In one of the Dr. Katz episodes, Katz is enjoying, or trying to enjoy, a glass of wine after dinner with his slacker son Ben. When Ben criticizes his imbibing, Katz says something like “I figure I should let my hair down, because it let me down.” (Katz has gone bald, as you’ll see when you watch the clip.)
Right now, two-thirty p.m. on Wednesday August 29 2012, the provincial wind fleet is letting its hair down, enjoying the productivity equivalent of a glass of vino in the middle of the afternoon. That is to say, the wind fleet is not producing very much at this moment, even though it is continually touted as the energy of the future.
Unlike Katz, whose wine-drinking occurs after the working day is over, the wind fleet pops the old cork whenever it pleases, even if everyone else is in the middle of the work day. Though theoretically capable of generating around 1700 megawatts at this moment, the wind fleet is actually generating only 84 MW.
Check out the IESO’s website. Once again, as the province heads into the peak hours, wind is missing in action and proving it is a total waste of time and money. After all that talk, after all the celebrity endorsements, after all the self-interested con men blathering on about the wind-powered Brave New World—this is what we get.
Of course, no electricity user actually notices that there is a totally unreliable source of energy that gets priority on the grid. That is because the IESO, the grid operator, makes sure that the generators that can produce power on demand are ready to jump in when wind goes on a drunk. Unfortunately, many of those generators are fueled by natural gas, a carbon-heavy fossil fuel. Gas-fired power plants dump half a kilogram of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, into the air for every kilowatt-hour they generate.
Let’s examine how we got into the wind game in the first place. We were originally trying to reduce CO2 emissions. We jumped onto the wind bandwagon because “green” energy experts told us wind is “clean” and emission-free. We pay top dollar to wind turbine owners because they cannot get enough utilization from their capital assets to survive in a normal electricity market. You see, wind is highly erratic: up one minute, down the next. Because wind is unreliable, we have to build a parallel fleet of gas-fired generators, which dump huge amounts of CO2 into our air.
As Nixon says in Oliver Stone’s brilliant 1995 film Nixon:
This is [expletive deleted] Disneyland.
What a let down.
This is how we are supposed to power the new economy?