Final assembly of a wind turbine near Assiniboia, Sask., on Jan. 7, 2021. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

REGINA – The high variability of wind power generation was on display in Saskatchewan during the last days of 2023 and early days of 2024, as a week of strong wind power collapsed to zero – a total flatline.

SaskPower, the province’s Crown corporation responsible for the electrical grid, posts daily data on its Where Your Power Comes From webpage. The data provides 24-hour averages of each form of power generation. The data is delayed two days, so as to not compromise SaskPower’s bargaining position in power trading markets. (This is in contrast to the Alberta Electric System Operator, which posts minute-by-minute data for every major generating facility in the province).

On Jan. 2, the 617 megawatts of grid-scale power generation in Saskatchewan produced an average of 65 megawatts, or 10.5 per cent of nameplate capacity. However, an inquiry to SaskPower revealed there were periods of much lower power generation.

SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry emailed on Jan. 4, “Wind output dropped throughout the day on Jan. 2 and bottomed out at zero megawatts around midnight for about 40 minutes. Output was less than 10 megawatts for seven hours.”

And as this occurred at night, there was no solar generation, either.

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This was a notable contrast from wind power generation the previous week, which saw much higher numbers. Cherry said, “For the week of Dec. 28, 2023, to Jan. 3, 2024, total wind generation exceeded 400 megawatts for approximately 75.5 and total wind generation exceeded 500 megawatts for approximately 26.5 hours. Dec. 28 and 31 and Jan. 1 had the strongest wind output, remaining above 300 megawatts at all times.”

As for what kept the lights on in Saskatchewan on Jan. 2, natural gas made up 51 per cent of the power, at 1,657 megawatts. Coal provided 35 per cent of the power, at 1,135 megawatts. Hydro came at seven per cent, or 240 megawatts, solar was negligible at 2 megawatts, and “other,” which includes power purchases from neighbours and small-scale wind and solar, was 162 megawatts, or five per cent overall. Total power generated that day averaged 3,261 megawatts, with total power demand being 3,266 megawatts.

Power generation in Saskatchewan on Jan. 2, 2024. SaskPower

 

The 86 per cent of Saskatchewan’s power being provided by fossil fuels, natural gas and coal, is notable because the federal government wants all conventional coal (without carbon capture) gone by 2030, and unabated natural gas (again, without carbon capture) gone by 2035. That’s 25 years, 11 months and 26 days from now. In the meantime the proposed Clean Electricity Regulations envision multiplying the Canadian electrical grid by a factor of 2.5x by 2050, or 25 years, 11 months and 26 days from now, meaning not only must Saskatchewan replace nearly all of its existing power generation on days like Jan. 2, but multiply it by 2.5x in that time frame. Both Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and SaskPower CEO Rupen Pandya have said this would be “impossible.”

However, SaskPower intends on adding a further 3,000 megawatts of wind and solar to the grid by 2035. This is in keeping with the province’s commitments to the federal government to build out renewable power generation, part of an “equivalency agreement” to keep existing coal generation going longer than what was going to initially be allowed.

 

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  • 0015 Latus Viro
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