Alberta wind turbines. Photo by Clive Schaupmeyer

In what is becoming a regular occurrence, a lack of wind power generation has put Alberta into an electrical “grid alert,” for the third time in December.

At noon, 32 of Alberta’s 36 wind farms were producing zero power.  A little over an hour later, it was worse.

At 1:25 p.m., Alberta’s wind power generation dropped to 5 megawatts out of 3,618 megawatts of installed capacity. That’s 0.1 per cent, or one one-thousandth of nameplate capacity.

At the same time, solar power was producing 94 megawatts, out of 1,138 megawatts total installed capacity, or 8.3 per cent. That’s according to the Twitter account @ReliableAB, whose bot posts hourly updates from data published by the Alberta Electric System Operator.

This is the post from 1:25 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 20:

An hour later, it was even worse. At 2:25 p.m., wind was putting out 9 megawatts, but solar had now fallen to 54 megawatts. That means out of a total of 4,756 megawatts of installed solar and wind power generation, Alberta was getting 1.3 per cent of nameplate, theoretical capacity.

All this happened while frigid temperatures resulting the entire province of Alberta being put under alert for extreme cold. Wind turbines cannot operate below -30 C, lest they shatter from cold brittle behaviour.

Extreme cold warnings blanketed all of Alberta on Dec. 20. Environment Canada

To top it off, this cold snap resulted in Albertans the previous day demanding more power from their grid then they ever have before. The Alberta Electric System Operator tweeted Tuesday evening that on Monday that Alberta “recorded a new all-time peak demand of 12,187 megawatts.”

Throughout the day, not only had wind power production been low, but so, too had solar production failed. By 4:25 p.m., on one of the shortest days of the year, solar facilities were producing zero power. And 22 minutes later, things, again, got worse.

For the third time this month, the AESO issued a “grid alert,” asking people and business to reduce power consumption.

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The grid alert was declared at 4:47 p.m. on Tuesday, when the AESO tweeted, “Extreme cold temperatures and high electricity demand, have prompted the AESO to declare a Grid Alert at 4:47 p.m.”

The instability of the Alberta grid since coal has been largely eliminated has not gone unnoticed. The Twitter account @FriendsOScience (Friends of Science) pointed out that on Dec. 29, 2015, Alberta had 1,463 megawatts of wind installed, and it was producing only 77 megawatts. But at the time, the province still had 6,289 megawatts of coal generation, and at that moment, coal was producing 4,666 megawatts of coal-fired power.

In the coming days, coal-exclusive power is expected to be totally eliminated from the Alberta grid, as the last two coal-fired power generators at Genessee Power Station totaling 820 megawatts are scheduled to go offline. They will be converted to “dual-fuel,” as one 466 megawatt generating unit there has already been.

Additionally, when the grid alert was active, Alberta yet again saw its pool price for power peak at the maximum allowed, $1,000 per megawatt. This has become a routine occurrence each time wind power generation collapses in Alberta. Note the green line graph in the bottom right of this tweet from @ReliableAB.

All of this is occurring before widespread adoption of zero emissions light vehicles (principally electric vehicles at this point), something the federal government is mandating for all new sales by 2035. According to Statistics Canada, in 2021, only 58,726 new battery electric vehicles and 27,306 plug-in hybrid were registered in all of Canada, compared to a total of new vehicles registered 1,646,609 that year.

Just five “other fuel type” new vehicles, including liquid propane, natural gas, and hydrogen, were registered in all of Canada. Hydrogen-fueled vehicles are widely touted as an eventual alternative to battery-powered zero-emissions vehicles.

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Lithium in SK, Part 9: And the acquisitions begin, with Prairie Lithium to be acquired by Arizona Lithium