Wind turbines near Pincher Creek, Alberta, on Dec. 1, 2023. They were, ahem, underperforming on Feb. 7. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Does your wind farm have performance anxiety? At 8:30 a.m., Feb. 7, 44 out of 45 wind farms in Alberta could not perform. You are not alone. But there is a solution.

 

Just two gensets like the one seen here could have matched the output of the entire wind turbine fleet of Alberta at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Two 500 kilowatt gensets like that would cost roughly half a million dollars. Throw in the light tower, and they would have exceeded the output of all those wind turbines. The investment into Alberta’s wind fleet has been many billions.

The 45 wind farms made up of hundreds of wind turbines costing billions of dollars were producing collectively just one megawatt of power at that moment. The total installed nameplate capacity of 4,481 megawatts was producing 0.02 per cent capacity. That’s 2 ten-thousandths of nameplate capacity.

Alberta power generation at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 7. MC is maximum capacity, in megawatts. TNG is total net to grid – in this case, just one megawatt from the 4,481 megawatts of wind capacity. DCR is dispatched (and accepted) contingency reserve. Alberta Electric System Operator

That’s according to minute-by-minute data published by the Alberta Electric System Operator, as well as hourly logging of that data by X bot account @ReliableAB.

And since only one megawatt was being produced at that time, that meant that only one wind farm could get its generation up, so to speak, to contribute anything to the grid. Even then, it was only one megawatt out of the 66 megawatts the Blue Trail Wind facility is rated for. The remaining 44 wind farms posted deflated zeros across the board.

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It’s part of a continuing trend in recent days. On Sunday, Feb. 4, wind output fell to 15 megawatts. On Feb. 5, it fell to three megawatts. Then on Feb. 6, wind power output was less than one per cent for 10 hours, from 12:15 a.m. until 10:15 a.m., according to @ReliableAB. At 2:15 a.m. total wind output was two megawatts, then falling to one megawatt at 3:15 a.m., then hitting two megawatts again at 4:15. a.m.

Wind power production in Alberta Feb. 6-7. @ReliableAB

And for nine of the morning hours of Feb. 7, from 1:39 a.m. until 10:38, wind power was 13 megawatts or less. During that period, hourly wind output was 13, 3, 3, 6, 8, 5, 2, 2, 7,and 13 megawatts, effectively nothing as 13 megawatts is 0.3 per cent of nameplate capacity – one-third of one per cent.

At that point, 96.4 per cent of Alberta’s power generation was coming from natural gas and a bit of coal.

Notably, these negligible wind conditions almost entirely occurred when the sun was on the other side of the planet, so there was no solar output during nearly all of these flatline wind periods.

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Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 42 times, shame on me, as only 3 of Alberta’s 45 wind farms produced power at points of Monday night

A few weeks after Alberta’s grid was on the brink, renewables again bottom out, but no crisis this time