Wind in Spain

Recent reports from Spain indicated that a record amount of wind was integrated into the grid. Wind supplied 53% of total demand on November 8th.

Wind already supplies 14% of Spain’s electricity on average. This compares with Ontario at 2%. Denmark is often held up as the model of wind supply, with 20% from wind. Denmark has strong links to its neighbours, including Germany, Sweden, and Norway, and can import or export up to 50% of its power, which allows them to export in high supply times. Norway in particular has a lot of hydroelectric storage, and so imports from Denmark allow them to build their water levels in the reservoirs.

Spain, by contrast, is an electricity peninsula, with only weak links to neighbouring France, and an ability to import/export less than 1/10th as much as Denmark. So how does Spain manage to have so much power from wind? It is pretty simple, really. Spain has significant amounts of hydroelectric resources, including pumped storage. When winds are high, pumps lift water to a reservoir, and release it during times of light winds or high demand. The pumped storage and hydroelectric stations provide a buffer that not only compliments wind energy, but also accomodates swings in demand.

25% of Ontario supply already comes from water power. And we already use this to accomodate swings in demand. Right now, for example, water is supplying 4800 MW in Ontario, compared to about 3000 MW last night. So accomodating a lot more wind in Ontario is already easy, with no changes in the rest of the system. We also have significant connections to New York State, Quebec (with a lot of water power storage), and smaller links to Manitoba, Minnesota and Michigan. We are far more connected than Spain.

A recent article on this provides more information.

A quote from the article: “Those that oppose wind power… say that wind is so unreliable as to be useless. They parade a vision of gas-powered power stations generating spare electricity just in case the wind suddenly drops. The reduction in carbon emissions is negligible, they claim, and the cost of installing turbines is huge.

None of this is true. The Spanish case histories in this article show that good grid management can integrate very large amounts of wind energy with few problems, provided that pumped storage and hydraulic power can be used for storage and international connections enable easy export and import. Second, the carbon emissions from Spanish electricity production during the peak hours of 8/9 November are calculated by REE at about 145 grammes per kilowatt hour, about a quarter of typical UK electricity. Using wind power in large volumes substantially reduces the carbon dioxide produced in electricity generation.”

We should always draw on international experience. And that experience suggests that Ontario can go a long ways further to integrating wind into the grid.

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