Chapter 3.1: Powering Ontario

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Guest Post by: David Robinson


Wind Power is a controversial topic in Ontario. It seems that you love it or you hate it. It seems however that the more you study the technical aspects the less that you tend to like it. That’s how I see it anyway.

I did a study on Ontario Wind Production in the spring of 2010 because I could not find any production data for Ontario, and the provincial politicians seemed determined to do the landscape with towering Industrial Wind Turbines. My first thought was “What’s not to like?” They are clean, green and efficient – or so it seemed. I thought they were not as good as Solar Power – but probably effective and efficient. The truth was far from that first opinion. There is a link at the end of this article to where that study can be obtained.

Lately I have heard more and more people express the opinion that Wind Power can allow us to use clean green effective power by adapting to its use with Time of Use (TOU) Smart Meters and altering our life styles to take advantage of the seasonal variations in power availability. When you look at the numbers those ideas or hypotheses do not stand up to scrutiny either.

Our knowledge of “the facts” can never be perfect but for this debate the knowledge of the facts needs to be a lot better than it is currently. Politicians are committing billions, perhaps trillions of dollars to alter our future in Ontario, and to make a better world, or so goes the theory. Examination of the facts seems to indicate that they are simply altering the future. A “better world” is not guaranteed, it is not even obvious that there will be any future improvement economically or socially. The decisions being made will not “Save the Planet”, indeed they will almost certainly make our situation worse, environmentally, economically and socially.


Ontario is the economic engine of Canada (At least it used to be!) and it takes a lot of power to drive that engine. I have examined the yearly energy usage, and the seasonal power draw for Ontario on the following basis.

Season Start Date (inclusive) Finish Date (inclusive)
Fall September 21 December 20
Winter December 21 March 20
Spring March 21 June 20
Summer June 21 September 20

In any given season, a three month period, Ontario consumes a minimum of 12,000 MW of power every hour – even at night. This is usually written as a power draw of 12,000 MWH. This can reach a maximum of about 30,000 MWH draw in spring and summer – perhaps as much as 35,000MWH.

For a yearly view I do the examination on a September 21 to September 20 of the following year basis.

I have also provided the ability to examine individual days, and to look at any range of dates over the span of the history data. To facilitate looking at the yearly range I have added the capability to look at the yearly data based on the theoretical maximum output of all sources of power – and instantaneous draw of 35,000 MW – which in one year would allow you to produce about 12,800,000 MWH of energy hour (cumulative).

Some noteworthy assumptions are listed below.

  1. We assumed that Ontario could bring on line 35,000 MW of instantaneous power generation – with some planning. Normally we would expect to have about 30,0000 MW of power generation available. Often we only have 24,000 MW of generation available since units are removed from service for maintenance on a regular and irregular basis.
  2. We then assumed for a yearly basis that a 2/3 basis would be reasonable for measuring the energy production. In other words, we have 365 times during the year when it is 1AM and we can count up the previous hours production. So therefore 365 hours X 35,000MW gives a maximum of 12,775,000 MWH of possible production. I guessed that a scale of 2/3 of that number would allow us to represent any year and still show the entire graph. It was a reasonable guess.
  3. Wind Power production is a little more problematic. After thinking about all the issues I simply worked out the possible maximum generation over one year and went with that number. So: 365 X 1,200 = 438,000 so I went with 450,000 MWH for the left hand scale allowing for the planned expansion in Industrial Wind Turbines.
  4. Everything is examined on an hourly basis as this allows us to (eventually) look at “peak loading” or “peak supply” of the entire system with some clarity. It also allows us to think about the issue of Time of Use (TOU) metering in relation to Wind Turbine output and to examine the validity. We will discuss this issue in a later post.

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A Year in the Life…

Let’s look at one year of data from September 2009, through September 2010 beginning on the first day of fall, and ending on the last day of summer.

Clicking on any graph will show an enlarged version!

The first thing to notice is that the one year time scale presents a neat and orderly picture of what will eventually prove to be a chaotic world. Note that 1AM in the morning is represented by the number 1, and 12 represents 12PM or noon and 17 represents 5PM – just like the military or 24 hour clock.

The Light Blue line at the top represents the total power produced and consumed for any given hour during that period. At the bottom of the graph is the legend or key explaining what the color coded lines or bars represent. The Wind power scale is always on the Left Hand (LH) scale – all other power is always on the Right Hand Scale.

Note that on this scale wind power production is not significant. We export almost five times what we produce in Wind Power. We could turn off every Wind Generator on any given day and not suffer any loss of power to light our homes and run our industry.

You should note that the peak hours of use according to this full year representation appear to be between 7AM in the morning and 11PM (Hour 23) and there is a second peak in the evening – probably produced by winter couch potatoes running TV sets.

For a real time view of the IESO Wind Tracker – go here:

It actually has a one hour display so they can accumulate the numbers from all the farms.

The next graph uses a different Left Hand Scale to allow us to see a little more detail on the Wind Power production numbers. It does not represent an improvement in Wind Power. It is the same set of numbers – just on a different scale. Note that the left hand scale is approximately the maximum output that could be achieved by Ontario’s wind turbines over a one year period where we are totaling up the hours. Clearly the turbines are producing no better than 25% of the face plate power.

Yearly Power with Wind on Alternate Scale

Just to verify the point we have 365 hours X 1200MW = 438,000 MWH. So I chose a round number – 440,000. Again, this picture looks very neat and orderly. In Ontario Fall Winds, and sometime the Spring Winds usually represents the best that can be achieved by any set of Industrial Wind Turbines so we will look at them by season next.

The Seasons

We will start at the Fall 2009 season and work our way through the seasons.

Fall Season Power - Wind Power on same Scale

It looks worse! Can this be right? Sadly the numbers are correct. Again, Wind Power is not a significant factor in supplying Ontario with Energy. Not even the strong Fall winds Make an impression.

Let’s look at the Winter Season.

Winter Power 2009-2010

Ontario may be drawing between 1,300,000 and 1,700,000 MWH of power for any given hour but the wind turbines are producing what looks like an insignificant 30,000 MWH of power – the bars are lost at the bottom of the graph.

We move on to measuring the Spring Season performance.

Spring Power 2010

It looks like it is about the same as the rest so I will reserve comment till the summary.

Surely the Summer Season will provide better service!

Summer Power 2010

Again, the wind output is lost in the mud. I know that you may find this to be boring and repetitive. So why did I expend the effort in making an obvious point? Well, many people want to debate whether wind power is better in the evening, or perhaps the morning – or maybe even overnight. Who cares? Not me! You have seen the results of installing more than 625 wind turbines on thousands of acres of property. We are exporting far more than the generated wind power. We can turn off every wind generator, bring in a demolition team to clear the countryside and achieve a benefit of having a peaceful countryside once more.

Some of you will suggest that we just need to build more wind turbines and “give them a chance”. It’s an interesting thought! How many chances do you get when you put out a 25% effort – in life, love, sports or business? Don’t answer – I can see the obvious too! So is the answer to put up four times the number of turbines to get what we thought we paid for? Should we install 2,500 turbines and hope to get the 1,100 MW of power that we thought we bought? I leave you with a project. Tell me how many acres of land and how many dollars that will take.

The investment required to expand the turbine fleet to four times its current size will be considerable and must be paid back! An additional 1,875 turbines would be required and at a estimated value of say $3.5M each then we would need to repay $6,562,500,000 through increased rates. Based on the efficacy of Wind Power do you consider that to be a wise investment?  Is it a good use of land? Are the health risks acceptable? Realize that most days we use less than half the available capacity and currently export five times the current output. Adding more wind power would give us the opportunity to increase our exports of course. Is this a good plan considering that we would sell the power from one-half to one-quarter the generation cost typically?

Now I will take you on a different thought process. Let’s look at a few “days in the lives of turbines”. Let’s see if we can find one “zero” hour in the Turbine Collective. If we can do this then we prove a much stronger argument against wind turbines. If we can show one instance where the turbines produce zero output, then we show that we need to provide alternative power – watt for watt. It’s that or we have to let the traffic lights go out some days.

A few days in the life…

Let’s pick a few days and see if we can find those zero hours….

July 5,2010 - The Toronto Electrical Fire

I am using my “Daily Scale” so that the scale on the left is for the blue bars that represent the wind turbine production.  It represents 4% of the scale on the right – check it if you don’t believe it. At 5PM you can see the drop in power when the transformer/switching circuitry hiccupped in Toronto. The wind power never dropped to Zero though – we dodged a bullet. Mind you, if we relied on wind power, I would not be making dinner at 5pm that day!

I admit I cheated a bit with the following graphs. I queried the database and chose a couple of days from 2010 out of the 331 hours that the turbines have produced zero output since the first turbine was installed in 2006.

June 27, 2010 - A day with a slow start

June 28, 2010.

And another day with no breakfast?

April 20, 2010 - Not Much WInd

No breakfast?

August 10, 2010 - A Bad Wind Day?

Another day with no breakfast! Well, not from Wind Turbines anyway!

Remember that these graphs are scaled so that you can see any significant amount of production from the wind turbines.

In 2010 there were far fewer instances of zero output than in the previous years – but there were still many instances of near-zero output from the wind turbines.

Again, I remind you that these graphs show production across the entire province. This demonstrates again – without doing the statistical correlation proofs and time series analysis I admit – that wind power across this province is highly correlated.

There are other issues to contend with! See the following set of graphs for one illustration.


Let’s look at a pattern that repeats in the database of production numbers…

October 31, 2009 -- A good Wind Day! Can it Last?

That’s more like it – right?  But what does tomorrow bring?

November 1, 2009 -- The day after the Big Wind

A storm or period of strong winds is often followed by a period of calm as the wind output decays and a new weather system moves in.

Admittedly the production of power from Industrial Wind Turbines did not fall to zero on this day – but does it matter? It may as well have been zero! Our power draw on that day was about 12,000MW to 17,000 MW so the 500MW supplied between midnight and 2AM is not particularly helpful to the situation. Even the peak output represented only 3.2% of the peak power draw – and only for an hour. During the day we were producing maybe 25MW of power versus the 17,000 MW total draw. That output represents about 0.14% of the requirements.

We need the power

The strongest argument in support of more generation capacity, particularly Industrial Wind Turbine, that anyone appears to be able to muster is the statement that: “We Need the Power!”

In 2003 though we did have issues with the power draw in Ontario. That is unarguable since the numbers support that assertion. Since that time conservation measures and the return to service and refurbishment of nuclear reactors appears to have alleviated that problem.

The DACP Adequacy Reports directory of IESO:

The latest report is always named:

Excerpt from the Adequacy report:

Ontario Demand 12951 12643 12424
OR Requirements 1453 1453 1453
Total Requirement 14404 14096 13877
Internal Resources Internal Generation Offered 28990 28961 28980
Scheduled 12677 12357 12237
Dispatchable Loads Bid -804 -804 -804
Scheduled -534 -534 -616
Total Offered/Bid 29794 29765 29784
Scheduled 13211 12891 12853
Scheduled Imports Manitoba 0 0 0
Minnesota 0 0 0
Michigan 0 0 0
New York 0 0 0
Quebec 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0
Capacity Excess/Shortfall 15739 16018 16338
Resources Not Scheduled 16848 17139 17361
Supply Cushion % 111.1 115.6 119.1

I have copied the first three hours of the Current Bid/Ask document. The important point to note is that you can find the projected demand and at the bottom you can see the Capacity Excess/Shortfall and the resources that were not scheduled. The supply cushion is important as it can give an indication of what is available if there is an unexpected (unscheduled) requirement — perhaps an emergency export demand or an online generator failure.

The day that I last looked, there was 29,794MW capacity is offered to supply a projected demand for September 23, 2010. They were also projecting that the highest draw/demand would be at 7PM September 23, 2010 and would require 19,113 MW capacity. This is well below the approximately 30,000MW typically available. You are encouraged to examine the older reports and see how the capacity planning was done in the past few weeks. That should give you the ability to follow the forward looking current plan.

The days that are most likely (historically) to exceed our capacity are in August due to the air conditioning requirements for large cities like Toronto. Large cities have a significant Urban Heat Island effect and that must be taken into account when planning the capacity of our systems. Very cold winter days tend to have a large power draw as well, however, people are turning away from electricity towards natural gas as a heating fuel of choice. The winter power draw should decrease significantly over the next few years as heating systems are converted to the cheaper fuels.

Note that building more wind turbines will not alleviate the power issues as warm days tend to have light winds. You are encouraged to check the temperature records against the graphs presented earlier.

The Time of Use Plan

What about the Time of Use (TOU) Plan controversy? The new Smart Meters are designed to enforce time of use rules whereby consumers will shift their power usage to between 9PM at night and 7AM in the morning according to the following schedule published by IESO.

Time of Use Charges

Weekdays 7AM- 11AM Weekdays 11AM-5PM Weekdays5PM to 9PM Weekdays 9PM to 7AM Weekends
8.0 ¢/kWh 9.9 ¢/kWh; 8.0 ¢/kWh 5.3 ¢/kWh  5.3 ¢/kWh 

I see two problems with the TOU plan. First the price differential is not significant enough to encourage the social disruption of moving activities to off peak hours. A stay-at-home-family would not want to save all the dishes to the evening for example as this would entail adding multiple sets of dishes, adding the storage space and staying up to re-load the dishwasher, not mention the additional counter space. Washing clothes at night would involve staying up to move the clothes to the dryer and to load the washing machine with additional clothes. The subsequent loss of sleep will discourage anyone from taking this approach.

If it is expected that students will forgo the use of computers for research and web surfing, I think the confidence in the plan is misplaced. Will people give up their television and lighting in Fall through Spring? I can’t see that happening. Will people give up warm lunches at noon for cold food? Will they skip cooking dinner and eat cereal instead? Will they buy pre-cooked bacon? Will they stay up till midnight and do the cooking for the following day? Will they leave dirty dishes to be washed at night? These are all questions that should have been researched before introducing the TOU plan.

An additional oversight in the strategy is the suitability to the Canadian Climate and culture. I believe that these ideas were originally conceived of to deal with turning down the air conditioner in the warm US climate – arguably the most significant use of discretionary power. We have a much shorter air conditioning season and a much smaller population with significantly cleaner power sources – in proportion to the US power mix. We have significant reserves of Hydro, nuclear and gas power. We also could easily install scrubbers on coal power plants – much more cheaply than developing renewable energy of dubious quality and quantity.

When thinking about smart meters and appliance control you can ask some simple questions. Which of the following appliances would you like to be interrupted?: the stove; the dish washer; the iron; the water heater; the furnace; the coffee maker; the clothes dryer; the clothes washer; etc?  Would you be happy going to work in wet or dirty clothes? Would you be willing to allow meal preparation to be interrupted? Would you prefer that somebody run an automated sequence to allow your house to warm or to cool even though a person’s health could depend on the environmental regulation in the house? We need to answer these questions and similar before we embark on this policy.

One of the theories I have heard advanced many times is that the availability of renewable energy would be brought to the attention of every home owner so that the homeowner could make use of clean, efficient cost effective power. This is the same power that can cost up to four times the rate of spot power when purchased on the wholesale market. Recall that producers of wind power are paid between $0.105 and $0.145 per KWH or $105 to $145 per MWH. Spot Power often sells for about $0.35 per KWH or $35.00 per MWH. For verification see the HOEP rate file which provides the hourly energy price. For a real time view see the IESO web site here: or here:

The current rate, at 12:36PM September 23, 2010 is $38.40 per MWH.


In all cases these are graphs that represent the power production from Windsor to Ottawa and north to Thunder Bay. Those who argue that geographic dispersion across Southern Ontario will provide “smoothing” of the power produced are just plain wrong. Those who argue that wind follows patterns that are predictable and beneficial are just plain wrong. Moving your work to “off-peak” usage hours will do nothing to ensure that you use wind power – except in a weak statistical sense. Those who argue that we can export “Green Power” or meet our obligations to use “Green Power” for trading purposes are wrong there too – unless we install many thousands of turbines. The ideas of Time of Use billing may well prove to be unworkable – and may come to be viewed as simply another tax.

Everyone needs to understand where we obtain our power and the relative costs.

According to IESO: Ontario’s existing installed generation capacity includes nuclear, coal, oil, gas, hydroelectric, wood and waste-fuelled generation, which results in a total installed capacity of approximately 35,781 MW.

IESO needs to correct this diagram. Wind power does not represent three percent of the power mix. It’s not even close. It could be right if the Industrial Wind Turbines actually produced at the face plate (theoretical) values – but they don’t.  The rest of the figures are reasonably close to reality – but reality shifts daily as generators are brought on line or taken off line for service, so do not expect an exact match if you investigate the current power sources.

If you want to see where our power is coming from, i.e. the fuel type, then the best source is to view the production figures – they can be viewed here:

IESO Fuel Type Pie Chart

IESO Graph showing the power supply capacity by fuel type mix as of September 2010.

Until proven otherwise I accept them as gospel. (Despite the fact that I have detected occasional after-the-fact-updates in the CSV data files.) They will give you the hourly power consumption and the quantities supplied by the various generators.

References and Data Access

Watts With The Wind, The Original Paper that Started all this,  can be found on Wind Concerns: Watts with the Wind

The following links will take you to the IESO data that was used to provide the graphs and figures in this document.

The Market Data Page:

The Hourly Ontario Energy Price data:

The Hourly Demands:

The Import Export Data:

The Summary Data for Wind Power:

The Wind Power Page:

The data broken out by individual wind farms:

Generator Adequacy Reports:

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7 Responses to Chapter 3.1: Powering Ontario

  1. claire says:

    Wow! Thank-you!

  2. Rick Coates says:

    I have been presenting much the same arguments at the request of a person involved with Windconcerns. Would it be okay to use some of your material for future presentations? I have 30 plus year in the industry and have expertise in power system integration but do not want to re-invent the wheel for my presentations.

  3. claire says:

    Environmental desecration/devastation PLUS

    Dreadful health effects on humans and animals PLUS

    Unethical “business practices” PLUS

    Economic drain PLUS

    Unreliability EQUALS


    Re: wind stocks: sell, sell, sell!!!

  4. rms says:

    Terrific. Just the sort of analysis I have been gearing up to do with the UK data.

  5. […] recently ran across David Robinson’s article (see where he took a detailed look at the performance of wind power production in the province. His […]

  6. janeenktc says:

    Helpful information. Lucky me I discovered your website by chance, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate did not happened in advance! I bookmarked it.

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