Wind turbines near transmission lines at Pincher Creek, Alberta. Photo by Clive Schaupmeyer

The utter unreliability of wind power generation in Alberta showed itself for the fourth time in 16 days on May 26. On Friday morning, at 9:55 a.m., Alberta yet again saw its wind power generation drop about as close to zero it can get without actually hitting zero. In each of these instances, wind power generation fell to less than one per cent of nameplate capacity ratings for the fleet.

Alberta’s total 3,618 megawatts of wind power generation capacity was producing three megawatts at that time. It hovered less than 30 megawatts for at least two hours, dropping to seven megawatts at 11:34 a.m.

Alberta power generation, in megawatts, according to the Alberta Electric System Operator, at 9:55 a.m., May 26, 2023. MC is maximum capacity. TNG stands for total net to grid. DCR is dispatched (and accepted) contingency reserve. Alberta Electric System Operator

Out of the 36 wind farms in Alberta, with hundreds of wind turbines between them and costing billions of dollars, only two were producing any power whatsoever Friday morning. The 145 megawatt Hand Hills facility was producing one megawatt, while Enmax Taber, capable of 81 megawatts, was producing two megawatts. The remaining 34 wind farms across southern Alberta were showing goose eggs in their production numbers, according to the Alberta Electric System Operator. Of the 16 wind farms capable of producing between 100 and 300 megawatts, Hand Hills was the only one putting any juice into the electrical grid.

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Alberta wind power generation, in megawatts, according to the Alberta Electric System Operator, at 9:55 a.m., May 26, 2023. At that moment, only two of 36 wind farms were producing any power whatsoever to the grid. MC is maximum capacity. TNG stands for total net to grid. DCR is dispatched (and accepted) contingency reserve. Alberta Electric System Operator

This fleet-wide collapse of wind power has happened several times in recent weeks. On May 10 it hit six megawatts. May 12, Alberta’s wind hit the lowest level Pipeline Online has seen in 17 months of observations – just two megawatts out of 3,618. On May 18, wind in Alberta fell to 31 megawatts, and on May 20, it hit 28 (both less than one per cent of nameplate capacity.)

Solar power had picked up by 9:55 Friday morning, producing 949 megawatts out of a nameplate capacity of 1,209. Six of the 33 solar facilities were actually producing 100 per cent of their rated capacity. This included the massive Travers facility in Vulcan County, the largest solar facility in Canada. It was maxed out at 465 megawatts generation, accounting for about half of all solar power being produced.

As this was occurring, Alberta had only one coal unit operating. It was producing 395 megawatts, or 131.7 times the amount of power the entire wind fleet was producing. Under former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s administration, the province largely moved away from coal-fired power generation, either retiring units or converting them to natural gas. That shift is all but complete, with only the Genessee Power Station remaining to be converted. That is expected this year.

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On Thursday and again on Saturday, Alberta’s wind power generation fell below 1%

Alberta’s wind power drops to 2 megawatts out of 3618 on Friday, the lowest level we’ve seen yet

Alberta wind generation flatlines for second day in a row, producing 6 out of 3,618 megawatts capacity