Using the term “wind beats coal in Ontario” in a “Google” search gets 3 million hits, meaning the IESO press release of January 11, 2013 announcing wind production was 3% of Ontario’s generation versus 2.8% for coal in 2012 was noticed. Why wind beat coal is not explained;it is simply cited as a fact. Wind is granted “first-to-the-grid” rights, which means it must be accepted. In Ontario beating coal is not a big feat as coal is only significantly called on when our peak demand is closing in on record levels, meaning it is presented asthe last generation source that will be used. By this time next year that option will be unavailable in Ontario.
The recent cold spell in Ontario and Quebec highlighted coal’s usefulness however as Quebecers were encouraged to reduce their consumption and Ontario cranked up coal production (partially to assist Quebec) despite outgoing Premier, Dalton McGuinty’s recent pronouncement January 10, 2013 that Ontario Power Generation will close their remaining coal plants! McGuinty said; “We’ll replace our dirty, outdated coal-fired electricity plants — the biggest source of air pollution in Canada — with cleaner burning natural gas, and renewable energy such as wind and solar,” The biggest source of air pollution in Canada is the transportation sector not the coal fired electricity plants. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s 2010 Air Quality Report indicates that “transboundary” and “transportation” are the two biggest factors determining Ontario’s air quality.
Ontario’s “dirty, outdated coal-fired electricity plants” are far from being the biggest source of air pollution in Canada, they are not outdated (many have modern scrubbers to remove most particulates) and they cannot be replaced by “renewable energy such as wind and solar.” As Quebec experienced record demand on January 23rdand Ontario experienced it’s highest winter demand in 2 years January 24th, solar was unproductive, and wind only slightly better. 2500MW of renewable capacity was generating a little over 100MW per hour (4% of capacity), while coal units generated almost 2000 MW per hour (67% of capacity). For the month of January wind generation’s capacity was 43% which is less then it produced in the same month in 2012. This is the third month in a row where wind production has been less then the comparable month a year earlier.
Claiming that renewable energy could replace coal, is tantamount to claiming the world is flat. To bring that point home the following chart depicts the average percentage production of capacity from Ontario`s industrial wind turbines over the 6 years 2006 to 2012 and recent average consumption demand by month.
The chart clearly shows that as seasonaldemand falls wind production rises, and as thedemand rises wind production falls. Wind production is available when its oftennot needed, and frequently not available when it is!
Ontario’s peak demand months are in the summer which is wind production is at its lowest levels.
Wind turbines penchant for producing intermittent power also causes problems with management of the electricity grid and concern that it will cause blackouts. As a result of the latter Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operation (IESO) recently amended its rules related to the dispatching of “variable renewables”. The amendment will result in wind and solar companies suffering revenue losses and could save Ontario’s beleagured ratepayers $225 million as was reported in a recent TorStar article. As as result 13 (renewable) energy companies have appealedto the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to get the new IESO rules overturned.
The grid’s reliability has become a major problem in the European electricity marketplace where the intermittent output from Germany’s extensive wind and solar generators causes major problems with manufacturers halting their production lines when the grid produces surges. Additionally Poland and the Czech Republic have both told Germany they will no longer be able to use their transmission lines to carry or receive power from Austria because it is destabilizing their grids. Germany and Austria have a reciprocal arrangement allowing Germany to lay off their excess generation and take back hydro when wind and solar are either not producing or producing at very low levels. Germany also grant first-to-the-grid rights to wind and solar generators.
How the former Premier McGuinty had the nerve to claim renewable energy will replace 3,000 MW of coal serves to prove his naivete about the energy sector in the province. Even if IESO win their battle at the OEB, ratepayers will still be paying hundreds of millions for electricity that simply is a supplement to the province’s gas generators. Those first-to-the-grid rights granted to the wind and solar companies means ratepayers will pay twice for the same amount of energy!
Parker Gallant & Scott Luft