At 10:45 p.m. MST on Wednesday, Jan. 5, Alberta’s wind and solar power generation was producing next to zero megawatts to the grid, according the the Alberta Electric System Operator.

The province has an installed based of 2,269 megawatts of wind power generation, and 736 megawatts of solar, for a total of 3,005 megawatts. And at that moment, wind and solar combined were producing 0.1 per cent of their total rated capacity, or one-tenth of one per cent of their combined rating.

Solar was producing zero, as usual, since the sun doesn’t shine at night. But wind generation was down to just three megawatts between 26 wind facilities across the province. Only three wind facilities were producing any power at all. Blackspring Ridge, 50 kilometres north of Lethbridge, has a rated capacity of 300 megawatts, but it was producing one megawatt. Near Drumheller, Wintering Hills, with 88 megawatts capacity, was producing one megawatt. Ghost Pine, east of Innisfail, was also producing one megawatt out of a rated capacity of 82. The remaining 23 wind facilities had zeros across the board.

For all these graphics, MC means maximum capacity (in megawatts), TNG is total total net generation and DCR is dispatched (and accepted) contingency reserve. Source: Alberta Electric System Operator

If you look at wind alone, it was producing 0.13 per cent of the installed capacity of 2,269 megawatts.

The reason became clear when you looked at temperatures across Alberta. Nearly the entire province except for the Rockies and foothills was under an extreme cold warning, according to Environment Canada. Wind turbines shut down at -30 C to prevent them from shattering due to cold brittle behavior of the materials that they are made of. Lethbridge was -30 as was Drumheller, according to The Weather Network.

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Those temperatures extended across from Zama, where was -40 C, to the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, where it was -28 C at Moosomin. Southern Manitoba picked up a few degrees, enough to be over the critical -30 C. SaskPower does not provide detailed minute-by-minute updates of its power generation to the public online. Alberta does, through the Alberta Electric System Operator website aeso.ca and at the page http://ets.aeso.ca/ets_web/ip/Market/Reports/CSDReportServlet.

With the retirement of two coal generating units on Dec. 31, Alberta’s last remaining four coal generators, with a capacity of 1,729, were putting out 1,541 megawatts, or 513.7 times more than all of Alberta’s wind and solar fleet, combined. Its gas facilities, which account for the bulk of Alberta’s power generation, were putting out 7,932 of a rated capacity of 10,279. They also had a dispatchable continency reserve of 105 megawatts, if needed.

Note: screenshot was taken a few minutes before 10:45 p.m., accounting for the slight discreptancy in coal totals compared to the other graphics.

Alberta was able to call on its neighbours to help them out, with a total of 784 megawatts of power flowing into the province, including 142 megawatts from Saskatchewan.

 

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Brian Zinchuk: Would you buy a washer that could only do one sock at a time? That’s solar power in the winter

Twice last week, SaskEnergy set new daily natural gas usage records, and we can thank Alberta for most of our supply