Ontario’s nuclear generating capacity is around 12,500 megawatts. Its wind capacity is around 1,800 MW. So the provincial installed nuclear capacity is close to 7 times that of wind.
But the interesting thing is the difference in the amount of actual electrical output that each technology delivers. In the Output department, nuclear outperforms wind by a dramatic margin—a margin far greater than the difference in capacity. This means nuclear is far more energy-efficient than wind. The chart below illustrates this perfectly; it compares nuclear and wind capacity with their respective electrical output so far this year. The Output figures are in million megawatt-hours. (See this page to watch the running total increase hour by hour.)
As you can see, nuclear, with seven times the capacity, has so far in 2013 out-generated wind by more than 18 times. But when you drill into the data, you see even starker illustrations of nuclear’s superior efficiency. Last Friday (August 16), for example, the provincial nuclear fleet produced nearly 100 times as much electricity as the wind fleet did. The table below compares nuclear production with wind in the last six days.
|Ont. generation, selected sources, Aug 16-21 2013, mWh|
|Nuclear||Wind||Total grid||CO2, tons|
Notice the difference in CO2 emissions between August 16 and August 21: fossil-fired power generators in Ontario, mostly running on natural gas dumped 15,289 on the 16th and 48,660—more than three times as much—on the 21st.
Why did Ontario generators dump more than three times as much CO2 into the air on the 21st as they did on the 15th?
Because Ontario generators were called on to produce more electricity on the 21st. As you can see, they produced 58,952 more megawatt-hours on the 21st.
And that was because the 21st was a much hotter day than the 16th.
Well, the nuclear fleet was producing at close to 99 percent of its capacity. So the extra 58,952 megawatt-hours could not have come from nuclear plants. In fact, the extra megawatt-hours came from fossil-fired plants, mostly ones that run on natural gas.
The fact that the wind fleet produced more power on the 21st than on the 16th is pure random chance. Wind is a function of thermodynamics and atmospheric pressure. It happens when it happens, and that has nothing to do with human work patterns. You cannot plan an electricity system on the assumption that wind will produce as it did on August 21. You must assume its production will approximate that of August 16 (actually you must assume it will not produce any electricity). Otherwise you will have blackouts and brownouts.
You can plan a system on the assumption that nuclear generation will be steady and constant. Look at the 2013 table on my Ontario Power Stats page. You will see that nuclear output has been constant since January 1. It is constant hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year—and has been like that for literally decades, ever since the large-scale introduction of nuclear power in Ontario in the early 1970s.
What is critical in this picture is the performance of the nuclear fleet. As you can see, it produced roughly similar amounts hour day after day. If you drill down into each day, you will see that the fleet performance was the same hour after hour. Nuclear produces much more energy, as a function of generating capacity, than wind.
That is typical of these two generating sources. Nuclear simply outperforms wind in all cases: even when political rules tilt the electricity market in wind’s favour.
Nuclear is far more efficient than wind. This is why it is not only capable of reliably running Ontario, an advanced industrial jurisdiction; it is why it does so cheaply.
Wind is inefficient: aside from solar, wind is the most inefficient power source we have. This is why it is so expensive. It generates so little actual energy as a function of installed capacity that wind turbine owners had to get the government to force rate-payers to pay them far-above-market prices just so they could avoid bankruptcy.
The table above illustrates as clearly as it is possible to do that if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our power sector, we need more nuclear plants.