Total generation in Alberta at 9:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27, when wind fell to zero. MC is maximum capacity in megawatts, TNG is total net to grid, and DCR is dispatched and accepted contingency reserve. AESO

 

 

On Feb. 29, the Alberta government is expected to lift its pause on wind and solar project approvals. For most of Wednesday, Feb. 27, wind power generation in Alberta had flatlined. Out of an installed nameplate capacity of 4,481 megawatts, total output was single digits for 12 hours. Most of that time total output was around two megawatts, and for much of an hour, it was a big fat zero.

Wind had started declining later on Feb. 26, going into Feb. 27. Around midnight, wind generation fell to around 100 megawatts. It kept falling from there. By 4:39 a.m., wind output had fallen to 7 megawatts (0.2 per cent capacity), as recorded by X bot account @ReliableAB, which provides hourly logs of minute-by-minute data published by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

While temperatures dropped in Alberta on Tuesday, Feb. 27, they weren’t frigid, and definitely not at the level where wind turbines have to shut down to ensure they don’t shatter due to cold brittle behaviour. There was simply no wind. According to weather website Windy.com, the wind farms across southern Alberta were in the -16 to -20 C range, and wind strength was just a few knots.

At 5:39 a.m., wind output fell to two megawatts, or 0.04 per cent capacity. That’s four ten-thousandths of capacity.

And yet still, there was still room to fall further. Alberta’s wind power generation dropped to one megawatt a little after 9 a.m. It stayed there for a while until it fell to zero at 9:20 a.m.

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For several minutes, the investment of billions of dollars by private firms who had built 45 wind farms in Alberta comprised of hundreds of wind turbines was producing precisely zero power to the grid.

The installed base of 4,481 megawatts was producing zero power, zero per cent of its capacity.

Wind output across 45 wind farms was zero at 9:20 a.m. on Feb. 27. MC is maximum capacity in megawatts, TNG is total net to grid, and DCR is dispatched and accepted contingency reserve. AESO

This occurred as the sun was still low in the sky, so solar power was just 312 megawatts, and ramping up slowly. Fortunately, demand was low enough that the AESO was not required, in this instance, to declare a grid alert. When Alberta wind similarly flatlined in mid-January, four days of grid alerts were declared.

 

Four minutes later, wind picked up to one megawatt again, at 9:24 a.m., with Wintering Hills registering the solitary megawatt.

This total collapse of wind generation did not happen on a weekend, but during the workday, on a weekday. Schools, businesses and hospitals were all in operation, and not one of their lights or computers or machines or furnaces were powered by wind at 9:20 a.m.

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The Brazeau Hydro Dam was opened up, with 234 megawatts pumping out of its 350 megawatt capacity, with an additional 92 megawatts held in dispatched contingency reserve (DCR). The Bo River Hydro Dam was largely being held in reserve, with 113 megawatts in DEC and 77 megawatt dispatched to the grid from its 320 megawatt capacity.

Wind output across 45 wind farms was zero at 9:31 a.m. on Feb. 27. Every single one of Alberta’s 45 wind farms was producing zero. Dispatcho.app

 

By 9:31, wind had again fallen to a flat zero. Dispatcho.app showed zeros across the board for all wind farms across Alberta, and stayed at zero for several minutes. It briefly climbed to one, but fell again to zero at 9:36.

9:41 a.m. – still zero.

The provincial internal load was floating around 11,000 megawatts, a thousand less than mid-January, when Alberta saw a series of grid alerts, warning consumers to reduce power consumption lest the grid go into rolling blackouts to shed load. And despite having zero wind output, Alberta apparently had enough power available to supply Saskatchewan with 148 megawatts at 9:44 a.m.

9:47 a.m. – still zero.

Pincher Creek, which is surrounded by wind farms, showed three knots of windspeed, according to Windy.com. The same for Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Vulcan and Chauvin

At 9:53 a.m., wind generation again showed one singular megawatt on the board. For an unbroken 22 minutes, wind had produced nothing. For nearly all of a half hour, it was zero.

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And at 9:57 a.m., wind again fell to zero. Any coffee pots being warmed up for morning coffee break were not getting their power from a wind turbine in Alberta.

10:07 a.m. – still zero. That’s another 10 minutes with zero wind power.

10:13 a.m. – Wind is back on the board, after 15 minutes of zero power. And a minute later, it fell to zero, again, before coming back again to one megawatt.

As of 10:20 a.m., wind was up to two megawatts. For the preceding hour, about over 40 minutes saw zero wind generation.

At 11:56 a.m., it was again showing one megawatt. And at 12:44, two megawatts.

At 2:35 p.m., it was still two megawatts, and had stayed very close to that level for nearly three hours. And at 3:45 p.m., it was still two megawatts.

Finally, at 4:39 p.m. wind picked up to nine megawatts. An hour later, it was 28, then, at 6:39 p.m., 109 megawatts. Four 12 straight hours, Alberta’s 4,481 megawatts of wind turbines produced less than 10 megawatts. That’s less than 0.2 per cent capacity.

 

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