Summer shows wind power’s true character: useless
It’s a very hot day in Ontario today. As we near noon on July 20, 2022, Ontario demand for power is 20, 904 megawatts. (Source IESO power data)
Wind is doing better today than earlier this week but still only giving us a paltry 2,237 megawatts. To compare, nuclear is our power workhorse at 10,125 megawatts this hour; hydro is 3,741, and natural gas is at 4,184. Solar is at 219 megawatts.
This is not a surprise; it’s just a fact of Nature that wind is not, and cannot, be here when we need it during the extremes of temperature in Ontario summers and winters.
In his commentary for the Council for Clean & Reliable Energy, analyst Marc Brouillette wrote:
“Wind generation output is inherently intermittent as it depends on Mother Nature. For example, in 2015
Ontario’s wind farms operated at less than one-third capacity more than half (58 per cent) the time (Figure 1). That means 70 per cent of wind energy was produced in the remaining 42 per cent of the time, indicating that wind’s intermittency also experiences severe spikes. Indeed, wind output over any three-day period can vary between almost zero and 90 per cent of capacity.
Seasonally, Ontarians’ energy use is highest in winter and summer and lowest in spring and late fall
(Figure 2). This is almost a mirror image of wind production patterns: wind is highest in the spring and fall, when electricity needs are lowest, and lowest in summer when electricity demand peaks. While Ontario’s peak energy needs occur in the summer, average demand is actually higher in winter. Unfortunately, wind output is lower then than it is in the fall, leaving a demand gap that must be filled by other resources.”
Takeaway: wind isn’t there when we need it, and there is no way it can be.
With the focus on emissions-free electricity and electrification, wind would seem a poor choice for new generation.
Commentator Parker Gallant has been following this daily this summer, and recently described wind power performance on a couple of July days in his Energy Perspectives blog.
Those IWT on July 16th at Ontario’s peak demand of Hour 17 (hour ending at 5 PM), generated 158 MW or 0.8% of the peak demand of 19,999 MW. That 158 MW represented 3% of their capacity at that hour but much earlier in the day they reached their high for the day at 3 AM when they generated 444 MW or 9% of their capacity. At 9 AM however when demand is increasing, they once again hit their low point generating only 44 MW or 0.9% of their capacity. In total those IWT generated 4,906 MW over the full 24 hours and that represented only about 4.2% of their capacity.
Fortunately for all of us Ontario’s natural gas plants were available to ramp up at 9 AM and generated 1,309 MW and at the Hour 17 peak for the day generated 4,483 MW.
On July 17th the IWT were generating 531 MW at the Ontario peak demand hour which was once again Hour 17 and was 2.6% of the peak which reached 19,925 MW. Those IWT peak for the day, was Hour 21 at 635 MW or 12.9% of their capacity. Earlier in the day at Hour 9 they generated 118 MW or 2.4% of their capacity
Once again, natural gas plants came to the rescue.”
Two trends to watch in Ontario with this in mind: first, the second largest city, Ottawa, is planning to generate its own power within decades and calls for 3,200 megawatts of wind power. It is clear that no review has been done of Ontario’s situation with wind power, and no cost-benefit analysis has been done, either.
Second, Ontario’s energy minister Todd Smith says that the province’s goal is “reliable and affordable” power—clearly wind is neither.
With municipal election campaigns getting started, it will be important for voters to ask questions, not just in Ottawa, but in municipalities that have not yet passed protective zoning bylaws for turbines and which may be vulnerable to new wind power generation proposals.