Golden South Wind Facility, southeast of Assiniboia, on Aug. 1, 2022. On that day it was quite windy, unlike Oct. 3 and 4. Photo by Brian Zinchuk.

 

REGINA – While it’s not the same minute-by-minute data provided by the Alberta Electric System Operator for their grid, SaskPower has begun breaking down where its power is coming from on a daily basis. And the data from Oct. 3 and 4 showed wind generated an average of just 7.3 per cent and 6 per cent of its rated capacity of 615 megawatts. And while the Crown corporation often points out that “conventional coal accounts for approximately 24 per cent of SaskPower’s total generation capacity,” on those days, coal was providing an average of 42 per cent of the power in this province.

The new webpage can be found here:

https://www.saskpower.com/Our-Power-Future/Our-Electricity/Electrical-System/Where-Your-Power-Comes-From

The page went live on SaskPower’s webpage on Sept. 21. SaskPower describes it as a “daily snapshot below that’s an average of a 24-hour period.”

On it a person can find out how much each form of power generation, be it coal, natural gas, wind, solar or other provided to the grid on a previous day. Those numbers are averaged for that day, whereas the Alberta Electric System Operator provides minute-by-minute data for each major power generating unit, solar farm, wind farm or battery storage facility. Still, this new page is a substantial increase in the data now being made available to the general public.

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Pipeline Online has been pointing out since late December that Alberta posts minute-by-minute data regarding the entire grid, but SaskPower does not. Until recently, SaskPower’s website only said what the current system load was for the entire grid.

SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry told Pipeline Online on Oct. 5, “Different people have made it clear that they’d like to see where their power is coming from. I think, for our part, it’s a transparency thing, where we want to educate people where their power is coming from.”

He noted the more detailed information is delayed a day or two. On October 5, the data from Oct. 3 was posted. “That has to do with energy trading, and the potential effects of that, if we share real-time information.”

On May 4 Cherry explained to Pipeline Online, “SaskPower is currently reviewing ways to provide additional information about the grid specifically in terms of renewables generation. The major difference between Alberta and Saskatchewan is Alberta operates a deregulated open market. Saskatchewan’s electric utility is a vertically integrated system that has the responsibility for planning the system expansions to meet domestic demands, maintain system reliability at a stable, reasonable cost rather than the whim of the market. Due to this difference, displaying real-time market sensitive information would put Saskatchewan rate payers at a significant disadvantage when looking for opportunities to supply domestic load over the tie lines during periods of potential internal shortfall due to unforeseen outages or to displace internal generation during times where external market may provide short-term economic options.”

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So what does a day of power generation look like in Saskatchewan?

With this new public data, what does power production look like in Saskatchewan? Here’s Monday and Tuesday of this week:

On Monday, Oct. 3, a day when Alberta saw its wind output drop to 0.2 per cent of nameplate capacity, SaskPower’s wind output also suffered.

Across the grid, SaskPower’s demand was an average of 2,666 megawatts. SaskPower and its power purchase agreement partners generated an average of 2,785 megawatts and exported an average of 119 megawatts.

Coal accounted for 42 per cent of total generation, or an average of 1,158 megawatts. Natural gas was almost exactly the same, averaging 1,161 megawatts for 42 per cent.

Notably, although the 139 megawatt Boundary Dam Unit 4 was supposed to have retired back in December, 2021, due to federal regulations requiring the retirement of coal units after 50 years of service, it is still churning out power. That unit has been called back into service several times in 2022, and Cherry confirmed it was in operation as of Oct. 4. But that was expected to change in a week or two. “We brought that facility back online, just to make sure we have a steady supply of power,” he said.

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Natural gas is used to backfill renewable power like wind and solar when their intermittency causes a drop in production. And that’s exactly what happened on Oct. 3.

SaskPower’s power production on Monday, Oct. 3. Each number is the average throughout the day, not the highs or lows. SaskPower

 

On that day, wind accounted for an average of 45 megawatts of power production. Saskatchewan has eight wind farms attached to the grid. Some are owned and operated by SaskPower, but most are owned and operated by power producers, selling electricity through power purchase agreements.

  1. Cypress Wind Power Facility (Gull Lake) 11 megawatts, 16 turbines
  2. Centennial Wind Power Facility (Swift Current) 150 megawatts, 83 turbines
  3. Morse Wind Power Facility (Morse) 23 megawatts, 10 turbines
  4. Red Lilly Wind Power Facility (Moosomin) 26 megawatts, 16 turbines
  5. Western Lily Wind Power Facility (Grenfell) 20 megawatts, 10 turbines
  6. Riverhurst Wind Facility (Riverhurst) 10 megawatts, 3 turbines
  7. Golden South Wind Facility (Assiniboia) 200 megawatts, 50 turbines
  8. Blue Hill Wind Facility (Herbert) 175 megawatts, 35 turbines

The total is 615 megawatts of nameplate capacity across 223 wind turbines across southern Saskatchewan. That means an average of 45 megawatts power production was 7.3 per cent of installed capacity. And that’s the average – not the high or low points during the day. Analysis of Alberta’s grid has shown that power production across their 29 wind farms with 2,734 megawatts has frequently dropped to single digits. It was as low as six megawatts on the same day, Oct. 3.

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As for solar, it averaged six megawatts for the day. As that’s the average for the day, and the sun doesn’t shine at night, it likely means that actual power production during the day was much higher, but averaging it out accounted for the lower number. Comparable solar facilities in Alberta on that day maxed out their power production during the day. Currently there are two solar facilities attached to the grid:

  1. Highfield Solar Facility (Swift Current) 10 megawatts, 30,000 panels
  2. Pesâkâstêw Solar Facility (Weyburn) 10 megawatts

Cherry noted that renewables are great for being zero carbon, “but we need to make sure we have baseload sources as well. So, it (the web page) is like an education tool, for us, because obviously those renewables are intermittent and they depend on the weather and everything else on any give day.”

“The good thing about wind obviously is when it’s available, there’s no carbon and it’s very cheap, right? But you can’t rely on it all the time, which is why we have to look at all this other stuff. There’s SMRs (small modular reactors) coming down the pipe and why we’re expanding our partnership, our interconnection with the Southwest Power Pool, etc. So certainly, an important thing for people to understand.”

SaskPower’s power production on Tuesday, Oct. 4. Each number is the average throughout the day, not the highs or lows. SaskPower

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Wind puts out 6 per cent capacity

On Oct. 4, the numbers were largely the same. Coal produced an average of 1,186 megawatts (42 per cent of total generation), followed by natural gas at an average of 1,163 megawatts (42 per cent). Wind fell to 37 megawatts (1 per cent). Hydro was 315 megawatts (11 per cent) and “other” brought in an average 90 megawatts (3 per cent).

On that day, wind’s average of 37 megawatts was just 6 per cent of its 615 megawatts of nameplate capacity.

The system demand was an average of 2,649 megawatts, while and average of 2,796 megawatts were generated. An average of 147 megawatts were exported.

 

Pipeline Online provides the in-depth energy coverage in Saskatchewan that no one else does. Watch for future series of stories on nuclear power and lithium development. Follow on LinkedInFacebook,  or Twitter. (Hint: LinkedIn is the best)

 

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For 3 days in a row, Alberta’s wind power production has cratered to just about zero

Letter to Editor: No matter how many wind farms are built, there will always be over 200 hours of zero wind power, says retired engineer

Brian Zinchuk: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 29 times, shame on me

Two days in June show utter failure of solar and wind power in Alberta