The Value of Diversity

It was a good production day in Ferndale yesterday.  From noon until midnight, the wind farm produced at an average of about 90% of its capacity.

The winds were from the northeast.  It was cold in my house, which looks over Isthmus Bay to the east.  The wind was coming straight off the bay, which still has a surface temperature of about 3 degrees C.  The air didn’t get any warmer than 10 degrees.

The rest of the wind farms in Ontario were not very productive.  While Ferndale produced at 90% of its rated capacity, Amaranth (Shelburne) produced at about 10%, Kingsbridge (Goderich) produced nothing, Port Burwell produced about 10%, and the Prince project (Sault Ste Marie) produced from zero to 15%.

Wind farms inevitably have preferred wind directions.  The Ferndale wind farm is located on the Bruce Peninsula which juts north, dividing Georgian Bay from Lake Huron.  Both are very large water bodies, that are too far to see across.  Surface winds accelerate as they cross large water bodies.  So the Ferndale wind farm produces very well with western and eastern winds.  It is less productive with south winds, as the winds come entirely over land, much of which has trees, which reduces the power in wind.

Kingsbridge is just off the western shore of Lake Huron on a rise of land.  So it catches southwest/west/northwest winds very well.  The rise in the land accelerates the already accelerated winds of the lake.  Port Burwell is in a similar situation, but with Lake Erie to the south.  It catches southwest, south, and southeast winds very well.  Amaranth is inland, on the “top of Southern Ontario”, so it tends to catch winds from all directions, although it would lack the benefit of lake proximity.  The Prince Project is on the western shore of Lake Superior, and so would catch southwest, west and northwest winds very well.

So different wind farms will perform better or worse with winds from a given direction, depending on their local topography.  And with northeast winds, Ferndale performs the best.

A geographic diversity of wind farms not only takes advantage of weather systems as they pass over, with varying winds at different times, thus firming the supply from wind farms.  But also, different wind farms will perform better with certain wind directions, also firming supply.

The implications for electricity policy are clear.  Electricity policy should encourage geographic diversity of wind farms.

And the implications for me are also clear.  A cold house from a cold wind off the bay is only a good thing.

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