Wind power is not reliable

By Letter to the Editor on May 14, 2014.

Re: “Wind energy has proven to be reliable and cost competitive” (May 6 Letter to the editor).

It is a serious abuse of the English language to use the words “reliable” and “cost competitive” to describe wind energy. Webster defines “reliable” as “trustworthy; there when needed; dependable” – all the things that wind is NOT.

The “current supply and demand report” for Alberta ( May 6, 1 p.m.), showed total net generation as 8,605 MW with wind supplying 415 MW (4.8 per cent of what Albertans were using).

To examine what wind had being doing in the 48 hours before, I went to for easy-to-read graphs based upon Alberta (AESO) data. Twenty-seven hours ago (10 a.m. May 5) wind was producing ZERO for three hours in a row; six hours ago it was providing 879 MW and now, 415 MW as I write. This performance does not fit any definition of “reliable” or “there when needed.”

“Cost competitive?” Indeed the Alberta Electric System Operator shows “wind energy is consistently the lowest cost” but why?

The Alberta market is based upon supply and demand. Prices change by the hour. Big demand means higher price. Small demand – lower price. Wind blows when it will, often during the night when demand is low. Occasionally wind might blow during a period of high demand and then it gets the higher price but on average, it typically blows during off-peak hours when demand and prices are low. It is “consistently the lowest cost” because it often comes on the market when Albertans are asleep. In Ontario unuseable wind is sold into the U.S. at a loss.

In Alberta legislation requires that wind power MUST be bought. If wind is available coal and gas MUST make room on the grid while standing by to help if wind dies. Wind gets preferential treatment at every level but still can’t capitalize on it because it frequently generates when few need to buy.

Hence the CanWEA push for bigger subsidies, higher carbon taxes, longer term contracts and more preferential legislation. Wind investors are finding “life challenging.” They need higher prices.

As I close this letter wind is now contributing 354 MW to the grid. Down 61 MW. Please don’t tell me anymore how “reliable” wind is. The correct words are “unreliable,” “erratic,” “unpredictable” and a bad deal for Albertans.

Shaun Ward