Welcome to Ontario’s Wind Performance

The purpose of this Web Site and its many reports is to inform the public about the actual physical performance of Industrial Wind Turbines (IWT).   We have data from locations installed as early as 2006.  With this data we can see if the many claims from the wind lobby pans out as fact.   The entire data is available on-line at the IESO website: http://www.ieso.ca/imoweb/pubs/marketReports/download/HourlyWindFarmGen_20100827.csv It is straightforward to import the data to a database or a spreadsheet and perform high school level statistics and mathematics to understand what is actually happening. The one exception to this is the Skew analysis. However it is included as it makes a very important point about wind production in Ontario.

The claim from the wind industry is that wind will be able to provide replacement power for coal-fired plants.  The reason for the switchover is that wind is “cleaner” than coal.  Though the price charged to consumers for wind power is much greater than coal power, it’s the price we have to pay to “save the planet”, or so the claim goes.

This site is going to challenge the following:

  • That Wind is a viable source of power;
  • That the wind industry is telling the truth on their stated claims;
  • That Wind can replace other sources of energy; and,
  • That Wind will save the planet.

As you read through this you will likely come to the same conclusion as the authors. If you are dedicated believer in the need for “renewable” energy it is unlikely that we will change your mind on most issues. However, maybe we can cause you to acknowledge that wind power siting is much more important that currently believed. We may also be able to show you that at least in Ontario that despite wide geographic dispersal the power output is still highly correlated amongst all turbines. We will show you that wind production in Ontario is unsatisfactory at best, and that it is not economically viable, and that  it is driving up the energy rates for consumers.

Wind Power does nothing to “save the planet”. When the wind blows we often do not need the power as demand is low. When the wind is low, such as on hot summer days, is when we need usually need it the most.

It seems that Ontario is not the only place in the world where these observations are being made.  See the chapter on other places to read what others are thinking and writing.

Before you begin you may need to learn some basics about wind power, see that chapter here. If you already know the basics then it is still useful as you can learn our approach to analysis.

The wind industry is using a value known as the Capacity Factor, the average of the output compared to the name plate capacity.  But this analysis will show that that number is meaningless.  The number closest to what the physical output of wind is the Median Capacity Factor, a value often less than half the Capacity Factor the wind industry uses.

We recognize that there are some who may not like what is presented in this report.  They will question the analysis and claim the authors do not know what they are talking about. We will explain how the analysis is done, and you can make your own judgment as this is basic statistics that is taught in high school.  Thus if anyone wishes to challenge what is presented here then we expect an evidence based approach. We welcome any genuine debate or attempt to challenge the facts and figures that we present. In other words, come armed with facts and figures — not vitriol!

As you think of challenges, remember that we are simply presenting the actual data from the wind turbines as gathered by IESO. Realize that IESO does an exemplary job of organizing and presenting the data. It makes it easy to get the analysis correct!

Please keep any commentary civil. All posts are moderated! Any derogatory or insulting comments will be removed.

Thank you for taking the time to read our work and to present your ideas.

If you wish to use this analysis as a reference please do so in the following format:
Wakefield, J.R., et al (2010), Ontario Wind Performance. http://ontariowindperformance.wordpress.com/

Some of the chapters are not yet written, keep tabs on the TOC for new links.

Update 22 March, 2011:
New Chapter: 9.2 Wake of Japan, Wind to Replace Nukes?

37 Responses to Welcome to Ontario’s Wind Performance

  1. Doug Dingeldein says:

    For some reason, I have not been able to get to the IESO website this morning so I was unable to answer my own question below.

    What is the relationship between the IESO data and the data published by Sygration. Is it the same data?

    For example, Sygration says the total output from the 11 wind farms it covers at 8:00 AM this morning (Sep 26, 2010) was 44 MW, and that output from the farms for the day so far peaked at 133 MW at 5:00 AM…a trivial contribution in the context of the province’s total electricity consumption.

    Interestingly, total output from the 3 coal-fired plants at 8:00 AM was 4 MW… essentiall they were shut down and were since 1 AM.

    The story with water-generated power is equally interesting. At 8:00 AM, output, according to Sygration, was 3,528 MW, which is only a little over half the capacity for water-power generation in Ontario. With minor addition flow, the province’s dams could have more than replaced expensive renewable power with cheap, environmentally benign hydro power.

    Couple of observations:

    1. the Ontario renewable energy strategy was initiated by the government as a way to get off coal, but coal is an insignificant component of our electricity-generation system and has been for some time;
    2. power from falling water is the cleanest (and cheapest ?) of all and we often don’t use all our capacity;
    3. a quick review of our household electricity bills comparing current months with corresponding months a year ago shows consumption significantly down (we’ve taken steps to achieve this) but costs up sigificantly.

    No doubt this is directly related to the outrageous subsidies associated with the province’s renewable energy boondoggle.

    • Clive Cudmore says:

      You are correct about falling water being the cheapest and cleanest form of energy, and it is storable as well. That is why water power shows at less than 1/2 capacity. Many hydroelectric plants have insufficient water supply to run at full power all day. They are used as “peaking” plants, and only used when demand is above base load. The big problem is that when demand is low, and wind power available, OPG has had to spill water, rather than using it to generate power at less than one cent per kilowatt hour.

      • Maury Markowitz says:

        > at less than one cent per kilowatt hour

        Hmmm. According to the last public numbers I’ve seen, hydro averaged 1.1 cents/kWh. Still low, but certainly not “less than 1″.

        > and it is storable as well.
        > OPG has had to spill water

        So which is it? You’ve contradicted yourself and don’t offer any context as to why this might be.

  2. willr2010 says:

    Sygration probably gets their data from the same place as everyone here. The IESO site.

    Our consumption is down and our bill is doubled. We tried shifting usage to no avail.

    We have a smart meter. It is read once a month by someone who comes around with a transceiver.

    Coal is a significant portion of the capacity.

    See the IESO graph near the end!

    As for they “Why’s?” of it all — your guess is as good as any. I have given up trying to understand the Green Mentality. There is too much guesswork on the political side of energy management and too little thought about what the numbers mean. That is all I can say for sure.

  3. John says:

    what mentality?

  4. Rural Grubby says:

    Thanks for doing this. Is there anyway of tracking wind production and if this results in any reduction in the use of coal? Wind developer often use this unproven idea to justify the need to allow wind generation on the grid. i.e. one unit of wind replaces one unit of coal. As most of us know this is a huge assumption that has been proven to the contrary in Denmark and Colorado.
    Also is there a way of finding out if turbines are actually generating when smaller projects (less than 10 MW) are not required to list their generation on the Sygration website?
    I would also like to know if Wind “farms” are being used to dump excess generation as the project surrounding me even on very still muggy days have turbines which are running. Do you have any suggestions about tracking this. I am keeping records (almost everyday) as to the direction, wind speeds, weather conditions and energy output using other sites listed. Thanks

    • jrwakefield says:

      All that data you are gathering could be useful, you should email it to me so I can have a look at it.

      There is no question that when the wind blows they get preferential to other sources, especially Niagara. This so much epitomizes the Liberals/Environmental mentality. Dump a renewable resource that costs some 2.3c for another that costs 14c.

      It’s almost like their mission in life is to make energy as expensive as is possible to kill off our way of life.

      • Rural Grubby says:

        Will do in the future once I figure out a good tabulation method to summarize the info.


    • john hare says:


      I have been downloading all the IESO data since the middle of August into MSexcel and trying to make some sense of it. Excel is a lousy format for statistical analysis but whatever.

      What it does show is that Ontario stopped using coal as a baseload source during August 2010. This appears to be as a result of a significant increase in nuclear capacity in the last few months. Wind capacity in August 2010 was nonexistant.

      The first week in September was the best week for wind that I can recall, capacities over 80%. But as a result of the Labour Day Holiday and the cooler weather, overall demand was low. Nuclear climbed to over 80% of used capacity at times.

      Coal has only been used as a peak load supply in September so far, only Lampton and Naticoke are pulled in as required. Now you just do not turn on a coal-fired steam turbine plant; it can take upwards of 12 hours to fire up from cold to full capacity. so those facilities are running, burning coal 24/7, waiting for the daily demand rise. Conversely, we are selling that excess capacity to Michigan ConEd or New York at a discount while we are charging Ontario consumers for higher cost non coal energy sources.

      Now I have been waiting for some kind of word about coal from the government, since they have been under a lot of pressure on the energy file and keeping a promise might be a positive statement. It might be premature or not the right political timing.

      The real irony is that energy demand in Ontario is very much in a state of flux since the 2008 economic downturn; if McGuinty gets all the “green” jobs he has promised, he is going to have to turn the coal plants back on to support them.

      • jrwakefield says:

        I store this data in Access, which allows me to run SQL queries to get the data I need. I then copy that and paste into Excel to do the median, average, SD and skew plus the graphs. It’s much better to have it in Access. Some of the queries are several sqls deep to get it down to a recordset I’m looking for, which you simply could not do in Excel.

      • jrwakefield says:

        We obviously have some troll marking thumbs down. How can my process for storing and analyzing the data get a thumbs down? Please explain who did that.

  5. Margaret Dochoda says:

    No need to post–

    “Wolf” needs to be “Wolfe” on Table of Contents, too. (Typos are always hardest to find in titles, front matter, references, I know. But can only help credibility to fix ‘em. Good luck with website!)

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  7. Ralph says:

    Hi from Bruce County,

    Hay ,do’nt you people know that the province has had to burn a lot more coal for the last few years ? That’s because of the downed Nuclear reactors and the pushing off of the Bruce A restart .Now if you want to compare different power sources you need to compare apples with apples. Wind power’s cost of production is in the 4-5Cent/ KWH They are being paid between 9.5 c/KWH for the Ripley project 13c/KWH for the regular indipendent Wind power producers and Samsung would eventually get 13.5c/kwh for the power they supply in a separate deal for paying for the building of several factories in Ontario. Of course the Ontario rate payer does not need to pay for the capital costs of installing wind turbines .Does anyone know the actual true cost of power in the province is 13c/kwh all costs included. Take this as an example Bruce A rebuild has projected cost of 4.8 Billion ( it will surely cost alot more it always does – that’s Nuclear ) well the rate payers have to pay 3.4Billion Bruce Power only pays 1.4 B and Hawthorn is saying they are being paid 6.2c/Kwh But there lies the deception they are not counting all the costs only their little part of the costs ( 1/3 to 1/4 ). Just imagine what the actual cost is if you start being somewhere close to fare. eg. Original capital cost of the Bruce -about 22Billion 1970 $’s, Bruce power does’nt even pay for the fuel for the reactors Do you want to talk about De commissioning ( estimated to be at least the cost of building anew plant and that needs to be done in the 2060′s)( Bruce power again has nothing to do with that ) and yes there is more. If any other fossel Fuel powered Electricity plants were built we would have to pay that Capital cost Not only that but the cost would be higher than building Wind turbines and the costs are steadaly rising where as the cost of wind power is going down fast.It totally makes sense , Hey and its really not that hard to see . Dig into this a bit and you will see.I have , and I know a lot and I always have Antiwinders stumbling and looking like a Joke.

    • jrwakefield says:

      I know about the price. What you completely miss is the fact that half the time in the summer wind produces less than 7% name plate. When we need wind the most, demand within 10% of peak), wind produces less than 5% name plate. That makes wind totally worthless.

      You get into the costs of nuclear (base load that wind can never replace), but how much would it cost to build 40,000 wind turbines at $3M each? How much will the cost be to dismantle them in 20 years?

      Nuke replacement? Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.

      • Maury Markowitz says:

        “Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors”

        This is pie in the sky technology that doesn’t exist, is highly unlikely to do so in the next couple of decades, and has serious economic-side problems to deal with even if it did.

        The nuclear industry has been pushing a series of technologies as the solution to its problems from before the first reactor was even commissioned. Breeders, fast breeders, liquid metal, carbon dioxide, pebble bed, mini-, maxi-, travelling wave, energy multipliers, thorium, You name it. They all failed.

        You may as well say “fusion”, or “fairy dust”.

      • jrwakefield says:

        China bets on thorium
        Brand new nuclear programme within 20 years

    • Scott says:

      Actually, nuclear production in 2009 and 2010 was off only slightly despite vacuum building outages, and those figures are at http://ieso.ca/imoweb/media/md_newsitem.asp?newsID=5529.
      Not there is that the 2008 totals were as high as any since 1995 – which is pretty impressive for an aging fleet.
      All nuclear facilities end up paying into a decommissioning fund – http://www.opg.com/power/nuclear/waste/future.asp
      - fuel for the reactors is about 1/3rd of a cent per kWh
      The OPA cites nuclear refurbishment as the cheapest option for supply for the next 20-30 years, and there is little reason to think that isn’t the case.

      • Lorne White says:

        Refurbishment as a `cheap` option?

        Wasn`t the first OPA plan to build 1 new nuclear plant at Darlington and refurbish 2 with a budget guesstimate of $26B? Then the price tag came in at $26B for 1 refurbishment !

        The current plan estimate for nuclear is $87B (2 new Darllingtons plus1 refurbishment), which can only go Up. That`s getting close to the $120B for 40,000 turbines mentioned in the 2011-05-27 comment above.

        And of course, the future will be a mix of several different and distributed power sources, which will be better and cheaper, as solar has recently done (ok, so Solar has declined because of the 2008 Bank Crash, not from technology improvement, but it`s still Much cheaper than it was).

      • jrwakefield says:

        Nukes are the future, including Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. We would never be able to build 40,000 wind turbines. At 1000 a year (ten times current rate) it would take 40 years (at current rate 400 years), problem is once 20 years is hit, then the old ones would have to be replaced, now you would have to build 2000 a year for EVER. Solar is pathetic. I’m getting numbers on that. It will NEVER be a viable option. Example, our community centre put in $1.8 MILLION in panels on the roof. Those panels can’t even supply ONE TENTH what the facilities consumes. Those are the facts based on the physical output. We would have to build hundreds of millions of panels, the most expensive way to produce puny power, that doesn’t work at night especially in our long winters evenings when we use power the most. Your green energy experiment is going to come crashing down as a monumental failure.

  8. Capacity Factor = Total kWh produced in a time period / total kWh available at face plate over the same time period.

    There is no averaging. The median does have a bit of sense when the discussion is concerned with intermittancy – but not for output.

    • jrwakefield says:

      Because the outpout profile follows a decay curve, median is the half way point. This means that half the time output is below and above the median. This means in the summer, half the time output is less than 7% capacity, average cannot show that. Hence median is a very important number in that regard, average is a gross misrepresentation of what the physical output is.

      • Richard Mann says:

        Hi there. Impressed to see some math discussions.

        Here is a nice reference, I think relies on a similar argument. Still parsing the paper…

        Wind turbines as yet unsuitable as electricity providers C. le Pair, F. Udo and K. de Groot Europhysics News, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2012, pp. 22-25 http://www.europhysicsnews.org/articles/epn/abs/2012/02/epn2012432p22/epn2012432p22.html

      • jrwakefield says:

        Excellent report, I downloaded it, and passed it along to who I know should read it. Thanks!


  9. Here’s my latest on McGuinty’s attempt to confuse and deflate his Cap and Trade/Carbon Tax Scam.
    This guy can’t hide….but I guess he can run!

  10. Here is the latest UK study on wind reliability and efficiency:


    • jrwakefield says:

      ” left-leaning thinktank IPPR ”

      That explains why that “study” is garbage.

  11. Four things readers of this blog need to be aware of:

    1) Under a FIT policy – producers only get paid for actual electricity delivered to the grid. The money to pay them comes only from Hydro Bills (no tax subsidy at all). If a wind project doesn’t produce as much power as the developer predicted – they will lose money. The risk is entirely privately held.

    2) The current FIT price for wind power is 11.5 cents per kw/h ‘all in’. That is almost the exact same contract price given to new natural gas plants in Ontario – and considerably less than the all-in costs of a new nuclear plant.

    3) The most recent OEB Market Surveillance report (April 2012) showed that the global adjustment (GA) – the growing part of our hydro bills – went up as a result of 45% from nuclear, but only 6% from renewable energy. Renewable energy is NOT the main driver behind electricity bill increases in Ontario. *

    *see pg 59 http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/_Documents/MSP/MSP_Report_20120427.pdf

    2) Surplus baseload is exactly what is sounds like. In our case- too much inflexible nuclear power. Intermittent generating sources aren’t really much of an issue if you have a diverse mix of generation. The IESO is primarily concerned with responding to spikes in DEMAND, not spikes in supply. Wind power can be easily dispatched quickly – nuclear cannot. With all of our excellent base-load hydroelectricity, we don’t need MORE inflexible, expensive nuclear baseload – wind has almost nothing to do with this issue.

    • jrwakefield says:

      1) no wind producers get paid even if they dont get to put their power to the grid. Second, the subsity is the RATE these wind producers get, which rate payers are FORCED to pay by government decree. That makes it an indirect tax. And there is no risk to the wind producers, they are raking in the money.

      2) Nuke plants get 5.6. Wind in Ontario is 15.

      3) the GA was created because the former Ontario Hydro signed long term contracts with power peoducers at inflated rates, far more than the current spot price. Thanks to Maurice Strong. The GA makes up the difference between the spot price and those long term contracts.

      4) I have proven that wind is sent to the US when we dont need the power. Baseload is in excess only because the industrial base of Ontario has been eviscerated, thanks to high cost power. Look at Germany, they are ahead of us. They have to build more coal plants and import nuke power from France in an effort to keep power rates affordable because solar and wind are driving up the costs.

      Now, I understand that your worldview has been shaken a bit. But thats reality.

    • Dan Wrightman says:

      No subsidy for wind energy eh. Than what do you call the Clean Energy Benefit on every ratepayers hydro bill? Thats a 1 billion dollar a year subsidy that comes directly from the taxcpayers pocket.

  12. Paddy Mack says:

    Hey fellas, good debate raging here. Energy certainly is a hot topic, and so politicized.

    For some armchair insights into Ontarios mix and how wind is (or is not) performing – and associated impacts on carbon intensity in the grid – check out Gridwatch for iOs devices.

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  14. Wind energy has made enormous progress. However,due to the need for backup energy, the theoretical limit for grid coverage can not exceed 50 %.

    • jrwakefield says:

      The only “enormous progress” wind has made is to make rate payers poorer, and wind companies richer. Their performance is still pathetic, that hasnt changed. As for their limit, it is far less than that. Germany is already experiencing severe issues with power spikes and system instability because of wind with a wind penetration of less than 5% actual input.

    • Maury Markowitz says:

      We already have all the backup we’d ever need, because of the nukes. Did you think they’re building all of these NG peakers because of wind?

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