Ontario’s wind turbines demonstrate what they can’t deliver: reliability

The wind power lobbyist makes impressive claims but reality is a different story

Ontario turbines at Belle River: power not there when needed


In a bid to be assertive after the Speech from the Throne last Thursday and Premier Ford’s pronouncement of the upcoming demise of the Green Energy Act, CanWEA’s (Canadian Wind Energy Association) President Robert Hornung issued the following announcement

He made some impressive claims.

Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important for Ontario’s short- and long-term economic prosperity. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) shares the Ontario Government’s commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians. CanWEA notes that wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners. Ontario’s wind energy projects are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario, across Canada, and throughout much of the world.”

Focusing on the weekend immediately following Mr. Hornung’s announcement is an interesting exercise. Examining his use of the words “reliable electricity system” is worthwhile to see if it has any bearing on generation from industrial wind turbines (IWT).

As it turns out, both Saturday July 14th and Sunday July 15th delivered pretty average summer days with Ontario demand of 837,000 MWh and total demand (including net exports) of 910,000 MWh. Over those two days, grid-connected IWTs in Ontario delivered 11,329 MWh.

What that means: wind turbines operated at a capacity value that was 5.4% of their rated capacity of over 4,400 MW. Peak output was at 12 AM on July 14th when they generated 969 MWh or 22% of rated capacity. The lowest output was at 10 AM on July 15th when they were probably consuming more than their output of 26 MWh, or 0.6% of their rated capacity.

Wind power generators represent 11.9% of total grid-connected capacity in Ontario according to IESO, so if they are promoted as part of “reliable” electricity, it’s not too far a reach to expect them to demonstrate their reliability.

It appears CanWEA’s claim is false.

Over the two weekend days they generated 1.4% of Ontario’s demand and only 1.2% of total demand.

If that is considered a “reliable” electricity source, Ontario’s ratepayers have been taking it on the chin since the wind contracts were awarded. Those contracts have had the opposite effect of bringing Ontario “short- and long-term economic prosperity” as our electricity cost increases have been more than double those of our neighbours.

All Ontario’s ratepayers are grateful that nuclear and hydro generation, (supported by gas generators during peak periods) were up and running over the past weekend.

Now all we ratepayers need is for the President of CanWEA to finally confess: wind power is intermittent and NOT reliable, and, oh yes, very expensive!



Should the Pickering nuclear plant be closed? Not based on cost and performance…

Pickering: working at 95% capacity during the heat wave [Photo: OPG]
July 6, 2018

Wind power a failure during recent high demand during heat wave; dependable power needed

I got a call at 11 a.m. on June 25th from the producer of the Scott Thompson show on CHML 900 AM to appear on the show to discuss the suggestion by NDP leader Andrea Horwath about closing the Pickering Nuclear plant.

Essentially it was about her statement during the election campaign indicating the NDP’s position on Pickering:  “we will begin the decommissioning process immediately, which will bring more jobs to the area — as opposed to the Liberal plan, which is to mothball that facility for 30 years and allow the next generation to figure out the decommissioning”.

Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand stated: “The Pickering plant can continue to safely operate until at least 2024. We can generate 14 per cent of Ontario’s power needs right here”.

The producer suggested Scott wanted to explore the opposing issues with me.

Aware I was scheduled to be on his show at 12:35 p.m., and remembering that a Brady Yauch article a few months earlier in the Financial Post had suggested closing Pickering, I felt I should do more research before the call back.  Brady’s principal point was Pickering was a poor performer and the estimated costs ($300 million) of the extension would prove to be negative for ratepayers.

OPG’s website describes Pickering as follows: “Pickering Nuclear has six operating CANDU® (CANadian Deuterium Uranium) reactors. The station has a total output of 3,100 megawatts (MW) which is enough to serve a city of one and a half million people, and about 14 per cent of Ontario’s electricity needs.”.

Pickering Nuclear traces its roots back to 1971 when it first commenced operation with four units and expanded to eight units in 1983.  Two of the first four units have been in voluntary lay-up since 1997.  The CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) awarded OPG’s Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations its highest safety rating in 2017.

Combined, the Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations generated 10.4 TWh (terawatts) of power for the 1st Quarter of 2018 at a combined cost of 7.2 cents/kWh (up from 5.8 cents/kWh in the comparable quarter).  The 10.4 TWh was sufficient to supply the 4.6 million average residential households in the province.

Directing my research to IESO’s hourly Generator Report I was able to discern Pickering at hour 10 of June 25th had just generated 2,308 MWh out of 10,457 MWh produced by all the nuclear plants in the province.  Pickering nuclear represented 22% of nuclear generation at that hour, 15.6% of Ontario demand and 14% of total demand (including exports).   At hour 10, wind turbines were generating 452 MWh or 10% of their capacity versus Pickering nuclear which was operating at about 74.5% of its capacity.

Both nuclear and wind are classified as “base-load” generation!

As it turned out, when I was on Scott’s show the bulk of our chat was related to his prior guest’s discussions about Premier Ford’s cancellation of the “cap and trade” tax.  Only a couple of questions were raised about Pickering which I responded to.

Interestingly enough, now that the Ontario July heat wave has passed, I felt the urge to look at the performance of Pickering and IWT over the seven days when peak demand was high.  Pickering nuclear performed well generating close to 3,000 MWh each and every hour over the period meaning it was operating at over 95% of capacity.  Wind power generation, however was all over the map reaching a high of 2,769 MWh (62% of capacity) at midnight July 1st and a low of 5 MWh (0.11% of capacity) at 10AM on July 4th!

It is obvious that wind fails miserably as “base-load” generation when needed and the relative cost of generating power (sans back-up costs) is over 17 cents/kWh.

It sure looks like we should keep Pickering nuclear operating, as Premier Ford suggested.

Parker Gallant