Wasting water: Ontario’s Environmental Disconnect of the Day

Infra-red water faucets are now a fixture (pun intended) in many public washrooms. Everybody appears to have bought in to the conservation mantra: use as little as possible. Chief among the purveyors of the conservation ideology are the mainstream environmental organizations. These groups also push for renewable energy in the form of wind turbines and solar panels. Do they know that Ontario is, right this moment, wasting huge amounts of water because of wind turbines?

Because expensive wind-generated electricity gets priority on the Ontario grid, the provincial hydro generators, which produce the cheapest power in our system, have to “spill”—i.e., waste—the water flowing through them. This waste is to the tune of millions of cubic meters of water every second. It is also to the tune of millions of dollars: the grid rule giving inefficient wind priority prevents our publicly owned electric utility, Ontario Power Generation, from earning much-needed revenue on behalf of the citizens of Ontario. This is all in the name of reducing carbon from electricity: wind power emits no carbon. But neither does hydro.

At the bottom of this post are two tables comparing the electricity output of Ontario’s 49 hydro generators with that of its 18 wind farms. The first table shows daily generation from May 1 to May 8; the second shows hourly generation on May 4 (last Saturday). I put the Hydro and Wind columns next to one another for easy comparison. You will note that generally increased wind output at night corresponded with lower hydro output. This is because of grid rules that favour wind. That is to say, when wind starts blowing and wind turbines produce more electricity, the market rules mean that other generators must throttle down so the grid doesn’t blow up.

The kicker is, wind costs at least 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, and hydro costs at most 4 cents. In other words, hydro costs less than half what wind does, but the rules say that wind gets priority.

Why does wind get priority? Because, according to mainstream environmental lobbyists, wind is “free” and wind power comes with no carbon emissions.

But running water is also “free” and hydro power also comes with no carbon emissions.

And if wind is really “free” then why does the cheapest wind cost us ratepayers more than double the price of the most expensive hydro?

The answer is, wind is a very unreliable and inefficient energy source when it comes to making electricity. If the owners of wind turbines received even half what they get for their cheapest output, their electricity would still cost more than the most expensive hydro. But they would go out of business. That is because their turbines are simply too inefficient, and make too little electricity: they couldn’t make enough revenue, even at the “low” rate, to be economically worth while. The only reason wind turbine owners are in the wind generation business in the first place is because the government forces you, me, and all other Ontario ratepayers to pay them ridiculously high prices.

Moreover, the government forces us all to buy this inferior product even when a much better and far less expensive alternative is available. As has been the case with hydropower over the last while.

And the mainstream environmentalists, who love all this water conservation stuff, support these rules—even though the rules mean hydro plants are currently wasting not cups but millions of cubic meters of water!

So there you are: this is just the latest environmentalist disconnect of the day. This is a crazy mixed up world.

Daily Ontario electricity generation by fuel, May 1-8 2013, megawatts
Nuclear Hydro Wind Gas Other Coal Total
01 221,126 108,301 15,000 34,920 3,742 3,806 386,895
02 239,302 104,964 15,284 31,777 3,926 3 395,256
03 221,969 107,521 18,431 35,793 3,517 0 387,231
04 210,618 104,502 16,317 20,489 1,741 1 353,668
05 210,067 109,816 10,317 15,631 1,771 1 347,603
06 223,436 110,189 8,373 41,829 2,233 3,811 389,871
07 224,439 107,665 6,077 45,065 2,252 3,742 389,240
08 223,665 104,944 4,441 46,715 2,250 4,104 386,119


Hourly Ontario electricity generation, megawatts, May 4 2013
Nuclear Hydro Wind Gas Other Coal Total
00:30 9,353 3,782 968 632 74 0 14,809
01:30 9,353 3,324 1,014 631 75 0 14,397
02:30 9,342 3,015 1,040 632 77 0 14,106
03:30 9,348 2,983 1,030 637 76 0 14,074
04:30 9,134 3,070 932 704 76 0 13,916
05:30 9,052 3,059 896 719 77 0 13,803
06:30 9,057 3,142 879 793 78 0 13,949
07:30 9,051 3,425 863 809 76 1 14,225
08:30 9,067 4,043 701 834 74 0 14,719
09:30 8,608 5,084 548 885 73 0 15,198
10:30 8,520 5,292 400 898 77 0 15,187
11:30 8,521 5,028 387 843 74 0 14,853
12:30 8,526 4,629 525 799 66 0 14,545
13:30 8,530 4,801 602 854 67 0 14,854
14:30 8,524 4,935 622 993 67 0 15,141
15:30 8,524 4,975 533 1,032 69 0 15,133
16:30 8,518 5,387 463 908 68 0 15,344
17:30 8,522 5,343 433 1,035 68 0 15,401
18:30 8,519 5,258 379 1,051 68 0 15,275
19:30 8,520 5,033 384 1,073 70 0 15,080
20:30 8,510 4,937 494 1,007 71 0 15,019
21:30 8,501 4,772 679 1,040 73 0 15,065
22:30 8,508 4,567 772 997 74 0 14,918
23:30 8,510 4,618 773 683 73 0 14,657

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7 years ago

To be technically correct, the water is not wasted (it still exists); its gravitational energy is.

robert budd
7 years ago

If you want to see Niagara in all its glory pick a spring or fall day
when the wind is blowing in Ontario.
Both friday and saturay wind picked up during the night and peaked at close to 50% of capacity. We spilled water and it appears reduced nuclear to accomodate and still drove the HOEP into the negatives.
And the Liberals in the last couple weeks gave contract offers to NextEra for two more large projects (70 turbines or so)adjacent to Lake Huron. That’s smack in the midst of where two major migratory flyways converge. This province has gone nuts.

7 years ago

Well, the Water Conserwation Campaign is a disaster as well. I know how its been in Germany where I live. Water Consumption has been cut by 50% or so, which sounds nice,the problem is that the sh… I mean feces dont get flushed properly and get stuck in the calalization. Regulary special maintenance squads must clean the canalization with hektolitres of water under high pressure in places where it never was necesary before. The concentrated waste speeds korosion up, so more repairs are necesary than before.
In short, instead of using something that falls for free from the sky in a plentiful amount, we are now having a costly repair and maintanance problem, resting mostly on the shoulders of those who have been to poor to instal water saving equipment, and not those who are responsible for the problem, because they are conserving water.
And all of this in a country that didnt have a shortage of water. Because of what? Solidarity with countries that have water shortages?

7 years ago
Reply to  Steve Aplin

Obviously, Ottawa needs to mine some tunnels beneath the city and build a bunch of CANDUs down there to supply low-pressure steam for DHW and space heat as well as electricity.

Or maybe just a bunch of Slowpokes.

Maury Markowitz
7 years ago

“Do they know that Ontario is, right this moment, wasting huge amounts of water because of wind turbines”

Nailed it!


Thank you for proving the point about “decrepit arguments”!

7 years ago
Reply to  Steve Aplin

Steve, get a grip, I’m from Ireland and we don’t pay any taxes for water that is provided to domestic households, a disgrace in my opinion. It rains in the west of this country more than anywhere in the world, that doesn’t make it free. It cost’s the country €1.2 billion a year to clean water so we can shit in it. Another disgrace. The problem I have with people who don’t like conservationists, and I am a conservationist, is you’re all to connected with materialistic bullshit and you’d rather have more money than a clean river flowing through your city, you think of nothing but yourself. Do you even know how much energy it takes to clean water so you can drink it? Seriously nobody is wasting the water, you have the whole importance of water the wrong way around.