Wind power a no-show in Ontario cold snap

January 12, 2022

Monday and Tuesday this week saw the coldest temperatures yet for the winter season, with a low in Ottawa of -25 degrees C at 5 a.m.

Ontario’s demand for electricity was, as one would expect, high as people sought to keep warm: around noon, the demand was about 20,000 megawatts.

Where was wind power? At midday, Ontario’s more than 2,000 wind turbines were puffing out a mere 860 megawatts of power.

Near Ottawa, which the media dubbed “the world’s coldest capital,” the 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind power project stayed in the single digits of output, only getting to 8 megawatts of power in the late morning. In fact, a power worker sent a comment to Wind Concerns Ontario to say most of the Nation Rise wind turbines weren’t even spinning and appeared to have a coating of ice on the blades. Those that were spinning, he said, were likely taking power from the grid.

In short, when we needed it most, wind didn’t show up for work.

Today, with much milder temperatures, wind power has been spotted at the water cooler, putting out 3,400 megawatts this hour according to the IESO.

Overall demand is 18,154 megawatts.

None of this is a surprise, of course. Ontario is completely unsuited to wind power, as described by Marc Brouillette in his remarkable Commentary, Wind: Ontario’s High-Cost Millstone.

“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%) the time. That means 70 per cent of wind energy was produced in the remaining 42 per cent of the time…Indeed, wind output over any three-day period can vary between zero and 90 per cent of capacity.”

He went on:

“Seasonally, Ontarians’ energy use is highest in winter and summer and lowest in spring and late fall. This is almost a mirror image of wind [power] production patterns”.[1]

In short, wind might be somewhat useful as part of a mix of power supply, but it cannot be relied upon.

Although there is a popular statement that wind replaced coal as a power source in Ontario, that is completely false: coal was replaced by nuclear and natural gas.

As not one but two Auditors General of Ontario suggested, wind power development should have been subjected to a thorough, independent cost-benefit analysis. If it had, there is no way it could stand up.

With two elections coming up in Ontario where several political parties actively promote new wind power development, and a very well financed campaign by the wind power lobby, it is important that the truth get out:


[1] Brouillette, M. 2017. Ontario’s High-Cost Wind Millstone. Council for Clean & Reliable Energy, p.1.


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