February 24th, 2024

Amount generated from electricity sources varies


By Lethbridge Herald on February 8, 2024.

Editor:

In Alberta it is interesting where we get our electricity from. Unlike most provinces we get our electricity from a variety of means and providers. Natural gas 60 per cent, wind 20 per cent, coal seven per cent, hydro six per cent, solar  six per cent, others four per cent. This equals 103 per cent as of July 2023, (a moment in time snapshot). 

What we all need to appreciate is how dramatic these various sources can change. Alberta has a website – “Current Supply Demand Report”- which shows exactly where all our power comes from, by source and location. 

In other words, is shows every source of generation, including windmill farm or solar field in the province and is updated every five minutes: ets.aeso.ca/ets_web/ip/Market/Reports/CSDReportServlet

As an example of of dramatic change on Nov. 6, 2023 at 5:59 a.m. wind produced 1331 Mega Watts (MW) and solar produced 0 MW. 

On Nov. 6 at 1:38 p.m. wind produced 246 MW, solar produced  430 MW. That is more than 650 MW unavailable between measured time periods. 

 An important point is that  electricity generated must be used at exactly the time it is generated – there is no storage. The report does have a column for storage but in the years I have been watching, I have not seen an entry.

I started this letter shortly after my first letter on this subject was published on Dec. 9. Now it is mid January  and we  have experienced some of the coldest weather we have seen in a long time: Jan. 12th -39C with windchill of -53 C.

So, on this day at 8:36 p.m. we were using 1,1175 MW (almost our maximum) of power. It came from natural gas (NG) 9,218 MW, hydro 341 MW, coal 813 MW, solar 0 MW, wind 10 MW, all others 794 MW. 

The simple fact about renewables such as solar and wind is that on our coldest days or hottest days there is very little wind and of course no sun, no solar. 

It is worth noting that in January 2022, the province had 13 solar fields and 26 wind generation farms.

 In January 2024 we had 43 solar fields and 45 wind generation farms. With this rapid expansion, it’s little wonder why the Alberta government put a pause on renewable expansion. No one wants another orphan wells fiasco. 

There must be a plan on how to deal with these facilities at “end of life”. There presently is not one.

I know we will most likely never go back to coal power generation, unlike countries like Germany but there is a lesson here, on rapidly changing power supply sources. In December 2021 with six coal plants, they produced 2,028 MW of electricity. In January 2022 with four coal plants, they produced 1,677 MW and in January 2024, with the last two plants, they produced 813 MW of electricity. I know coal is dead, but keep in mind, these plants operated 24/7 365 days a year, producing power in all weather conditions, day, or night.  

So, what’s the lesson? If our present, Canadian Minister of the Environment, Mr. Steven Guilbeault, gets his way regarding zero emissions by 2035, I think Albertans will find themselves freezing in the cold and dark in winter or being very uncomfortable in the heat of the summer. 

If you shut down all-natural gas and coal generation, which adds up to on average 9,700 MW the industry would have to build an equivalent of 7 x 45 = 315 wind generating farms (with an average 1,000 MW per farm) = 7000 MW.  Plus, have nine solar fields the size of the Travers field, which is in the County of Vulcan (with sun light, it produces 302 MW) 9 x 302 MW = 2,718 MW. 

Travers solar field is one of the largest solar field in North America, taking up 3,300 acres with 1.3 million solar panels. 

Just remember, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. 

Barrie Orich

Lethbridge

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SophieR

Do you know what ‘net-zero emissions’ really means? Do you understand why this target is necessary?

Duane Pendergast

Do you SophieR? Maybe you could tell us how that would be achieved?

Duane Pendergast

Thanks Sophie. The key phrase in the Pembina report is: “The Pembina Institute’s considered analysis of the AESO’s report leads us to conclude that, with some innovation in renewable energy and battery storage technology, cooperation on interprovincial transmission, demand-side management, and energy efficiency, Alberta can play its part in meeting Canada’s net-zero grid by 2035 commitment.”.

The recent grid alert demonstrated that battery capacity equivalent to current natural gas capacity would be needed to keep the lights and heat on. That will require a lot more expensive investment than a bit of innovation in battery storage. You should not count on our neighbours for significant help as their electricity systems will be stretched too.

SophieR

I would focus more on low-loss interprovincial transmission, particularly from hydro sources. Then there is always reduction through efficiency and demand management to shave the peak demands during transition.

The key is emission reduction (once one accepts climate science, that is). And emission reduction will require some innovation – something we’ve witnessed in spades over the past two decades.

In the meantime, and maybe for a long time, natural gas generation will be required. Related GHGs will have to be sequestered by other means – this is the ‘net’ in net-zero. Something Barry deceptively overlooks.

gs172

You think so? B.C. is forecast to be in a electricity deficit by 2030 even with Site C https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/how-will-bc-hydro-power-up-renewable-energy-ambitions and is forecast to be importing 20% of their power this year due to low dam levels. I don’t think we can count on B.C. for our electricity shortage nor should we.

SophieR

I think you are right about Site C, and Manitoba has limits. I was thinking more a couple of 5kV DC lines across the country.

Duane Pendergast

Excellent letter Barrie. Good to see someone thinking about our electricity system. We sure can’t count on our federal environment minister to think constructively about that.
By the way, I was looking at the AESO site during the grid alert. For the first time, I saw the little battery storage systems delivering some electricity. Not enough to make a significant difference though. I.m sure glad responsible Albertans saved the day by reducing their consumption on request.

old school

Sophie , could you explain net zero . Then explain how it is usable, practical, and affordable. I’ve said it before that green people should commit to only green energy. That would certainly help the use of energy from the grid.

SophieR

We’re all green people, now.

I think the question is what it will cost us all in the future if we don’t drastically reduce ghg emissions. From there, work backwards to what we need to do presently to avoid these costs.

SophieR

Publically subsidized nuclear – nearly bankrupted Ontario. Those were the days. But unlikely to fly in Alberta.

https://www.orec.ca/will-nuclear-power-bankrupt-ontario-hydroopg-once-again/

Last edited 14 days ago by SophieR
Sheran.

Thank you Mr. Orich for a well informed letter. I actually wasn’t aware of some of the facts you stated or where to access the details. Many are not aware that there are periods where solar and wind are not generating power.
Alberta is moving towards nuclear power to replace the fossil fuels, but will need to get them online as the phase out begins.
“…An Alberta power producer aims to build the province’s first nuclear power reactor by 2035.
Capital Power Corp., which currently generates electricity using a diversified portfolio featuring natural gas, wind and solar, announced Monday a new partnership with Ontario Power Generation (OPG), operator of a large reactor fleet…”
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-albertas-capital-power-partners-with-ontario-power-generation-to-build/
It will be the only way to phase out fossil fuels but still provide the increased demands from the massive increase from EV’s in the next 10 years.

SophieR

You’ll appreciate the low cost electricity from renewables once you achieve your nuclear dream.

https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/september-2023/renewables-not-nuclear-electric-canada/

Duane Pendergast

Achieved my nuclear dream in Ontario decades ago. One cent per KWhr for electricity use over 1000 kWhr/month. Had baseboard electric heat so easy to achieve.

gs172

Nice bit of propaganda there. I’ll raise you this https://www.iea.org/reports/nuclear-power-in-a-clean-energy-system Every country supports nuclear now. 60 plants being built with another 110 being proposed.

Last edited 14 days ago by gs172
SophieR

You might be surprised to know that I’m not against nuclear as a component of a plan. It is only when it is presented as the only solution and that we have to wait 20 or 30 years before we address ghg emissions is when I push back. Also, it’s difficult to trust the motives when the people advocating for nuclear are cynical climate change deniers.

As for an honest cost for nuclear generated electricity – we’ll have to see what happens when SMRs eventually come online.

gs172

Yes Nuclear needs to part of the solution not the whole solution. I’m still on the fence with SMR’s. They have issues. More waste, more radiation leakage and overall safety. They were developed to deal with nimbyism. You can easily build a smaller permanent reactor but you have build time and community issues to deal with. With SMR’s they can be operation in 6 months to a year not much time for backlash. With 3 major incidents in nuclear, 2 caused by design(you don’t put a generator below sea level) and gross negligence(Chernobyl). I’m fairly comfortable with them.

Southern Albertan

It doesn’t seem that natural gas power generation would be suspended completely and right away, if ever, completely. Perhaps this article could shed more light, :), on the topic:
“What to know about the electricity regulations Alberta is threatening to defy. A zoom out to explain what we’re talking about here.”
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/ottawa-electricity-emissions-regulations-alberta-net-zero-1.7045646
One of the sub-titles here is: “Net-zero by 2035(but not really)”
Another interesting comment in this article: “With dozens of independent generators selling electricity to the grid in an open market, Alberta faces a more complicated road ahead than a province like Saskatchewan does with SaskPower – that is, one provider – making decisions on the investments it will undertake.” So much for the deregulation of Alberta’s electricity market.

buckwheat

Facts are hard to dispute. Renewable is a red herring. Intermittent is a better word.
https://edmontonsun.com/opinion/columnists/gunter-so-called-green-energy-cant-meet-demands-of-today-or-the-foreseeable-future

lumpy

Notice all the ‘nay-babies’ source ‘Sun’ media outlets. LOL.

buckwheat

Your standard answer for anyone who doesn’t agree with your message. Boring you are.

lumpy

You probably look like a Yoda.



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