Wind turbines on the Alberta side of the Saskatchewan/Alberta border, northwest of Macklin, Saskatchewan Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Alberta’s solar power fleet produced 13.5% of its capacity at noon, then wind produced 1 % of its capacity a few days later

 

On June 24, during the brightest week of the year, Alberta’s solar power fleet put out just 126 of 936 megawatts at noon.

And a few days later, an hour before noon, the total wind power fleet was putting out just one per cent of its capacity.

Back in January, Pipeline Online did several stories on how ineffective Alberta’s substantial buildout of solar and wind power generation was in winter in actually producing the power those facilities claim to be capable of. Since SaskPower does not provide anywhere near the detail the Alberta Electric System Operator does with regards to minute-by-minute updates on its grid, Alberta is the closest example this province can look to with reference to its own grid.

With the summer solstice having just passed, this is the sunniest week of the year. With the sun highest in the sky, and the days at their longest, it’s the optimal conditions for solar electrical production.

And at noon on June 24, the entire Alberta electrical grid was getting just 126 megawatts out of its 936 megawatts installed base.

That’s 13.5 per cent of its supposed capacity.

But power isn’t needed just at noon, but throughout the day. So samples were taken in the morning and afternoon.

On June 24, at 8:30 am, as the workday began, Alberta’s 20 solar facilities with a combined total of 936 megawatts theoretical capacity were contributing 77 megawatts to the grid.

There are a lot of numbers and charts in this story, but it all demonstrates how Alberta’s solar and wind capacity have, at turns, produced next to no power during the middle of the day during the sunniest week of the year.

Alberta’s total power generation at 8:30 a.m. on June 24, 2022. AESO

Here is the breakdown by facility. Of note: the Travers facility, with over 400 megawatts, is often an enigma in these numbers. The facility has been under construction for quite a while. Its production is never anywhere close to its listed capacity, indicating it may not be fully up and running. However, When Pipeline Online contacted AESO a few months ago, they said Travers was energized and attached to the grid.

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In these grids, MC is the maximum capacity in megawatts, or the nameplate capacity of the facility. In other words, the most it could theoretically put out. TNG is total net generation, which means the actual power it is contributing to the Alberta grid. DCR is the dispatched and accepted contingency reserve, which means additional power that could be used if needed. In the graphic above, showing the whole province, there are 50 megawatts of battery storage installed, none was being used, but 40 megawatts could be called upon if needed. In months of following this website, rarely, if ever, are those battery facilities seen to be contributing to the grid.

Alberta’s total solar power generation at 8:30 a.m. on June 24, 2022. AESO

At the time, much of southern and central Alberta was socked in with overcast conditions, according to the satellite image from Environment Canada.

Cloud cover over Alberta at 8:30 a.m. on June 24, 2022. Environment Canada

At the same time, the 26 wind turbine facilities with a rated capacity of 2,269 megawatts was outputting 1,218 megawatts, a little over half.

At 10:12 am, two hours before the sun was highest in the sky, solar was still producing 85 megawatts out of 936 rated capacity, just nine per cent.

Alberta’s total power generation at 10:12 a.m. on June 24, 2022. AESO

Solar generation still had not picked up.

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Alberta’s total solar power generation at 10:12 a.m. on June 24, 2022. AESO

And wind at 10:12:

Noon

At noon, when the sun is highest in the sky, the numbers were not much better. All 20 solar facilities combined were producing just 126 megawatts, which is almost exactly the net output of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project. That’s total, during a working day, during the hour the sun is highest in the sky, during the sunniest week of the year.

Alberta’s total power generation at noon on June 24, 2022. AESO

Here’s the solar output at noon:

Alberta’s total solar power generation at 10:12 a.m. on June 24, 2022. AESO

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At noon the power from wind turbines varied greatly. Some facilities were running full out, producing at or even slightly exceeding their rated capacity. Bull Creek 1 was producing 14 megawatts on a 13 megawatt rating. Blackspring Ridge put out 273 out of a possible 300. But Castle Rock was contributing just 4 megawatts out of a possible 77.

Alberta’s total wind power generation at noon on June 24, 2022. AESO

The general cloud cover across Alberta accounts for this, as seen in this satellite image from Environment Canada:

Clouds covered nearly all of southern Alberta at noon on June 24, 2022. Environment Canada

By mid-afternoon, the numbers hadn’t changed much. At 3:14 p.m., solar was now contributing 193 megawatts out of a possible 936, or 20.6 per cent. Wind was putting out 1,252 out of 2,269 megawatts, or 55.2 per cent.

Only the two facilities at Monarch were producing more than half of their rated capacity. The remaining 18 solar facilities were less than half, and in most cases, a great deal less than half.

Alberta’s total solar power generation at 3:14 p.m. on June 24, 2022. AESO

Wind was again a mixed bag, with some facilities like Blackspring Ridge, Ghost Pine, Whitla 1 and 2 producing close to their capacity, but others like Castle Rock Ridge 2 and Castle Rock Wind farm producing a small fraction of their capacity.

Alberta’s total wind power generation at 3:14 p.m. on June 24, 2022. AESO

 

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A few days later, wind utterly fails

While clearly June 24 was a bad day for solar generation, there are times when the power production is actually close to the rated capacity.

On Monday, June 27, At 10:45 a.m., solar was producing 606 megawatts out of 936. Most of the solar facilities across Alberta were producing close to their rated capacity.

Alberta’s solar facilities were nearly all working at or close to capacity at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, June 27. AESO

But inversely, calm winds across Alberta meant that there was next to zero wind generation. All 26 wind facilities were producing 24 megawatts out of 2269 megawatts, or 1 per cent of the entire wind capacity. That’s an average of less than one megawatt per facility. Again, this was late morning, on a work day, in the middle of summer.

The vast majority of Alberta’s entire wind generation fleet was producing exactly zero power at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, June 27. AESO

 

This can be explained by utterly calm winds. According to the Weather Network, At Drumheller at that time, the wind was 3 kilometres per hour (km/h). At Taber, it was two. Whitla had 4 km/h. Medicine Hat had 7 km/h.

An hour later, at noon, Alberta’s 26 wind farms doubled their output to 50 megawatts. In other words, at that point, in the middle of the day, Alberta’s wind farms were collectively now producing two per cent of their rated capacity. But three hours later, they still were not producing four per cent of their rated capacity.

And for a final perspective, last week SaskPower announced that the Golden South Wind Facility, with a supposed capacity of 200 megawatts, was now online. SaskPower, however, does not publicly post its grid facilities output to the public like Alberta does, so there’s no way for the public to monitor if it is producing 95 per cent, or like Alberta on June 27, one per cent of its capacity in the middle of the day.

 

Pipeline Online provides the in-depth energy coverage in Saskatchewan that no one else does. Watch for future series of stories on nuclear power, lithium development and Grant Devine’s heavy oil upgraders. Follow on LinkedInFacebook,  or Twitter. (Hint: LinkedIn is the best)

 

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Alberta’s wind and solar produced 1/10 of 1% of their total rated capacity on Wednesday night

Brian Zinchuk: Alberta wind and solar produced 76 megawatts out of a theoretical 2,605 megawatts at noon on New Year’s Eve, with cold warnings all over the province

Asking the hard questions on SaskPower’s new solar and wind announcements