A Hot Windy Day

Much of the conventional wisdom about wind says that you don’t get any production during heat waves. While this is party true – winter winds are much stronger – it is not entirely true. Yesterday was a good example.

I had to be in Toronto yesterday. The temperature was a record high for May 24 of over 31 degrees C. And the air was thick with smog. The radio kept asking people to stay indoors, and not do physical exercise. I don’t have asthma, but towards the end of the day I had a dry cough. I am sure this is related to the smog, as I don’t get it other times. The smog can’t be good for you.

Of course electricity demand was high, due to air conditioner load. Usually, the air conditioning load rises the longer a heat wave goes on. In the first day or two, many buildings keep their cool with little need for air conditioning. Yesterday looks like a one day heat wave, so the impact on electricity generation is less than it will be later in the summer. The other thing that happens during heat waves is that we use a lot of waterpower. During a one day heat wave, this can be easily accomplished, as we usually have stored some water for peak demands. But during long heat waves, the demand for power continues, and the reservoirs will be lower after a couple of days. That is when the coal plants are really in demand.
Yestereday, the coal fired plants peaked at about 3700 MW. That’s a lot of extra smog causing chemicals into the air.

How did the Ferndale wind farm do? It produced 78,000 kWh, or 64% of its rated capacity. The highest production was in the afternoon and evening, when electricity demand was highest.

So lets suppose we had the 2700 MW of wind installed that the government has said will be complete by 2010, instead of today’s 400 MW (this appear unlikely to happen – they have been too slow on their procurements, and have made the fatal error of assuming that providing a contract to buy power is the same as buying the power – it isn’t – the project needs to be built first). But if we had 2700 MW of wind yesterday, and it all produced at 64%, then wind would have been able to produce an average of 1728 MW. This would have allowed us to reduce our use of coal by the same amount, a reduction of over 46%, and an greater reduction during the off peak hours.

And who says we have to stop at 2700 MWh of wind?

Wind won’t eliminate all coal burning in the summer. Conservation and efficiency, and lifestyle, has a huge role to play. But it is incorrect to say wind can’t make a contribution. Yesterday, Ferndale, and its Bullfrog customers, made a difference.

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