Pesakastew Solar Facility, Weyburn. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Saskatchewan has just 30 megawatts of grid-scale solar power installed, spread across three projects of 10 megawatts each. And on the longest day of the year, June 21, they averaged 8 megawatts of output in total. That’s 26.7 per cent of capacity.

That’s according to SaskPower’s Where your Power Comes From webpage. Its data is delayed two days.

The way SaskPower reports is power production is somewhat unfair to solar. They characterize it as a “daily snapshot … that’s an average of a 24-hour period.” So zero power production overnight is averaged with power generation during the day. By that calculation, even if solar facilities produced full power for half the day, they would still only show 50% output in the daily roundup numbers.

That means the public never sees the full picture, like how much time those three facilities put out maximum or partial power. And since the sun continues to go down every night, those hours work against the daily average.

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And grid-scale solar facilities can and do reach maximum nameplate output during sunny periods. That’s in contrast to wind generation, which rarely sees facilities max out to their rated capacity. At least that’s according to 18 months of observations of the Alberta Electric System Operator’s minute-by-minute data, released publicly. For instance, at the time of writing (12:20 a.m. Friday morning) Alberta’s wind was producing 435 megawatts out of 3,618 installed megawatts. Solar, of course, was producing zero megawatts out of a recently increased 1,248 megawatts.

As an example, Travers, the largest solar facility both in Alberta and in Canada, had a perfect day on July 22, according to Dispatcho.app, which logs the AESO data. That facility reached full output of 465 megawatts, its rated capacity, at 7:45 a.m. and stayed there until 7:12 p.m. – about 11.5 hours of full power without hiccups from clouds. It saw linear ramp up in the morning and ramp down in the evening. You can see this all by clicking here. But the same measure, that same facility, two days earlier had a miserable day. It produced roughly one quarter to one third of its capacity for most of the day, and only hitting 465 megawatts for a brief instance at 2:35 p.m.

And even on the best day of the year, solar doesn’t necessarily shine. In Alberta on June 21, the summer solstice, at noon Alberta’s 1,248 megawatts of solar power generation was producing 918, or 73.6 per cent.

SaskPower does not put out detailed data like this to the public so as to protect its competitive edge in the daily trading of power with its neighbours. That’s why it delays its reporting two days.

SaskPower has expressed its intentions to add a further 400 megawatts of solar and 600 megawatts of wind to the Saskatchewan grid by 2027. By 2035, the intent is to add a further 2,000 megawatts of wind and solar.

 

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Things are getting real, folks. Facebook has said it will now block news links. Pipeline Online provides the in-depth coverage on energy issues in this province that no other media comes close to. It does NOT receive federal journalism subsidies. However, with recent action from Facebook to block news links, it’s important to follow Pipeline Online in other manners. The easiest is to check each morning at PipelineOnline.ca, with the top story posted at 7 a.m. Monday to Friday, and additional coverage throughout the day and weekend. But you can also follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can follow editor Brian Zinchuk online at LinkedIn as well (you’ll see more stories that way). Finally, you can subscribe to a weekly newsletter

 

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