Alberta wind turbines. Photo by Clive Schaupmeyer

SaskPower is intent on building out a further 3,000 megawatts on wind and solar power, in addition to the 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind and 30 megawatts of grid scale solar already in place. That would make a total of 3,647 megawatts, if all built.

So what would it look like if we already had that much installed? We can look to Alberta to provide real world examples. Like last night/this morning, for example.

Alberta currently has 3,618 megawatts of wind and 1,165 megawatts of solar, for a combined 4,783 megawatts. Out of all that, they were getting 29 megawatts.

As both Saskatchewan and Alberta’s published data have proved on an irregular but frequent basis, all that potential power generation, the “nameplate capacity” means little when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

According to the Alberta Electric System Operator website, which provides minute-by-minute data, wind power generation had dropped to hover around 28-40 megawatts for over two hours around midnight last night.

Alberta’s grid output at 12:56 a.m Monday morning, April 3. MC is maximum capacity in megawatts, TNG is total net to the grid, in megawatts. DCR is dispatched (and accepted) contingency reserve, in megawatts. The red highlights the zero power production from solar and 29 megawatts from wind at that moment. Alberta Electric System Operator.

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At 12:56 a.m. on Monday, April 3, the 36 wind farms in Alberta had 30 were producing zero power. Of course, all 30 solar facilities were also producing zero power, as the sun had gone down, just as it does every single night.

Alberta wind power generation at 12:56 a.m., Monday, April 3. Alberta Electric System Operator

Wind was producing 0.8 per cent of its nameplate capacity. When you add wind and solar, it was 0.6 per cent of total wind and solar nameplate capacity.

And, as usual, when wind power drops off, Alberta’s pool price for electricity spikes. This time it didn’t hit the arbitrary limit of $1,000 per megawatt hour, but it did hit $895.07 per megawatt hour.

If you zoom in on the right side, you’ll see how much Alberta’s power prices spiked last night – $895.07 per megawatt-hour. This happens pretty much every time wind collapses in Alberta. Alberta Electric System Operator

One singular hydro dam, Bighorn, running at a fraction of its 120 megawatt capacity, at 49 megawatts, was outproducing the entire combined fleets of wind and solar. Genessee Units 1 and 2, the last remaining coal-fired units, were outputting a combined 819 megawatts, or 28.2 times the entire fleet of wind and solar.

And while Alberta has five grid-scale batteries totaling 90 megawatts between them, none were contributing to the grid. In the last 30 days up to and including April 2, three batteries contributed about 16 minutes of power each on March 8. One produced power on March 8 and 17. A fourth produced 9 minutes of power on March 20.

In total, Alberta’s five grid scale batteries produced 79 minutes of power out of the collective 216,000 minutes they could have provided power (60 minutes x 24 hours x 30 days x 5 batteries). That means the batteries collectively provided power 0.036 per cent of the time.

 

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