ESTEVAN – One of the arguments for the implementation of wind power production is if the wind is not blowing here, it’s got to be blowing somewhere. So if you build enough wind all over the place, spread it out, and interconnect it all, you should be covered.

That’s the idea, anyway. But sometimes, that just isn’t the case. On Wednesday morning, wind power production collapsed not only from the Canada-U.S. border south of Estevan to the Texas panhandle, but also throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan’s wind power areas.

When you add it all up, all the major wind power production areas in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, eastern Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, western Iowa, western Missouri, northern Arkansas, Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle had next to no wind power production at the very same time.

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Put together, it means that none of the regions Saskatchewan has interconnects could have provided hardly any wind power at all at that time when our own wind power production was failing. And this condition lasted for several hours Wednesday morning.

Wind power in the Southwest Power Pool was that tiny sliver at the top, at 1.1 per cent on Wednesday morning. Southwest Power Pool

 

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) combines the power generation and grids of the power utilities running from the Canadian border in North Dakota and eastern Montana down to the Texas panhandle. On some days, up to two thirds of the power generated comes from wind. This is the same power pool SaskPower will be spending a billion dollars over 20 years to increase its current 150 megawatt interconnect to 650 megawatts. One of the states purposes is the ability to buy and sell renewable power.

An electron on the grid doesn’t care if you bought “renewable power” or not. It’s simply an electron, whether it came from a coal-fired turbine or a wind turbine.

At 10:40 a.m. central daylight savings time on Wednesday, June 7, coal accounted for 40.8 per cent of the power generated in the SPP. Natural gas was 48.4 per cent. Nuclear was 5.8 per cent, and hydro was 3.1 per cent. Instead of being in the top or second highest producer, wind in fifth place, at 1.1 per cent of power generated.

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That means, at that moment, any power SaskPower may have purchased from the Southwest Power Pool was 89.2 per cent fossil fuels – coal and natural gas – and none of it would be exposed to a carbon tax.

Also at that moment, wind power across eastern Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, western Iowa, western Missouri, northern Arkansas, Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle amounted to just 377 megawatts, at a time when the SPP demand was 34,302 megawatts. Thousands of turbines across those states with hundreds of wind farms, all costing many billions of dollars, were producing next to zero power.

 

Southwest Power Pool price contour map. Orange is high power prices. Southwest Power Pool

The SPP price contour map showing localized electricity prices at that moment also showed that SaskPower’s current plight of being short nearly 600 megawatts due to the Poplar River Power Station going down was having an impact on the SPP. Prices for power close to SaskPower’s existing interconnect, south of Estevan, were near the top of the scale for the surrounding region of North Dakota and Montana. That may be because despite 4,249 megawatts of wind capacity built in North Dakota, Weather Underground was showing next to no wind throughout western North Dakota. Numerous weather stations were showing 2 miles per hour wind speeds. Several weather stations reported zero wind. Crosby North Dakota, where a wind farm east of the community is visible from the Canadian side of the border, had 2 miles per hour wind,

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Similar low or no wind conditions extended down into the Texas panhandle. That’s a distance of 1,000 miles, from Crosby to the panhandle, with essentially no wind Wednesday morning.

And at the very same time, Alberta, which has 3,618 megawatts of wind power generation, was producing 123 megawatts, or 3.4 per cent of its nameplate capacity. Weather Underground showed that much of southern Alberta, where that province’s wind farms are located, was experiencing winds of 2 to 5 miles per hour. Of 36 wind farms in Alberta, 26 were producing zero power.

This has been occurring as SaskPower deals with the temporary loss of service of the coal-fired Poplar River Power Station, which in recent weeks accounted for as much as one fifth of Saskatchewan’s average daily power production.

SaskPower does not publicly release wind power generation data on a regular basis, but on Monday, June 5, wind power production varied between 10 and 350 megawatts, according to the Crown corporation. Looking at where Saskatchewan’s wind farms are located, At 11:09 a.m., Weather Underground showed wind at Swift Current, Assiniboia at 6 miles per hour, Broadview (near Grenfell) at 4 miles per hour, Moosomin at 2 miles per hour. Those wind speeds would result in minimal to zero power production at Saskatchewan’s wind farms.

 

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Flooding shuts down major coal power station, leaving SaskPower scrambling to backfill its output and shed load internally

Brian Zinchuk: Reliability of the electrical grid is everything. Without it, nothing else matters