Wind turbines in southern Alberta. Photo by Clive Schaupmeyer

On Thursday, the Alberta government announced a six-month pause on approvals for wind and solar projects, and by Saturday, wind generation in that province yet again bottomed out for much of the day.

The Alberta electrical grid added even more wind generation to its grid in recent days, now hitting 3,853 megawatts of nameplate capacity. But all that nameplate capacity didn’t add up to much on Saturday, Aug. 5, as wind power across the province was only generating 2.1 per cent of capacity.

The late morning and early afternoon saw wind fluctuate between 79 and 129 megawatts, or 2.1 to 3.3 per cent of nameplate. It stayed consistently below 200 megawatts for most of the day. At 10:57 a.m., wind was producing 79 megawatts, according to Twitter bot account @Reliable AB, which provides hourly updates based on Alberta Electric System Operator data.

At 1:29 p.m., 11 of 38 wind facilities were contributing zero power to the grid.

That means the 129 megawatts across the entire wind fleet of hundreds of turbines in 38 wind farms costing billions of dollars was producing roughly the same amount of power as SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Unit 3 does, when the carbon capture plant attached to it is running.

The denominator in the wind equation keeps getting larger, as more wind facilities are added to the Alberta grid. The most recent are Jenner 1, at 122 megawatts, and Sterling Wind, at 113 megawatts, It usually takes a few weeks from a new facility being added to the Alberta Electric System Operator list to it actually contributing power, so Jenner 1 will likely remain a zero for a while. But Stirling has already starting showing some power (2 megawatts), indicating it is now active.

And solar didn’t have a particularly good day, either. At 4:30 p.m., while the sun was still high in the sky, the 1,291 megawatts of solar was producing only 569 megawatts. Travers, the largest solar plant in Canada at 465 megawatts, saw it hit that number from about 10 a.m. until noon, but the noon hours saw output drop by two thirds and remain at that level for much of of the afternoon. As that one facility accounts for one third of the solar capacity in Alberta, whenever substantial clouds fly over it, there’s a substantial impact.

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Alberta wind power production fell to 0.4% capacity at same time solar was zero Monday night

Electrical grid alert for Alberta issued Wednesday afternoon due to low wind, high temps and an outage