Wind power: unreliable, and costly
Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), frequently uses the word “reliable” when expounding on the purported benefits of generating power from wind. Here are a couple of them: “Wind energy is meeting Canada’s demand for new electricity in a clean, reliable and cost-competitive way,” says Hornung. And this one: “Wind energy provides reliable power”.
Hornung’s use of the word “reliable” is not the same as Webster’s defines it: “to be relied on” and “giving the same result on repeated trials”. His use of the term “cost-competitive” fails the same test!
Some recent events offer contradicting evidence on the issue of wind’s “reliability” as a power source.
On October 5, 2015 wind production for the full 24 hours was 2,636 megawatts (MW) averaging 110 MW per hour—that represented just 0.5% of Ontario’s average demand of 16,394 MW per hour. Now measured against Ontario’s average hourly demand of October 19, 2015 at 14,997 MW is an interesting contrast. Ontario’s industrial wind turbines (IWTs), with an IESO1. reported capacity of 3,427 MW, were producing an average of 2,474 MW per hour, and in 24 hours cranked out 59,389 MWh, representing 16.5% of the average hourly demand. The lower demand day of October 19th (9.4% less than October 5th) saw those IWTs producing power at very high levels, which coincidentally resulted in average hourly exports 760 MW higher per hour.
The connection to high wind power generation and higher exports is obvious, as is the lower average of the hourly Ontario energy price (HOEP). October 5th that was $30.99 per MWh, but only $21.62 (30% lower) on October 19th.
What does it mean? Ontario’s ratepayers subsidized wind on the higher demand day by picking up the cost of $252K (2,626 X $127/MWh2. = $333K – $81K [2,626 X $30.99/MWh] = $252K). Compared to the subsidy picked up by Ontario’s ratepayers on October 19th , however, that was a bargain. On the latter day the cost was considerably more at $6.2 million (59,389 MWh X $127= $7.5 million – $1.3 million [59,389 MWh X $21.62/MWh] = $6.2 million).
Mr. Hornung and CanWEA may consider “reliable” to mean Ontario’s ability to supply our neighbours in New York, Michigan and elsewhere with power that is “cost-competitive.” It’s just not in his best interest to express it that way.
CanWEA needs to find new talking points that deal with the facts: power generation from wind is totally unreliable and anything but cost-competitive!
October 25, 2015
- IESO do not report the full capacity until the IWT are commissioned by them, whereas the full capacity may be considerably higher.
- The OEB estimates the average cost of wind generation at $127/MWh.
P.S.: Hour 18 on October 24, 2015 saw a new record for wind generation in Ontario with 3,123 MWh meaning IWT were operating at over 91% of capacity, and the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) was $13.36— subsidies were $350K for just that hour.