Alberta turns to natural gas after wind lessens reliability

Alberta power utility Enmax Corp. said yesterday it is building a huge new power station in Southern Alberta fired with natural gas, partly to help boost the provincial grid’s reliability after Alberta’s aggressive expansion into wind energy made it vulnerable to power disruption.“We now have so much windpower generation that we need to fall back on reliable sources of power,” said Peter Hunt, an Enmax spokesman.

“The problem with wind power is that the wind doesn’t blow all the time, so the greater percentage of the system depends on wind, the more vulnerable to disruption the system becomes when the wind stops blowing.”

The 1,200-megawatt station, which industry sources say would cost about $2-billion, would produce enough power to supply two-thirds of Calgary’s needs.

Alberta expanded into windpower generation aggressively since deregulating its electricity industry eight years ago. With more than 4% of its power coming from wind farms in the southern part of the province, it is the national leader in the green-energy source.

But the growth turned out to be too much of a good thing and the provincial grid operator, Alberta Electric System Operator, slapped a ban last April on the construction of any more wind farms until the reliability issues are resolved.

While environmentally friendly, the typical wind farm in Southern Alberta can harvest wind only 35% of the time.

Electricity has to be used instantaneously, cannot be reliably stored and has to be kept within a narrow band of voltage and frequency.

Warren Frost, vice-president of operations and reliability with AESO, said the new station should solve some of the grid’s variability challenges.

“It’s good news for Alberta in terms of getting another source of generation,” he said. “Alberta is continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate and another major investment in the generation of supply is a good thing.”

While Enmax has not picked a site for the station, Mr. Hunt said it will be located close to wind power generation areas so it can quickly pick up the load when the wind starts to die down. The first phase is expected to be completed in the next three years.

An advantage of natural gasfired stations is that they can be turned on quickly, just like cooking gas. Coal-fired stations, on the other hand, need a long time to ramp up.

Enmax, itself a major producer of power from wind, said it hopes the new power station will firm up the transmission grid so more wind farms can be developed in the future.

Alberta is expected to require additional capacity of up to 3,800 megawatts in the next decade.

By Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post

20 April 2007

3 thoughts on “Alberta turns to natural gas after wind lessens reliability

  1. The bad news is that Alberta has only 8 1/2 years of Natural Gas reserves left. That is at today’s rate of consumption. We cannot get out of NAFTA and save our gas for ourseles. Then what? We buy gas from Russia. That’s what.

  2. In Ontario, the McGuinty Government, in bed with the Industrial Wind Lobby, hires a wind turbine manufacturer (GE) to do a wind study for Ontario.

    “This study was undertaken on behalf of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) to assess the implications of large scale wind integration into the Ontario power system.”

    GE says the average “capacity value” of the wind resource in Ontario ranges from 38% to 42% during the winter months (November to February) and from 16% to 19% during the summer months (June to August).

    GE also did a study for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority examined the impact of 3,300 MW of wind on the New York bulk power system (GE Energy Consulting 2005). The study used simulated wind data from more than 100 sites throughout the state and found capacity values “ranged from 3% to 12%, with an average value of 6%.

    The implications are that Ontario will be burning more natural gas than the McGuinty government is letting on and Ontario’s power consumers will be paying.

    Who is doing the string pulling for whom?

    Robert Hornung, President of Canadian Wind Energy Association used to be Climate Change Program Director for the Pembina Institute.

    “A wind turbine only generates one or two megawatts of energy, but it can be a major contributor to the grid and reduce the need to build expensive nuclear facilities, said Robert Hornung.”

    Jack Gibbons is chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. Glen Estill is president
    of Sky Generation and past President of CanWea.

    “Advocates such as Estill and Gibbons …both say nuclear power can be replaced over time by a combination of energy sources, technologies and approaches, including conservation.”

    “Now is the time for Premier McGuinty to lead the way to a smart, green energy future without coal or nuclear power that will protect Ontario’s health, environment and economy” said Jack Gibbons.

    “Energy efficiency and low-impact renewable energy sources have the realistic potential to provide more than double the amount of electricity needed in worst case projections of Ontario’s future electricity demand. That is the conclusion of a new report released today by a coalition of leading environmental groups, including WWF-Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, the Sierra Club of Canada and Greenpeace.”

    “Thanks for the note from Rod Adams. It is a good one. Jack Gibbons, as you know, is the paid lobbyist of the natural gas industry masquerading as an environmental protector. I wish more experts in the energy industry would respond to Jack’s comments in the print media and on the air in the manner Rod did. It might start members of the media thinking about their universal approval of everything Jack says because it is called “Clean Air”.

    “Although the Alliance draws three-quarters of its funding from charitable foundations, it has faced some criticism for accepting money from natural gas and wind energy ndustries, which stand to benefit financially from a phase-out of coal.”

    ” AT QUEEN’S PARK, Dwight Duncan, House Leader and Minister of Energy, explains that the Liberal Party’s policy to shut down coal plants evolved under pressure from environmentalists during the preparation of its 2003 election platform. The previous Conservative government had undertaken to get rid of coal by 2015. “Our guys said we can do better.” Like Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, the Liberal caucus thought the alternative would be more natural gas, not new life for nuclear. “The challenge,” says Duncan, “is the rising commodity price”.

    “I am very proud of this plan. It’s aggressive, but it’s balanced. It’s responsible and it’s flexible. It will double conservation, double renewables, reduce our reliance on nuclear and ensure greater security moving forward. It’s a good plan for the future of Ontario. ” Minister’s Speeches. Notes for remarks By The Honourable Dwight Duncan, Minister of
    Energy, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Ottawa, Ontario, June 28, 2006″.

    The Ontario environmentalists have teamed up to form a SUPER co-coalition for this fall’s provincial election. What is Dwight Duncan and Stephane Dion thinking trying to appease the green rabble? Greens don’t vote Liberal. Duncan and Dion have managed to alienate middle class voters who are going to bear the brunt of these “green” scams.

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