5 reasons not to believe wind power lobby spin-Part 2

CanWEA points to Denmark as a fine example of “affordable” wind power — great if you think 47 cents a kWh is affordable [Photo Pioneer Institute]
In Part 1 of this series, I dealt with two of the five claims CanWEA makes for industrial-scale wind power development in its October 11, 2018 blog post, “Five reasons why wind energy is Ontario’s best option for new electricity supply”.

Refuting those two claims for omission of facts was relatively easy.

Here are the details on the remaining three.

3. CanWEA claim: “Wind energy will be necessary if Ontario is to keep Ontario’s electricity supply reliable through the next decade.”

CanWEA says the IESO “forecast a need for significant new electricity generation, especially from 2023 onwards, as the Pickering Nuclear station shuts down, other nuclear units are being refurbished, and generation contracts expire.”   Well, that is true as IESO did suggest a shortfall, but here are the facts: the forecast shortfall is 1,400 MW. The OPG Lennox generation station with 2,100 MW has a contract expiring that year. So the question is, will the contract be extended? I was recently taken on a tour of the Lennox facility where I observed they were in the process of refurbishing one of the four 525-MW units which suggests they anticipate a renewal of the contract. With the anticipated renewal the “need for significant new electricity generation” is simply a figment of CanWEA’s imagination.

This claim goes on to suggest: “New wind energy would help keep Ontario’s electricity supply reliable, as well as more affordable.” And, “Other jurisdictions around the world are proving this – for example, Denmark now produces more than 44 per cent of its electricity from wind turbines on an annual basis.” The Denmark example ignores the cost of residential electricity on Danish households which is the highest in Europe. Denmark’s household electricity price is 312.60 Euro/MWh or $471.10 CAD/MWh, based on current exchange rates.

Is CanWEA suggesting is that if Ontario’s ratepayers were paying 47.1 cents/kWh it would be affordable? That seems like a big stretch and would push many more households into energy poverty!

The same applies to the claim of it being “reliable.” As noted in a June 2017 peer-reviewed report by Marc Brouillette, wind generation in Ontario presented itself when needed only 35% of the time. If one considers that wind’s annual generation averages about 30% of capacity, it is therefore “reliable” about 10.5% of the time it’s actually needed. (Note: IESO values wind generation at 12% in their forecasts)

4. This CanWEA claim suggests: “Wind energy provides many services to system operators to keep electricity supply flexible.” Their view of “flexible” fails to align with what the grid operator IESO would consider flexible. As Marc Brouillette’s report noted, “… wind output over any three-day period can vary between almost zero and 90 per cent of capacity.” That variance often requires clean hydro spillage or nuclear steam-off or the export of surplus capacity or full curtailment.

All of those actions cost ratepayers considerable money. Wind is unable to ramp up if demand increases and is the reason Ontario has over 10,000 MW of gas/oil plant capacity, with much of it idling in case the wind stops blowing or clouds prevent solar from generating. CanWEA needs to review the definition of “flexible.”

Another amusing statement under this claim is that: “Wind energy can also provide a suite of electricity grid services, often more nimbly and more cost effectively than conventional sources, helping to ensure reliable and flexible electricity supply. These services include: operating reserve, regulation, reactive support, voltage control, primary frequency response, load following, and inertia and fast frequency response.”   The bulk of those “suite of electricity grid services” are requirements for any generators on the grid. The ones suggesting operating reserve, reactive support, load following and fast frequency support are really referencing the curtailment of wind generation as noted in the preceding paragraph.

5. CanWEA’s final claim is:Wind energy is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and goes on to suggest: “Ontario has achieved a 90 per cent reduction in electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions over the past 15 years, and wind energy has been an important contributor. Wind turbines do not emit greenhouse gases, just as they do not pollute the air.” If CanWEA bothered to be truthful, the trade association would not claim “wind energy has been an important contributor” in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.   If you review year-end data as supplied by IESO for the year 2004 and compare it to the data for 2018, you are obliged to reach the conclusion that wind generation played absolutely no role in the “90% reduction in the electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ontario demand in 2004 was 153.4 TWh (terawatt hours) and in 2018 was 137.4 TWh representing a drop in demand of 16 TWh. Nuclear generation in 2004 was 77 TWh and in 2018 was 90.1 TWh for an increase in generation of 13.1 TWh. The drop in demand of 16 TWh, plus the increased nuclear  generation of 13.1 TWh, equals 29.1 TWh. Those 29.1 TWh easily displaced the 2004 coal generation of 26.8 TWh!

Ontario didn’t need any wind turbines to achieve the 90 per cent reduction in emissions by closing the coal plants, and CanWEA was totally wrong to suggest wind generation played anything more than a very small role.

As the saying goes, “there are always two sides to every story” but if it doesn’t fit the message you wish to convey, you simply ignore the other side! CanWEA has done that consistently while ignoring the negative impacts of industrial wind turbines.

Here are just five:

1.Providing intermittent and unreliable generation,

2. Causing health problems due to audible and inaudible noise emissions,

3. Driving up electricity costs,

4. Killing birds and bats (all essential parts of the eco-system), and

5. Possible link to contamination of water wells.

I could list other negative impacts, but I would first invite CanWEA to attempt to dispel those five.

Needless to say, the anticipated response will be “crickets”!



Former Ontario Liberal energy ministers: your turn to eat crow

More enlightening facts from the Lennox gas plant, and how billions have been wasted

There have been a few problems with wind power, former Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told a business audience almost two years ago. We had no idea how bad.

My earlier article briefly described my recent tour of the Lennox natural gas power facility in Bath, Ontario, and also provided the costs of wind power generation—including what was “curtailed” (wasted; paid for but not used).

The period covered was nine years (2009 to 2017) during which grid-delivered wind power generation was 53.1 TWh* (terawatt hours) and its costs (including 6.9 TWh curtailed) were approximately $8 billion.

What I didn’t note earlier was, as we were paying for power generated by wind turbines and curtailed power, we were also paying for spilled hydro and steamed-off nuclear which added additional costs to the GA (Global Adjustment) pot, driving up electricity costs. We started paying for “spilled hydro” in 2011 when the OEB (Ontario Energy Board) allowed OPG to establish a “variance” account.  Since that time 18.7 TWh have been spilled by OPG and the cost of $875 million (4.7 cents/kWh) was placed in the GA and paid for by Ontario ratepayers.

Likewise, the cost of 2 TWh of steamed-off nuclear was (about) $140 million (7 cents/kWh) and also became part of the GA. Adding that to the $8 billion costs of wind power in those nine years brings the total to slightly more than $9 billion, as the hydro spilled and nuclear steam-off were due to “surplus baseload generation” (SBG)!

In 95 percent plus of the surplus events, SBG conditions were caused by wind power generation because it is granted “first to the grid” rights.

So, you might ask on reading this, is, how does/could Lennox fit into this situation?

Well, the fact is Lennox is treated as “the leper” in generation sources within the province and is called on only when something untoward or unusual happens, despite its ability to generate power at relatively low cost. Examples of Lennox doing more than idling include this past summer’s Lake Ontario algae problem which caused the shutdown of a Pickering nuclear unit (the water intake was clogged) and the winter of 2014 when we experienced the “polar vortex” causing gas prices to spike.  As it happens, wind wasn’t there for either event and Lennox was called on to provide the power necessary to keep our electricity system functioning.  (Wind turbines cannot be turned on when demand suddenly increases when the wind isn’t blowing.)

Ontario without wind

If the then Liberal Ontario government had decided not to proceed with the GEA (Green Energy Act) which focused on wind and solar sources, one could justififably wonder how the cost of electricity might have been affected.   If we had instead focused on reliability and reasonable costs, Lennox coupled with our other sources, could have easily replaced the intermittent and unreliable generation from wind turbines.

The math: Taking the wind power generation of 53.1 TWh over the nine years out of the picture would have meant those 18.7 TWh of spilled hydro and the 2 TWh of steamed-off nuclear could have reduced the net contribution of wind to 32.4 TWh. That would have saved ratepayers $1.8 billion i.e., (cost of 20.7 TWh of IWT generation @ $135 million/TWh = $2.8 billion, less the cost of 18.7 TWh of spilled hydro @ $46 million/TWh [$875 million] and less the cost of 2 TWh steamed off nuclear @ $70 million/TWh [$140 million])

The remaining 32.4 TWh of wind power generation could have been provided by generation from the OPG Lennox plant (capacity of 2,100 MW). It would have eliminated the $800 million cost of the 6.9 TWh of curtailed wind as it would have produced power only when needed.  Now if it ran at only 20 percent of its capacity (gas or oil,) it could have easily generated the remaining 32.4 TWh generated by IWY and accepted into the grid.

Note: No doubt much of that 32.4 TWh wind power generation was presented at times IESO were forced to export it at a substantial loss. For the sake of this calculation we will assume Ontario demand would have required it.

More math: As noted in the earlier article “idling” ** costs for Lennox are fixed at $4.200 per MW per month, making the annual idling costs about $106 million or $8.8 million per month. Running at 20 percent of capacity would result in idling costs per MWh of generation of about $30/MWh.

Adding fuel costs*** of about $40/MWh would result in total costs (on average) of approximately $70/MWh or 7 cents/kWh.  Generation at 300,000 MWh per month on average would have generated 32.4 TWh over those nine years (2009–2017).  The cost of that generation would be approximately $2.3 billion whereas the 32.4 TWh generated by IWT in those same nine years cost ratepayers about $4.4 billion.

So, without any wind power generation at a cost of $8 billion over the nine years, Ontario ratepayers would have saved almost $4.9 billion:

  • $1.8 billion using spilled hydro
  • $200 million using steamed-off nuclear
  • $800 million paying for curtailed IWT generation and
  • $2.1 billion by utilizing Lennox

Beyond the dollar savings, the lack of subsidized wind power would also have other effects like:

  • zero (0) noise complaints, instead of the thousands reported,
  • elimination of the slaughter of thousands of birds, bats and butterflies
  • prevented the possible disturbance/contamination of well water

Again, that cost-benefit study might have proved useful!

PARKER GALLANT                                                                

*1 TWh is about the amount of energy 110,000 average households in Ontario consume annually.

**Idling costs of the TransCanada gas plant next door to Lennox is $15,200 per month per MW or 3.7 times more costly than Lennox.

***Lennox has the ability to generate electricity using either natural gas or oil meaning if a fuel priced spikes, as natural gas did during the “polar vortex” in 2014, Lennox can shift to the cheaper fuel.

Parker Gallant eats crow on gas power generation (really!)

An eye-opening tour of the Lennox plant in Eastern Ontario leads to starting calculations, too

Lennox power station in Bath–fast, efficient, low cost …what the heck did we need wind power for? [Photo: OPG]
Back in late May and just before the Ontario provincial election, I wrote a “what if” post titled; “If I were Ontario’s new Minister of Energy ” which was suggested how I would undertake to reduce the costs of electricity.

So far, a few of my recommendations have actually happened.

I won’t linger over the enacted or missed ones but I will focus instead on my suggestion that we close the “Lennox oil/gas plant in Napanee/Bath with a capacity of 2,200 MW that is never used.”

I received an invitation to tour the Lennox plant and I accepted! The tour was led by John Hefford, VP Regional Operations-Eastern Region, who has responsibility for not only Lennox but for all the hydro generating facilities located in the eastern part of Ontario, which (including Lennox), totals about 4,800 MW — that’s about 30% of OPG’s total capacity.

Driving toward the Lennox plant one can’t help but notice, in the distance, the industrial wind turbines (IWTs) recently built on Amherst Island (“owl capital” of North America).  That project is considered one of the most divisive wind power projects ever awarded a contract by IESO under the McGuinty/Wynne  governments.

The tour combined with a takeaway “Overview” of Lennox was truly enlightening.  The most noteworthy bits of information picked up were related to the ability of each of the four 525-MW turbines to ramp up quickly from their minimum load point of only 28 MW or 5%.  To put that into perspective, the other gas plants operating in Ontario are mainly CCGTs (Combined Cycle Gas Turbines) and they have to idle at minimum loads that are six to 14 times higher.

The ramping load point at Lennox logically translates to much lower emissions than the units added to Ontario’s grid(s) backing up industrial wind turbines (IWT) and solar under the FIT (feed-in-tariff) program.

The other significant difference between the CCGTs and single-cycle Combustion Turbines (CTs) is in respect to idling costs: for Lennox the cost is about $4,200 MW per month versus CCGT generators with costs of $10,000 MW per month to $20,000 MW per month, and CTs which average about $10,000 MW.

Another impressive piece of information picked up on the tour is the ability of the units to operate on either natural gas or residual oil (or both). That means, if a fuel cost spikes due to high demand (e.g., gas in the “Polar Vortex” winter of 2014) Lennox can switch to the other fuel. Lennox was also recently called on when a Pickering nuclear unit was shut down due to the 2018 Lake Ontario algae situation.

IESO forecasted shortfall                                                                                                         It appears likely Lennox will be called on to provide the capacity during the shortfall that  the IESO projects during the upcoming nuclear refurbishment years. From a ratepayer perspective, it makes sense.

Carbon tax calculations

Completing the tour and driving home led me to the questions of how much Ontario’s ratepayers might have saved if Lennox had been deemed the back-up for wind and solar power generation or had been used to generate electricity instead of handing out high priced 20-year contracts under the FIT program.  The first question would take an inordinate amount of research, so I opted for the latter!

A report (IESO prepared?) titled the Ontario Energy Report has a chart showing emissions generated by the electricity sector and the report for year-end 2017 indicated emissions in Ontario were 14 mt* in 2009 and 3 mt in 2017, for a decline of 11 mt in 9 years. The decline was touted by the Wynne government as attributable to renewable energy in the form of wind and solar.

Looking only at the wind power generation and its associated cost in those nine years provides an indication of just how much Ontario’s ratepayers have paid on a per ton basis to achieve that 11 mt drop! According to the IESO, from 2009 to 2017, wind turbines generated 53.1 TWh (terawatt hours) and since we commenced paying for curtailed power (paid for but not used), ratepayers picked up those costs for about 6.9 TWh.

So, the approximate costs of the grid-accepted wind power generation was about $7.2 billion, and for the curtailed generation was another $800 million. That brings the overall costs of the 11 mt reduction to about $8 billion!

The cost of that reduction of 11 mt looking at IWT (generation and curtailed) only and without solar, works out to $655/ton!

Ontario’s ratepayers have obviously done their bit to reduce emissions and will continue to pay more until the wind turbines and those 20-year FIT contracts finally expire.

We don’t need a carbon tax.


P.S. The second in this two-part series about Lennox will follow shortly, covering off how much we might have saved without wind power

*mt denotes “megaton” equal to one million tons.