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

Where are we going? Lower! That was the trend for wind power production in Alberta on Monday, Feb. 5, as the 4,481 megawatts of nameplate wind power generation capacity fell to just three megawatts output. That’s less than 0.1 per cent, or less than 1 one-thousandth of nameplate capacity. If you want to get really technical, it’s actually 0.07 per cent, or 7 ten-thousandths of nameplate capacity.

Total power generation in Alberta at 10:10 p.m., Monday, Feb. 5. Wind power fell to 3 megawatts, as highlighted. MC is maximum capacity in megawatts. TNG is total net to grid. DCR is dispatched (and accepted) contingency reserve. Alberta Electric System Operator

 

That’s according to minute-by-minute data from the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

Effectively, it was just about zero. Or put another way, the hundreds of turbines across Alberta’s 45 wind farms costing billions of dollars collectively were producing less power than a singular Caterpillar 3612 diesel generator is capable of.

This one Caterpillar 3612 generator could produce more than entire fleet of hundreds of wind turbines across Alberta did at certain points on Monday night. Caterpillar

And it stayed around that level for most of an hour, bouncing between three and eight megawatts.

And because the sun had gone down hours earlier, the 1,650 megawatts of solar was producing zero. That means Alberta’s total 6,131 megawatts of wind and solar, produced three megawatts, or 0.05 per cent of nameplate capacity.

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It hit that level at 10:10 p.m., after having stayed at rock-bottom levels since late morning. According to hourly records posted by X bot account @ReliableAB, wind power fell below 100 megawatts around that time, hitting 90 megawatts at 10:39 a.m. Over the next several hours it fell to 62, 45, 25, 12, 26, 29, 42, 43, 24 and 16 megawatts – consistently flat at minimal to non-existent levels compared to the theoretical nameplate capacity.

A quick check of Windy.com showed sustained windspeeds of zero to two knots at locations throughout southern Alberta which are home to the province’s 45 wind farms.

The AESO did not issue a “grid alert” as it had four days in a row in mid-January, when similar minimal wind and solar conditions hit Alberta. That was in the middle of a -35 C cold snap (and colder). Monday was much more mild, with temperatures late in the night between -6 and -9 C across nearly the entire province. As such, demand for power wasn’t nearly as intense, and the AESO was able to maintain a sufficient contingency reserve. Saskatchewan, Montana and British Columbia were all shipping power to Alberta, totaling around 500 megawatts much of the evening.

The previous day, Alberta also saw minimal wind power production, falling to 15 megawatts at suppertime on Sunday, Feb. 4.

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Round 4: Alberta declares fourth electrical grid alert in 4 days, second in 17 hours

A few weeks after Alberta’s grid was on the brink, renewables again bottom out, but no crisis this time

Brian Zinchuk: Current world oil prices make no sense