Why wind power does not work in Ontario – and the solution
By: Donald Jones, P.Eng. – retired nuclear industry engineer
This article, with minor differences, was published as an opinion piece in the Canadian Nuclear Society’s BULLETIN journal, 2012 June edition.
I haven’t noticed the price of Ontario’s electricity dropping despite an over supply of generation and a ten year low in north American natural gas prices. This is mainly because of the Ontario government’s misguided policy of promoting more and more wind generation on the grid under the protection of the Green Energy Act. Large amounts of intermittent wind skew the market leading to take-or-pay contracts (necessary to ensure capacity is built and always available when wind is absent) with the gas-fired generators and the need to export electricity at subsidized give away prices. No one would build merchant gas-fired generators in Ontario since they would be operating at low capacity factors and would price themselves out of the market.
Nuclear electricity provides around 60 percent of Ontario demand and hydro about 20 percent leaving 20 percent or so for the rest, that is, mostly inflexible natural gas and some unreliable wind under Ontario government authority contracts, with flexible coal coming in at times of peak demand. Without wind on the grid gas would have a better chance of supplying all the intermediate and peaking load and see an increasing amount of steady operating hours with lower generation costs. More and more wind being added to the grid in these times of continuing low demand result in very low market prices, even negative prices during the frequent periods of surplus baseload generation (SBG) that is indicative of a poorly designed grid. Since wind is completely unnecessary in the first place it makes little sense to provide expensive energy storage, even if this were technically and environmentally achievable. Read the rest of this entry »