Friday, July 2, 2010

Monthly Wind Report - June, 2010

Looking at electricity generation from windfarms in Ontario from last month reveals some interesting details. As always, the data that I am using is publicly available on the IESO website.


Figure 1: Wind generation for Ontario in June, 2010 - Datapoints are hourly.

As I've come to expect, sometimes the windfarms produce large amounts of electricity and sometimes they produce nearly nothing. The average capacity factor this last month was a dismal 18.8%. The most output for any one hour was 746 MW, and the least was 0 MW.

No, that wasn't a typo. In fact, there was a period of two hours where not one MW was recorded as being produced. Since the markets are required by law to include wind power where possible, its safe to say that this is because of the wind turbines themselves and not because regulatory limits. If I recall there was some nasty weather around that time but that wouldn't explain why none of the wind turbines were producing useful electricity.

In any case, I'm not sure there can be a much clearer illustration of why wind power doesn't work in Ontario. Sure, you can produce electricity maybe 18.8% of the time on average, but the other 81.2% of the time you require another source of electricity, like coal.

That doesn't mean that wind power is a bad idea everywhere all the time, but we need to have an honest discussion about the drawbacks of generating electricity via the wind. Something that environmentalists and many politicians are unwilling to do.

While someday in the future someone may figure out a way to 'smooth' the inherent instabilities of windpower to make it a viable option while making it cheap enough for us to afford, that day isn't here yet, and it might never come. And we shouldn't pretend that if we just wish and hope hard enough that it will.

9 comments:

Powell lucas said...

The incongruity of the wind generated ideal is evident if one simply uses some common sense. On a hot, muggy day like those Ontario just went through, the electrical load is at its peak with air conditioners running flat out. During days like this there is not a breath of air; you feel like you're breathing in saturated cotton. No, the windmills don't turn because there is no wind - during the peak load period these monstrosities just sit as a blight on the landscape.

john said...

Some day in the future....

As long as wind energy stays below 10% of overall consumption, we can absorb this production fluctuation. Above that nominal level, the grid itself becomes unstable.

When wind generation reaches 1800 to 2000 MW, IESO will start to pay wind generators NOT to produce. They are forced by law to buy the energy, but cannot allow that level of variability to reach the grid.

Let's see how politicians explain that away.

Eric said...

Powell: I think you're absolutely right. Common sense should tell us that windmills are a bad idea in general, but sometimes its nice to put some numbers behind it.

John: I hate it when I make typos.

OPG's own analysis said that wind power would never be more than a 'niche' producer in the overall electrical grid. The politicians won't explain it away, that's the problem, they'll keep harping on the line that 'eventually we'll solve this problem'.

原秋原秋 said...
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