eliminate unabated fossil fuel power production in Canada by 2035. That’s 11 years and 23 days from now. And due to the increasing electrification of everything from vehicular transportation to space heating, those same regulations anticipate the electrical grid will need to grow by a factor of 2.5x by 2050. That’s 26 years, 23 days from now. So given what took place in Alberta on Friday, that province would need to replace 94.6 per cent of its power generation with non-emitting power AND increase its grid by a factor of 2.5x, again, in 26 years and 23 days.

Additionally, two more 20 megawatt grid-scale battery systems were added to the grid in recent days, eReserve7 and eReserve8. Despite low wind and solar conditions in Alberta at noon, the 170 megawatts of battery capacity was producing zero power to the grid. The website Dispatcho.app also logs AESO data, and it showed the batteries had provided no power to the grid for the previous 24 hours.

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  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
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