“No Mas”: wind quits Ontario electricity fight, in the middle of a heat-wave Wednesday

The table below is a snapshot of yesterday’s Ontario wind turbine electricity production. Notice what happens to wind production as the province heads into its morning and afternoon peak periods, and bear in mind that we were (and still are) in a heat wave. As you can see, wind production dropped as Ontario moved into the critical peak periods. You will also see that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main man-made greenhouse pollutant, from provincial fossil-fired power plants rose in exactly the same hours.

Leonard v. Duran II, 1980. Sugar Ray’s showboating, shown here, underscored Duran’s inability to dominate the fight, prompting Duran, professional boxing’s ultimate macho man, to cry “No Mas!” and quit the fight before the eighth round had even ended. Thirty three years later, I have forgiven Duran—it’s easy for armchair fight fans like me to criticize someone for not wanting to risk getting his brains bashed out. It is harder to forgive the Ontario wind turbine fleet for quitting in the middle of hot summer days when the province needs all the power it can get. It is even harder to forgive the armchair entrepreneurs like wind turbine owners NextERA Energy, who hide behind bad government fiats and happily rake unearned profits from me and my fellow Ontario electricity rate payers, while suing anybody and everybody who stands in their way.

But wait: isn’t the whole purpose of wind energy to put greenhouse gases down? I mean, wind energy is the cornerstone of the Green Energy Act, and the GEA was all about replacing coal plants. So isn’t wind supposed to lower electricity-related greenhouse gases?

Why yes it is. So why did a wind-led reduction in greenhouse gas emissions not happen yesterday? Well, because Ontario needed more power during the peak hours, due to the fact that most people in the province keep similar daily schedules. It is what keeps us economically productive.

And because we always need more power during the peak hours and only a fool would rely on wind turbines to provide that power, we relied, as we always do, on those other sources of energy for the extra juice. And what are those extra sources of juice? Fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas.

Hour Wind output Total output Wind % of total Total CO2 emissions, tons
0 162 15,930 1.02% 562
1 109 15,659 0.70% 542
2 74 15,249 0.49% 541
3 61 15,042 0.41% 540
4 94 14,978 0.63% 542
5 124 15,256 0.81% 541
6 109 15,524 0.70% 545
7 83 16,203 0.51% 586
8 56 16,892 0.33% 673
9 37 17,283 0.21% 813
10 49 18,319 0.27% 1,260
11 35 19,024 0.18% 1,533
12 33 19,644 0.17% 1,838
13 50 19,880 0.25% 1,881
14 99 19,870 0.50% 1,951
15 105 20,254 0.52% 2,339
16 78 20,596 0.38% 2,400
17 72 20,573 0.35% 2,336
18 49 20,421 0.24% 2,385
19 135 20,192 0.67% 2,270
20 102 19,516 0.52% 2,000
21 198 19,260 1.03% 1,908
22 310 18,699 1.66% 1,774
23 319 17,647 1.81% 1,179

So yesterday was not a good day to tout wind power. But then again no day is a good day for that. Bear in mind that wind is by far the most expensive of the “new” electricity sources that Ontario has brought in under the Green Energy Act.

Now, you tell me. On the basis of the above data, is wind worth any amount of money, let alone the exorbitant prices we are forced to pay wind turbine owners? Remember that wind is in our system precisely to reduce greenhouse gases like CO2.

If you are the Ontario government, days like yesterday might get you wondering why it was you forced wind turbine farms into unwilling rural communities. Those rural communities, justifiably outraged by such aggressive and discourteous policies, voted the governing party out in the 2011 provincial election. This forced the governing party to do all it could to win seats it had a chance of winning. Several of those were in Mississauga, where the governing party had attempted to force yet more power plants into yet more unwilling host communities. To win the seat, the governing party wisely cancelled those power plants. At a huge cost to Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers. Hence the incumbent government’s extremely tenuous position in power.

I’ll answer my own question about whether it was all worth it. The answer is no. If we need more fossil capacity to cover for when wind quits the fight, as it did right at the critical time yesterday, then no wind is not worth it. It is an utter waste of money.

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Jaro Franta
10 years ago

Hydro, gas and coal were picking up the extra demand, as we can see here:

robert budd
10 years ago

The trouble for Ontario is this is typical summer time performance and we are still comitted to another ~1500mw yet to come on line. This whole week wind was either irelelavent or problematic. It’s best output(~40% of installed capacity )was during a 4 hour period from midnight to 4am and drove the HOEP negative to < -$4/mwh. Solar BTW was exceptionally unproductive too during this week.
I've lived with wind and solar for a couple decades now in one of our best wind regions. If any had asked me I could have told them wind was a low value addition in Ontario and that the original a study done for the gov't by G.E. grossly overrated firm capacity.
I have no connection to the nuclear industry but watching the production numbers and the positive effect on local communities relative to wind has made me appreciate the wisdom of Ontario's nuclear pioneers.