It may have been windy at 5 p.m. on Thursday, but it sure wasn’t on Wednesday, when SaskPower set a summer power consumption record. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

When Saskatchewan needed it most, wind power failed to perform on Aug. 30. While coal was maxed out, and hydro was close, wind power generation was minimal. Thankfully, natural gas capacity was there.

The wind was blowing hard on Thursday, when temperatures hit 35 C in southern Saskatchewan. As Pipeline Online observed, it was blowing so hard that the wind turbines at Assiniboia were likely running close to their maximum capacity, with wind gusts nearly 60 kilometres per hour. But that wasn’t the case the day before, when SaskPower set a new summer peak electricity demand record at 5:14 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

The new summer demand record for electricity  was 3,597 megawatts. The new mark is 46 MW higher than the previous record of 3,551 megawatts, which was set earlier this summer on July 13. With temperatures well above 30 Celsius expected to continue throughout Saskatchewan into next week, it is possible another new summer record could be set, SaskPower said on Thursday.

“Extreme heat drives up electricity consumption, and higher peaks are a sign of the growing demand for power in Saskatchewan,” said Kory Hayko, SaskPower Vice-President of Transmission and Industrial Services, in a release. “Demand will continue to grow in the coming years, and SaskPower is making significant investments in the grid to ensure that need is met with reliable and sustainable power.”

At that time of the peak, SaskPower was getting just 29 megawatts from its eight wind facilities, most of which operated under power purchase agreements. Saskatchewan has a total of 615 megawatts of nameplate wind power capacity, meaning that when the demand was highest, wind was generating just 4.7 per cent of its installed capacity.

As weather tends to track from west to east, it probably wasn’t much of as surprise, as the day before, Alberta saw its wind power generation drop to 0.5 per cent of its capacity at 4:08 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30. At that time, Alberta was producing just 13 megawatts out of a nameplate capacity of 2,589 megawatts.

At the moment SaskPower hit its most recent summer peak electricity demand record, this is where the power was coming from, in megawatts. Graphic courtesy SaskPowerSaskatchewan has just started to build out grid-scale solar power. However,  what is in place wasn’t putting out much during the moment of peak consumption on Aug. 31. At that time, with the sun lower in the sky, just five megawatts was coming from solar faculties. SaskPower lists 20 megawatts of nameplate capacity between two grid-scale facilities, and another 49 from “Customer generated solar capacity.” It is unclear if that five megawatts was from just the two grid-scale facilities, or all solar combined.

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Coal, however, was producing the most power in Saskatchewan, at 1390 megawatts. That’s actually one megawatt more than the combined listed capacity of SaskPower’s three coal facilities, according to SaskPower’s grid map.

Natural gas was second, at 1,231 megawatts. As our total natural gas capacity is 2,160 megawatts, there was still some additional capacity.

Hydro contributed 705 megawatts. Our maximum hydro capacity, including 23 megawatts in the far north, is 864 megawatts.

Saskatchewan was importing 237 megawatts from its neighbours.

At that same moment, Alberta was importing 58 megawatts from Saskatchewan. Reliable AB Energy (@ReliableAB) is a Twitter bot which makes hourly tweets using publicly available data from the Alberta Electric System Operator, which itself posts minute-by-minute data on the Alberta grid. SaskPower does not post such data publicly. Reliably AB’s tweet at 5:15 p.m., one minute after Saskatchewan’s peak, showed Saskatchewan was exporting 58 megawatts to Alberta at the same time it was importing 237 megawatts.

Such exchanges are common, as Saskatchewan is almost always exporting some power to Alberta, if you follow the Alberta Electric System Operator site here. While Alberta is typically importing power from British Columbia, Montana and Saskatchewan, occasionally it sends power the other way.

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Alberta’s wind power generation drops to 0.5 % capacity on a day when temps hit 30+ C across much of the province