Wind turbines near Pincher Creek, Alberta, on Dec. 1, 2023. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Coal power is done in Alberta, but the wind failed to blow the next day

A day after Alberta ceases coal-fired power generation, wind power flatlined for 19 hours.

For nearly all of Wednesday, June 19, wind power generation in Alberta was abysmal. For 19 hours, Alberta’s wind power generation was next to nothing.

From 2:38 a.m. until 9:38 p.m., a period of 19 hours, wind generation remained at or below 2.7 per cent, or less than 130 megawatts. And for six of those hours, wind output was less than one per cent, falling as low as 0.4 per cent at 7:38 p.m. Output was lowest during the lunch and supper hours.

That’s according to data tracked by X account @ReliableAB, which provides an hourly log of the minute-by-minute data posted by the Alberta Electric System Operator, or AESO.

A common narrative among wind power proponents is if you build enough wind farms, scattered over a large area, it’s always blowing somewhere. But Pipeline Online has recorded since January, 2022, that wind in Alberta tends to bottom out in this manner pretty much every month of the year. Usually, it’s for just a few hours. Rarely is it nearly the entire day. But that’s what happened on Wednesday.

 

 

Here’s a chart showing what happened. The key data is the second column, showing minimal wind output, in megawatts (MW).

Time Wind Power Generated (MW) Wind Capacity (MW) % of Nameplate
2:38 130 4748 2.7%
3:38 123 4748 2.6%
4:39 75 4748 1.6%
5:38 129 4748 2.7%
6:39 86 4748 1.8%
7:38 65 4748 1.4%
8:38 70 4748 1.5%
9:39 61 4748 1.3%
10:39 66 4748 1.4%
11:39 40 4748 0.8%
12:39 40 4748 0.8%
13:38 52 4748 1.1%
14:39 33 4748 0.7%
15:38 49 4748 1.0%
16:39 58 4748 1.2%
17:39 36 4748 0.8%
18:38 23 4748 0.5%
19:38 21 4748 0.4%
20:38 59 4748 1.2%
21:38 117 4748 2.5%
22:39 293 4748 6.2%
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And here’s how it looks in graphical form. The orange is rated nameplate capacity, and the sliver of a blue line on the bottom is the actual wind output, as a percentage of capacity, throughout the day.

Data provided by AESO/@ReliableAB

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And here it is as hard numbers:

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  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
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This comes as Alberta’s last coal-fired power station went off coal, for good, the day before. Here’s the press release from Capital Power, verbatim:

Genesee Generating Station is off coal – all units 100% natural gas-fueled

A significant milestone for the Genesee Repowering project

EDMONTON, Alberta – Capital Power Corporation (TSX: CPX)  is pleased to announce that the Genesee Generating Station is now 100% natural gas-fueled, resulting in the facility being off coal over 5 years ahead of the Alberta government mandate.

As part of the Genesee Repowering project, the facility completed simple cycle commissioning for Unit 1 on May 3, simple cycle testing is underway on Unit 2, and Unit 3 has transitioned to natural gas. The project continues to progress with combined cycle completion expected in Q4 2024, which will result in 512 MW of additional net high efficiency, low heat rate capacity from the site.

“Capital Power is immensely proud to cease coal-fired operations at our Genesee Generating Station and deliver up to 3.4 million tonnes of annual emissions reductions through our Genesee Repowering project,” said Jason Comandante, SVP, Head of Canada for Capital Power. “This achievement marks a significant moment in history for this legacy, baseload facility that has delivered reliable and affordable power to Alberta for more than 30 years. Our investment in this facility will result in the most efficient natural gas combined cycle plant in Canada – a feat that significantly reduces emissions while delivering more megawatts of reliable, affordable and clean capacity for our province.”

But Alberta keeps adding wind generation. The number of wind farms has recently increased to 46, according to the AESO. There are now 1,568 grid-scale wind turbines connected to the Alberta grid.

The last coal unit, when it was still operating on coal, typically produced 20x the total output of all 1,568 wind turbines were producing Wednesday evening. That coal unit is now being converted to natural gas.

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Some days the wind blows; other days, it sucks

TransAlta cancels wind power project over new government rules on development

Zero. Zip. Nada: Wind power in Saskatchewan for over an hour on Friday, March 22 flatlines, again

Wind peters out in Alberta, yet again, on Wednesday