Wind turbines in southern Alberta. Photo by Clive Schaupmeyer

Every province and state SaskPower is connected to saw wind power fail at the exact same time on Wednesday morning

Alberta issues electrical grid alert same day wind power collapsed across AB, SK, MB, ND, SD, IA, NE, OK, IA, MO, AR. NM and TX

Wednesday was a very interesting day when it came to power production on the Canadian Prairies and American Great Plains. In the hour before noon, it was windless across the entire region – 700 miles east to west across southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and 1,100 miles north to south, from Grenfell, Saskatchewan to the Texas Panhandle.

In my column on Tuesday, I wrote, “Last November-December, the Alberta Electric System Operator put out five “grid alerts” in three weeks, warning people to not use high-power appliances like dishwashers, let the grid be in peril of rolling blackouts. The usual culprit was the frigid temperatures caused demand to peak and wind turbines to shut down, coinciding with the sun going down.

“Let me be clear – Alberta has more coal, natural gas, and oil than God, because God gave all of his to Alberta. If ever Alberta, or Saskatchewan for that matter, should find itself in peril of rolling blackouts because it was too cold, the wind didn’t blow or the sun didn’t shine, it was because of sheer and utter incompetence at the top.”

Well, guess what happened on Wednesday.

The Alberta Electric System Operator issued a grid alert mid-afternoon due to low wind, high temps and an outage. That alert lasted for about six hours. The alert came a few hours after wind power utterly cratered in a large portion of the centre of North America, but at a time when wind had slightly recovered in Alberta.

Twitter/Alberta Electric System Operator

The Alberta Electric System Operator web page notes regarding grid alerts:

“During a Grid Alert, the AESO takes a variety of actions to maintain reliability, including using emergency reserves, reducing or suspending exports or energy sales, cancelling transmission maintenance, implementing voluntary curtailment programs (participants are asked to reduce their energy use to predetermined levels), and requesting emergency imports. As the last option to maintain reliability, the AESO can initiate temporary rotating power outages.”

(emphasis mine)

Remember what I said about being imperil of rolling blackouts? Well, it looks like Alberta’s cutting it pretty close to the bone, again, isn’t it? Just like it did in November, and December. This is not a freak occurrence. This is a pattern that has now established itself in both winter and summer.

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I was astonished to see before noon on Wednesday that not only was Alberta seeing low wind conditions, but so were Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota, eastern Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, western Iowa, western Missouri, Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, eastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle. I checked weather maps, and for most of that entire region, wind speeds were 5 miles per hour or less. Most places I clicked on the Weather Underground Wundermap, the result was 2 or 3 miles per hour, including all the sites in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where wind turbines are located, and most of the locations in Alberta.

Southwest Power Pool price contour map late Wednesday, June 7 morning. Orange is high power prices. Southwest Power Pool

I list those states because that is the extent of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), with which SaskPower plans to increase its interconnect to 650 megawatts for $1 billion in fees over 20 years. Across the entire SPP, in the hour before noon, wind power was contributing 1.1 per cent of total power generation. Often that number is as high as 50-60 per cent, or more, which means it was diminished on Wednesday morning by a factor of 60. Not 6. Sixty.

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The Lubbok, Texas Avalanche-Journal wrote, “The Southwest Power Pool has issued a Resource Advisory notice for all customers — including those in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains region — from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7.

“According to SPP, the advisory was issued due to anticipated high temperatures, energy resources being unavailable during peak energy usage and the uncertainty of generator outages.”

By the way, North Dakota already has an installed base of 4,249 megawatts of wind across 2,159 wind turbines in the state. And it wasn’t able to power itself with those wind turbines on Wednesday, never mind us.

This also means there are times, and will be times, where wind power generation fails across every single jurisdiction we are tied into, at the same time, because that’s what happened on Wednesday morning.

We must be wary, in Saskatchewan, we do not follow down Alberta’s path. But the planned buildout of 3,000 megawatts of additional wind and solar by 2035 (1,000 megawatts by 2027) sure seems like we are on that path.

As I said on Tuesday, reliability of the electrical grid is everything. Without it, nothing else matters. Let’s not get to the rolling blackout stage to prove this out.

 

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Electrical grid alert for Alberta issued Wednesday afternoon due to low wind, high temps and an outage

Wind power collapses across the central US, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba at the same time Wednesday morning

Brian Zinchuk: Reliability of the electrical grid is everything. Without it, nothing else matters