Twitter/Alberta Electric System OperatorAt 3:49 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, the Alberta Electric System Operator declared a “grid alert,” asking people in that province to reduce their power consumption. That grid alert was lifted at 9:50 p.m.

“The AESO declared a Grid Alert at 3:49 p.m. due to hot temperatures and low wind, combined with an unplanned generator outage. Please consider conserving electricity through peak consumption hours of 4-7 p.m. Check out our website for tips: https://t.co/LfEEnjPDuD”

 

Last November and December, low wind conditions, frigid temperatures and high demand, coupled with at least one natural gas generator going down, resulted in five grid alerts being issued within three weeks – two of those on the same day.

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The AESO website describes a grid alert as such:

The AESO issues a Grid Alert when the power system is under stress and we’re preparing to use emergency reserves to meet demand and maintain system reliability. Consumers are asked to reduce their electricity use during Grid Alerts to help mitigate the possibility of undertaking more serious emergency measures to balance the system, including rotating power outages.

Grid Alerts can be triggered by different factors that affect power generation and electricity demand, such as:

  • Extremely cold or hot weather, which drives increased use of heating or air conditioning systems
  • Time of day and wind conditions, which impact the availability of solar and wind-generated energy
  • Unplanned generation facility outages
  • Other factors beyond transmission and generation facility owners’ control, such as lightning, downed power lines, etc.

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.

Albertans can also play an important role in energy conservation in their homes and businesses.

Notably, Alberta typically imports 150 megawatts from Saskatchewan on most days. But over the past weekend, SaskPower saw its 582 megawatt coal-fired Poplar River Power Station go down due to localized flooding. In the days since, SaskPower had been able to export around 90 megawatts to Alberta during off-peak times, but needed to import power from Alberta during peak times. During the grid alert, there was no exchange of power between the two, as recorded by @ReliableAB.

Wind turbine blades in a laydown yard near Hanna, Alberta, on June 6. Photo by Douglas Tompson

Wind turbine blades in a laydown yard near Hanna, Alberta, on June 6. Photo by Douglas Tompson

 

The “Energy Emergency Alert 3” was declared while solar production was still relatively high, but wind was very low. According to Twitter bot account @ReliableAB, at 4:25 p.m., Less than an hour after the alert was declared, Alberta was seeing 59 megawatts of wind power from its installed base of 3,618 megawatts. That was 0.6 per cent capacity. Solar, however, was putting out 977 megawatts out of an installed base of 1,209 megawatts, or 80.8 per cent. But as the evening progressed and the sun went down, wind production did pick up but not enough to make up for the decline in solar.

Only one coal unit was online, and it was producing 403 megawatts, or 6.8x the entire wind fleet.

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By 4 p.m., the AESO pool price for power had maxed out at $999.99 per megawatt-hour, and stayed there until at least 8:30 p.m. From 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. earlier that morning, the pool price hovered around $46 per megawatt-hour.

It turns out that Alberta wasn’t the only jurisdiction with low wind issues on June 7. Earlier that day, around 10 a.m. to noon, wind generation had nearly flatlined in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, eastern Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, western Iowa, Nebraska, western Missouri, northern Arkansas, the Texas panhandle and eastern New Mexico. That’s an area 700 miles east to west in the Canadian prairies, and 1,100 miles north to south, from Grenfell to the Texas panhandle. That vast area of the central United States makes up the Southwest Power Pool, and it saw wind power production fall to 1.1 per cent of all power generated. On a good day, wind will make up two thirds of power production in the SPP.

The videos below were shot the day before on June 6 near Hanna, Alberta. Nearby, several additional wind turbines were lying in a laydown yard, waiting to be assembled.

 

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

Flooding shuts down major coal power station, leaving SaskPower scrambling to backfill its output and shed load internally