Between 1 and 2 PM, December 31 2013, the last coal fired generating station in Ontario stopped producing power. No more coal will be burned in Ontario to produce power. The coal shutdown is the largest climate initiative in Canada, and is a significant milestone.
The coal has been replaced by a combination of nuclear refurbishments, natural gas, wind, and some water power. The Bruce nuclear plant brought two units back into service, adding 1700 MW of capacity. Wind has added over 2400 MW of new capacity in the past decade. There are new gas plants, and there are some waterpower developments, including the lower Mattagami repowering project, and the new tunnel at Niagara falls, which will add 1% of Ontario’s power output on its own.
How has wind contributed? The IESO usually publishes the output of various technologies in early January. But they only include plants that are greater than 10 MW, missing all of the Standard Offer projects. Unlike nuclear or coal, where no plant is less than 10 MW, there is a significant capacity of smaller projects for wind, and especially for solar. In other words, the IESO statistics do no capture the full picture.
The capacity of large wind projects in Ontario is 2148 MW. Small projects add another 269 MW (source: OPA), increasing the capacity by 12.5%. The output of large wind farms was 5,192,387 MWh, or 5.2 TWh (source: Sygration). If the output of the small projects has the same capacity factor as large projects (a reasonable assumption, especially since small wind farms have less wake losses due to less turbines), then this adds 779,743 MWh, bringing the total to 5,972,130 MWh, or 6 TWh. Total demand in Ontario was estimated to be approximately 140 TWh, so wind is supplying 4.3% of Ontario’s electricity demand.
The average capacity factor of large wind projects operating more than one year was 33%. This number continues to rise, as new machines have taller towers, which accesses stronger wind, and larger rotors relative to generator size, which captures more wind. The highest capacity factor was at the Dillon project, which is newly built (2012), at 37.2%, and the lowest was the Prince Wind Farm, at 26.4%, which was one of Ontario’s earliest large wind farms built in 2006.
The supply from wind continues to rise. Last year, the IESO reported wind output from large wind farms at 4.6 TWh, compared to this year’s 5.2, for an increase of 13%. This number is guaranteed to rise further, as some of the wind farms that are online today have produced for only a partial year, and there is a pipeline of projects in various stages of development that will more than double Ontario’s wind output over the next few years.
Wind is making a significant and increasing contribution to Ontario’s electricity supply.