Wind turbines in southern Alberta. Photo by Clive Schaupmeyer

Wind power generation in Alberta has had a pretty good week, all things considering, with power generation often hitting over 2,800 megawatts.

And then there was Wednesday night going into Thursday morning, when wind power production flatlined to effectively nothing.

According to X bot account @ReliableAB, which uses data published by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), wind power generation fell to 14 megawatts out of a nameplate capacity of 4,420 megawatts at 10:39 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22. That’s 0.3 per cent, or three one-thousandths of capacity.

https://x.com/ReliableAB/status/1727564003130454375?s=20

And since it was nighttime, solar was producing zero megawatts out of a nameplate capacity of 1,470. So if you added total wind and solar output, divided by their total capacity, you got 0.2 per cent output.

Wind came up slightly, and hovered around 40 to 70 megawatts throughout the night. By 7:02 am, wind generation capacity was 39 megawatts, out of a total of 4,420 megawatts installed base. That’s less than 0.9 per cent capacity.

And since the sun had not yet risen, solar power generation was flatlined at zero, meaning not one morning coffee pot was being heated by grid-scale solar, despite an installed base of 1,470 megawatts.

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That means total wind and solar generation at that moment was 39 megawatts out of a nameplate capacity of 5,890 megawatts. That meant wind and solar combined were producing 0.7 per cent of nameplate capacity.

These low output numbers are despite substantial growth in both wind and solar power nameplate capacity. In recent months Alberta’s wind capacity grew from 3,618 megawatts to 4,410, an increase of 802 megawatts. That’s an increase of 22 per cent capacity in just a few months. And yet all those additional nameplate megawatts didn’t amount to a hill of beans when the wind decided not to blow across all of southern Alberta, as typically happens in these scenarios which Pipeline Online has reported on no less than 20 times in the last two years.

An argument often made by wind power proponents is that “If it’s not blowing here, it’s blowing somewhere, so build more windfarms.” But out of the now 44 wind farms in Alberta (up from 36 this past summer), only nine were producing any power whatsoever. Thirty-five wind farms were producing zero power. Those 44 wind farms are made up of hundreds of wind turbines, costing billions of dollars collectively.

Wind power generation in Alberta at 7:02 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 23. MC is maximum capacity in megawatts. TNG is total net to grid. DCR is dispatch (and accepted) contingency reserve. Alberta Electric System Operator

This fallacy is also exhibited in discussions of how much power generation capacity is really there. For instance, wind and solar’s combined 5,890 megawatts makes up 28.8 per cent of the Alberta grid’s 20,457 megawatt nameplate capacity. But the output at the later Wednesday night was just 0.2 per cent of that nameplate.

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Similar arguments are often made by SaskPower. In its submissions to federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault regarding the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations, SaskPower speaks of having a “about 5,400 megawatt” power generation capacity. SaskPower’s president and CEO Rupen Pandya has also often quoted that 5,400 megawatt number, such as when he spoke to Estevan’s city council on Sept. 25.

The reality is that number would only be if every coal and natural gas turbine was operational and running at full capacity, every dam was full, every solar panel fully lit by a cloudless sky at noon, the wind blowing at full capacity at every wind farm, and that nothing was down for maintenance. That has never, ever happened, as to date the most SaskPower has ever produced was 3,910 megawatts on Dec. 30, 2021. And at the time, SaskPower would have been drawing on power imports from its neighbours, too.

SaskPower intends on adding an additional 3,000 megawatts of wind and solar power generation by 2035, bringing Saskatchewan’s total grid-scale wind and solar capacity to 3,647 megawatts. But as shown above, Alberta already has 5,890 megawatts, and last night, that province got all of 14 megawatts from it.

 

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And here’s what happened the next day:

On Thursday, Alberta wind power had a hangover and the sun didn’t come out to play

Meanwhile, batteries, which many say are the solution, proved utterly useless in addressing the low wind and solar conditions:

What the Globe and Mail left out in its story on grid-scale batteries in Alberta

 

 

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