Lawrence Solomon: Wind’s bad day

Lawrence Solomon    Financial Post

Yesterday’s scorcher scorched wind power’s reputation and its bottom line, too.  This simple chart demonstrates why no company can make a profit supplying wind power to the electricity system without government subsidies, and why no society can count on wind power when the power is most needed.

The wind blew at its best in Ontario yesterday between midnight and 1 am (the first column in the chart), producing 214 megawatt-hours (1000 kilowatts to one megawatt) that hour. But it only earned $36.85 per megawatt that hour, or one-third to one-quarter the value of power during peak hours.

Over the next few hours, its next best hours for the day, wind continued to fetch very low prices.

Then, when power prices soared along with demand as society got to work, the wind turbines went to sleep. The peak production of 214 megawatts dropped to as little as 11 and never rose above 60. To put these numbers in perspective, when Ontario needed the wind most, wind was producing as little as one twentieth of 1% of Ontario’s needs –essentially nothing. Even in its best hour, wind only met 1.21% of Ontario’s needs, and that’s because other, more flexible forms of generation, scaled back their production (unlike hydro or fossil fuel generation, wind is not dispatchable).

Even had wind been able to continue producing at its rate of 214 megawatts, it would have met less than 1% of Ontario’s peak needs. Not that 214 megawatts is all that good, in any case. In that first hour, wind was operating at under 20% of its own capacity. It has better days, when the wind blows stronger and longer, but not enough of them to make wind economical.

Because wind systems will always have days when they will contribute essentially nothing, and because society will not want power blackout on those days, the only prudent course for the managers of the electricity grid is to value wind’s capacity at essentially nothing. That means other types of generating plants will always be needed to back up any wind that’s built to supply the power grid, making wind even more uneconomical, and more nonsensical as a power source to be relied upon.

Financial Post
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of
Energy Probe and the author of The Deniers

7 thoughts on “Lawrence Solomon: Wind’s bad day

  1. However WITH the government subsidies and paid at what I am told they are locked in at (40c /kwh?) they got paid $400 / MW. Or am I missing something.
    No wonder wind farm proposals are being “proposed” all across Ontario!

  2. Whoa there Mr. Solomon.
    Let’s get the terminology straight.

    What wind output ‘earned’ is neither knowable nor relevant. The wind is guaranteed a price regardless of demand or market pricing.
    As are most generators noted in the referenced document. The pricing referred to is the HOEP price which would apply to unregulated pricing (a little hydro, and all coal).
    In a free market, the wind would be the last thing contracted, as it is the least reliable.

    There’s a global adjustment/provincial benefit which adjusts the HOEP to the contracted/regulated pricing.

    Technology aside, the FITs put a price premium on the least reliable output, and enforce the purchasing of that output prior to the cheaper reliable stuff.

    The PB/GA is a measurement of how well the market is functioning:

    It isn’t.
    It can’t.
    It’s quite possible it shouldn’t.

    Rural, I believe current wind producers average about $110/MWh or 11 cents/Kwh

  3. Scott:

    He knows — read carefully. He said without subsidies and the subsidy is 11.5, 13.5 or 14.5 (if your name is Mr. Samsung) per KWH

    He is well up. But yes he could have done better — considering his audience is a “big city” audience and they typically don’t follow the details.

  4. WllR, I’m not sure if you mean Mr. Soloman or Rural.

    Putting wind in an economic context is a strange thing to attempt.

    The wind output purchased at 3 pm, when demand was 25000 MW and output was 51MW (today its up to 74W, or about 7%) was a real bargain – especially compared to the 952MW purchased at 2am on April 17th when provincial demand was at 11755MW.

    I think if Mr. Soloman thought through the value proposition, yesterday alone would not be a good example of a bad value.

  5. I’ve reviewed some of Mr Solomon’s (Financial Post) references and searched out some additional ones .. all in all, some very interesting material.

    “CFCs – found in fridges, air conditioners, aerosols etc. are extremely effective greenhouse gases. Although there are lower concentrations of CFCs in the atmosphere than CO2 they trap more heat. A CFC molecule is 10,000 times more effective in trapping heat than a CO2 molecule, methane is about 30 times more effective. Methane molecules survive for 10 years in the atmosphere and CFCs for 110 years. It is this that causes people to want to ban them completely.” ..

    In “What Is The Major Culprit For Global Warming: CFC’s or CO2?” .. .. Qing-Bin Lu (of the University of Waterloo, Ontario) proposes that the decades long release of CFC’s served as a dramatic enhancer to the greenhouse effect. He indicates that with CFC’s reduction, the greenhouse effect has been markedly reduced over the past few years and will continue to be reduced, possibly resulting in a “cooling trend”, as pre-existing natural trends start to prevail over the coming decades.

    If global temperatures do demonstrate downward trends, and his proposal is accepted by the majority of scientists, we may find the increased production of carbon dioxide eventually becomes an official government policy, in order to counteract “global cooling”.

    Then what would become of the thousands of industrial wind turbines already built? Maybe they would be run as “powered blowers” to distribute CO2 from new mini-coal-fired-generators up into the atmosphere .. all at subsidized rates as part of a new “Save the climate” initiative?

  6. It is excessive when compared to conventional methods that don’t break the province, cause more emissions, make people leave their homes to stop the illnesses and instill hope in the uninformed with misleading propaganda and some outright lies. They won’t shut down coal, nuclear or gas!

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