Record-breaking wind power production means record-breaking costs to consumers

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The latest report from the energy watchdog team of Parker Gallant and Scott Luft is out, with the news that November was a great month for power generation from wind … but not so great for Ontario’s ratepayers.

Excerpt:

Delving further into wind’s volatility, one need only look at IESO who have responsibility for managing the electricity grid, forecasting our power needs, and ensuring that generators are ready for any spikes or drops in power demand to prevent blackouts or brownouts.  The volatility caused by wind generation has become an issue that they must now deal with and it appears to be causing them problems.  This is somewhat evident if one simply looks at the daily demand at hour 17 on December 2, 2014,  as wind dropped relatively quickly as demand was rising.  The result was the HOEP went from $30.23 per/MWh to $643.00 per MWh from one hour to the next.  The question raised by this occurrence is: was this bad planning, or volatility caused by the sun sinking (no solar output) and the wind dying down coupled with ratepayers turning on their lights?

It seems as though IESO misses their forecasts with greater frequency as more and more renewables (both visible and embedded) are added to the grid.  This would seem to imply that when the wind dies down or picks up, or when clouds pass overhead or when the sun actually shines on solar panels, they scramble to balance supply with demand. That begs these questions: has IESO the ability to manage the volatility of renewable energy? And, Why should they continue to fumble with adding unreliable sources as Ontario is already oversupplied with very low emission electricity?

Read the full report here: November 2014 Sets another record

Comments

Greg Latiak
Reply

I continue to be surprised at this issue. Their ability to forecast sunshine and wind for specific locations, despite much money being spent, is likely less than our highly accurate and precise weather forecasts (this is what they are doing, after all). This is the problem with weather-related power generation, its vulnerable to fluctuations in the weather (surprise!). Short of practical multi-gigawatt energy storage technology, still science fiction, the principle way to manage a stable grid is with reliable baseline generation. Every utility in the world is having their noses rubbed into this fact. And burning stuff, gas, coal, oil, is not a climate-friendly solution — which leaves hydro and (gasp) nuclear. Sorry, but on a large area grid scale this whole business of manageable renewables is just a big drug dream.

Barbara
Reply

Building dams does a lot of environmental damage. And where is more Ontario hydro power going to come from? In province or out of province?

Most hydro power is produced during the spring thaw anyway. Then transmission distance from source to use can become a major problem.

Greg Latiak
Reply

There are no consequence-free alternatives. And sure, small hydro is mostly a Spring runoff problem — but sites like Niagara are a bit different. Long distance transmission is not lossless, between line losses and step up/step down losses quite a lot of power gets wasted. So it really makes no sense to put up wind farms and gas plants in eastern Ontario to supply Oakville & Mississauga. Juggling all these small sources of generation to supply distant locations is really just an illusion. Geographical diversity was never a real option for a place as small as Ontario — even GE observed that, I think, in the early wind studies. Factoring in the realities of power distribution, local generation for local use still makes a lot of sense. This applied to alternate energy sources as well — the incentives should have always been for small personal power.

Barbara
Reply

This whole energy fiasco is not about generating power but about making money anyway.

People are caught up in endless discussions about power transmission, energy storage, capacity of IWTs ,conservation and etc.

Truthful engineers will tell you this whole thing isn’t going to work in the real world. But most anything works on paper.

Barbara
Reply

Developers don’t want to tie up capital in 20 year renewable energy projects.

They want to get these projects operational as quickly as possible so they can monetize them to pay back lenders and attract new investors for the projects.

They need to be first in line to get the guaranteed cash flow from the projects to do this/make this work. So other generation sources have to be curtailed or shut down.

The Green Energy Act tribunal process was set up so there would be no slowdown or very little slowdown in getting the renewable energy projects to operational stage so the projects can be monetized.

Developers and their lenders want their money back out of these projects as quickly as possible.

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