Solar, wind not reliable power

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Lethbridge Herald

By Letter to the Editor on January 30, 2019.

Our provincial NDP government is clearly attempting to ram as much solar and wind power as possible onto our electrical grid before likely losing this spring’s election. They are doing this using an auction format to give the process the appearance of competitiveness. After each auction, Rachel and others gleefully announce that the successful green bidder’s kilowatt hour prices are becoming very close to what existing conventional generators are paid. That exaggeration wouldn’t be true even if the power provided by these new intermittent and unreliable sources was remotely similar to that from existing sources. The many hidden costs surrounding green energy are rarely discussed.

A few details must be understood to fairly compare solar/wind power to what is called “base-load” generation (coal, gas, hydro, nuclear). Base-load power is constantly and reliably available to customers 24/7 and efficiently utilizes transmission line capacity because it typically provides at least 90 per cent of its name-plate capacity when required. Solar and wind generators, by comparison, can’t be relied upon to provide any needed power at a point in time. Every night, solar production dies completely as well as supplying minimal output in Alberta’s winters or on cloudy days. An average of 15 per cent of name-plate capacity is typical of annual solar output in Alberta.

Wind power is similarly unreliable and averages 25 per cent of its designed output throughout the year. But both require an overbuilt transmission and infrastructure capacity to occasionally handle 100 per cent of their maximum output. As a result, green power transmission assets are severely under-utilized through the course of the year. This represents huge, wasteful fixed costs charged to our energy bills. Check one of your recent electrical statements to see how these fixed charges already exceed kWh costs.

And one last critical point is that as new expensive wind and solar generators are built, not one kW of existing generation can be retired because it has to be there as a backstop for times when green energy produces next to nothing as it often does. This effectively is a pointless, politically motivated duplication of electrical generation assets that will cost us dearly!

Lynn Thacker

Bow Island