Global Wind Day is coming: should you cheer or cry?

Canada’s wind power lobby says wind power is not only cheap, it is dependable enough to supply one-third of our power needs. Is this true? (No.)

Celebrate? Maybe not… [SmallSteps photo]
CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) recently posted an article about an upcoming event they seem quite excited about.  Apparently, “Every year, June 15 is Global Wind Day, a day to celebrate the incredible momentum of wind energy.”

CanWEA goes on to make extraordinary claims and these two top the list: “Costs have also dropped significantly in Canada, and a power auction in Alberta, in 2017, established wind energy as the most cost-competitive source of new electricity generation in Canada” and “… it could supply more than one-third of the country’s electricity without compromising grid reliability.”

Well, I just had to look into that, especially after Ontario’s experience with wind power. Thanks to Scott Luft’s data gathering from IESO and his ability to organize it nicely, it’s an easy task to see how wind performed in Ontario over the past three years.

As we are five months into 2019 let’s look back at that same period over the last three years and review wind’s performance. It is important to understand that wind generation, for some reason, gets “first-to-the -grid” rights and are also paid handsomely ($120/MWh) for curtailing their generation.

The meaning of ‘curtailment’                                                                                                                                   Starting with wind capacity*, which at the start of 2017 was about 4,460 MW with 570 MW of that embedded. At the beginning of 2018, capacity had increased to 4,900 MW with 580 MW of that embedded; at the start of 2019 we had 5,090 MW with 590 MW embedded. Wind’s capacity increased over those three years to the point where it represents over 10% of capacity.

Once industrial wind turbines represented a significant amount of capacity in Ontario, reality dawned: wind is unable to deliver generation when actually needed. This raised concerns with the grid operator, the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO. As this situation constituted a possibility of lack of grid control, the deal struck with the wind generators was to get them to curtail their generation, when asked, in exchange for a significant payment.

When this agreement was reached, IESO began to curtail wind on a regular basis, particularly during Ontario’s low demand periods which occur during the Spring and Fall. That’s also exactly when wind generates power at its highest levels in Ontario. So, for 2017 wind developers curtailed 1,420.6 million MWh in the five months which earned them $170.5; in 2018 they curtailed 1,019.6 million MWh earning $120 million; and in 2019 curtailed 786,900 MWh which earned them $94.8 million.

Ontario’s ratepayers generously picked up the bill of almost $400 million for that curtailed generation for the first five months of each year since 2017.

Wind power generation                                                                                                                                       Power generation from wind in the first five months of 2017 (either grid-accepted or distributor-accepted) was 7,080.8 million MWh; in 2018 it declined slightly to 7,027.6 million MWh. For the first five months of 2019 it increased to 7,211.7 million MWh (up 2.6%). The cost of the generation (at $135/MWh) brought costs to ratepayer of $955.9 million for 2017, $948.7 for 2018 and $973.4 for 2019.

That represents a total cost to Ontario’s ratepayers of $2.878 billion for the 21.3 TWh (terawatts) either grid- or distributor-accepted.

The total cost of wind: more than you think

So now, let’s check to see if the costs of power generation from wind are falling as claimed by CanWEA. To do that, we must add the cost of curtailed wind to the cost of what was delivered.

That cost was $3.278 billion!

Looking at 2017, the math on what it cost ratepayers for the period of the first five months of each of the last three years works out to $159.10/MWH and for 2018 slightly lower at $152.40/MWh and for 2019 it fell slightly again to $150.00/MWh.

It appears, on its own, wind generation costs in Ontario fell from 15.9 cents/kWh in 2017 to 15.0 cents/kWh in 2019.

However, not accounted for is the annual “cost of living”** increase granted to wind power operators in their contracts. Also not accounted for is the cost of back-up generation (principally gas generation paid to idle) for when the wind isn’t blowing. And other unaccounted for cost is what wind does when delivering generation out of sync with demand! It drives down the market price (HOEP) and our exported power is sold for cents on the dollar and Ontario ratepayers pick up the losses on those sales.

On top of all those other costs, excess wind power generation out of sync with demand causes hydro spillage and nuclear steam off — both of which are paid for by ratepayers!

Clearly, this demonstrates that CanWEA’s claim that wind power is cost competitive is fictitious — it isn’t!

And the other claim – that wind could supply one-third of the country’s electricity needs — is also bogus. As a recent IESO report notes, “The transmission-connected supply mix has shifted from only synchronous generation facilities to more inverter-based generation facilities (e.g., wind and solar). This change has lowered system inertia, which is a critical element that supports the secure operation of the ICG, [IESO Controlled Grid] especially during light demand conditions.” Translation: Adding more intermittent and unreliable wind power to the grid severely impacts grid stability, particularly in the spring and fall when demand (in Ontario) can fall to almost 50% of the peak demand which occurs on hot summer days or very cold winter days.

In short, “Global Wind Day” is no reason to celebrate.


*rounded                                                                                                                                           **wind turbine contracts also included a cost of living annual increase to a maximum of 20% of the original contracted amount


Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

11 thoughts on “Global Wind Day is coming: should you cheer or cry?”

  1. For clarity, I should have noted “embedded” generation is connected to your local distribution company and not connected to the IESO controlled grid and the major transmission lines. That generation is mainly solar (2,200 MW) with wind representing about 600 MW. It is what IESO reference as “inverter-based generation facilities”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for providing this insight. With all this taxpayer money coming in, I would have thought Wind Power Corporations would better research and reduce the risk of harm to human health presented by the pulsating Blade Pass Frequency infrasound they generate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Seems like it matters to whom CanWEA is talking. CBC News advises AB and SK are signing contracts for 3.9centskWh and 4.2centskWh, without all the first and most $$ in ON contracts. Same article advises ON Liberals were signing long term contracts at 28centskWh. Maybe wind is competitive elsewhere in Canada. Good that Ford cancelled 700 some contracts not completed. Maybe he should buy out more. Mike

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thats because of subsidies and wind never pays for its own back up, in fact because of back up wind is useless, the back up is there spinning reserve to step in at a seconds notice to shoulder the load when teh wind shifts, it doesn’t use less fuel when spinning reserve so what use exactly is wind?


  4. Thank you Parker for doing the math again! Where’s Minister Fideli on this subject? Why is he not speaking out at Queen’s Park on this ridiculous waste of money for the ratepayers of Ontario?
    And yes, Mike Jankowski, why is our government letting the Wind Power Corporations off the hook on the issue of harm from infrasound? Why is Minister Christine Elliot ignoring this serious situation?
    The Canadian Medical Association Journal(CMAJ) blog has published information on the harm from wind turbines. Why is their still no action being taken to protect?


  5. This past weekend was a colossal disaster on the grid. On Saturday, all 8 Bruce reactors were steaming off when Unit 5 was taken offline in hour 3. In hour 15, solar maxed out at 410 MW. To make way for it, all biofuel plants were offline, 5 of 7 Bruce units were steaming off, 52% of wind power was constrained, all but 108 MW of the gas-fired capacity was being paid to sit idle, and at least 1,500 MW of water being spilled. The HOEP ranged from 0.00 to -5.9 cents/KWh over the entire 24 hour period. We lost at least $13 million exporting power over the entire weekend. (Net Exports X the GA) Sunday was just more of the same. And the HOEP for June has almost declined to 0.00, hiiting a low of .09. It truly proved how useless and expensive Wind and Solar are as Parker has identified. “No, I would not give you false hope on this strange and mournful day.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Bruce Unit 5 came back online in the Hour 12 today. When I multiply the average 2018 GA by net exports, it produces a loss of $925,140,000. If the loss of $6 million/day continues for the whole year the loss on exports would exceed $2 billion. The Ontario summer weather prediction is for cooler than average, which will lead to lower power demand. Thank You Dalton! (The Dalton comment comes from Election 2007 Liberal Party adds.)


    1. Any time that the turbines are curtailed or not running due to wind conditions, the residents who are forced to have them too close to their homes are not being harmed by noise or low frequency noise and infrasound. The sense of relief is indescribable with words. Having the safety, security and pleasure of one’s home back is like waking up from a nightmare.


    2. Norilsk, thank you for your comments. We need a steady supply of this type of information to support the work of Parker Gallant and Scott Luft. Where are the people who do actuary analysis from within? Does anyone know the name of the person who should be doing this analysis on wind?


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