Chapter 4.11.4 Then where is Wind all Going?

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To understand the use of wind power you must undertake some analysis. One working theory might be this: “If the non-wind sources of power are supplying our Ontario demand, and there is excess demand as we have now, then the rest must be exported.”  It’s a bit more complex than that.  There are regions in remote places in the Province that can only be supplied by imported power.  One such area is north-western Ontario which is supplied by Manitoba.  The Province both imports and exports power according to need and location.  The IESO supplies these import/export numbers on an hourly basis on-line (up to Oct 2009).  However there is a bit of confusion in those numbers and it gets rather convoluted.  The IESO also supplies hourly demand numbers on-line.  Between the two one can figure out what’s going on.

Here is an example, July 1, 2009:

Imports Net Export Total Production All Ontario Demand TP-AOD Supplied Only Demand Gross Export Exp – Imp Diff
1 185 1495 14456 12336 2120 12336 2120 1680 -440
2 155 1716 14288 11973 2315 11973 2315 1871 -444
3 215 2105 13836 11731 2105 11731 2105 2320 215
4 0 1764 13317 11553 1764 11553 1764 1764 0
5 0 1962 13550 11588 1962 11588 1962 1962 0
6 80 1895 13834 11939 1895 11939 1895 1975 80
7 838 2491 15359 12868 2491 12868 2491 3329 838
8 224 2222 15880 13658 2222 13658 2222 2446 224
9 646 1371 15812 14441 1371 14441 1371 2017 646
10 638 1189 16436 15247 1189 15247 1189 1827 638
11 255 1122 16837 15715 1122 15715 1122 1377 255
12 761 1481 17402 15921 1481 15921 1481 2242 761
13 963 2333 18329 15996 2333 15996 2333 3296 963
14 986 2619 18465 15846 2619 15846 2619 3605 986
15 939 2314 18095 15782 2313 15782 2313 3253 940
16 939 1802 17675 15873 1802 15873 1802 2741 939
17 1059 2177 18029 15852 2177 15852 2177 3236 1059
18 714 1795 17365 15570 1795 15570 1795 2509 714
19 400 1550 16663 15113 1550 15113 1550 1950 400
20 355 933 15771 14838 933 14838 933 1288 355
21 0 711 15751 15040 711 15040 711 711 0
22 566 1965 16561 14597 1964 14597 1964 2531 567
23 257 2079 15894 13815 2079 13815 2079 2336 257
24 126 2051 14941 12890 2051 12890 2051 2177 126

There is a lot of numbers in the above table — but what does it mean?  This is what is going on:  Blue numbers are those from the IESO import/export file and the demand file, while  the TP-AOD column is the Ontario Demand subtracted from the Total Production.  You will note it matches the Export column for the most part which makes sense. What Ontario doesn’t use of the Total Demand is exported.  But there is the imported power column of numbers. Some or all of this power supplies Ontario Demand that is not from Total Production.  The Supplied Only Demand column is this imported subtracted from the Ontario Demand.   This means that the “Exported” number from the IESO is actually Net Export (after some or all of the import removed).   This then is the Gross Export, which is obviously larger.  But, if some of the imported power is needed in the rest of Ontario to boost production, then there will be a discrepancy (Diff Col).

Confusing?  Maybe this will help:

That Gross Export (The Rest Exported in the Figure above) is vital to know because if the rest of the system is capable of running the province with enough to spare for export, then what is wind doing?

We have these possibilities:
1) There is sufficient output for domestic demand, with no wind, to be able to export X amount. Therefore wind’s contribution when it spikes cannot be added to domestic demand, hence X + wind must be exported.  If  the promoters of wind wish to go this route, then we are consuming the cheap stuff, while exporting expensive wind and paying to send it out.

2) There is sufficient output for domestic demand, with no wind,  to be able to export X amount.  But for “optics” the promoters of wind claim wind is consumed domestically, which means some other production has to be claimed to being exported when wind spikes up (because there is no way of distinguishing a “wind electron” from a “coal electron” nothing is done except on paper).  Hence exported is still X + wind where that “wind” is some other source.   If the promoters of wind wish to go that route then we are consuming expensive power and exporting the cheap stuff. 

1 and 2 are indistinguishable from each other in the production profiles, while showing up as a corresponding spike up of exported power.  The point being, if the wind did not exist export would be X, not X+wind.  Thus wind is exported because the export will always be X plus wind when wind spikes.

3) There is sufficient output for domestic demand, with no wind, but there is no need to export any more.  For wind to contribute to domestic then some other source must drop in response.  If the promoters of wind wish to go that route then we are consuming one expensive production source while dropping cheap production elsewhere.  Depending on which source will depend on what is actually still consumed.  If hydro is cut back it makes no sense to curb a cheap plentiful renewable source for an expensive spiking resourse.  If coal, they cannot cut back on the fires, takes too long to start them up, so even “idle” coal plants would have to keep the home fires burning for when that unpredictable spike occurs in the wind.  Only NG can respond by turning off.  But either way, which ever they are doing, they have to spend time and effort closely monitoring the state of the system, whereas without wind, they could just let it run.

1 and 2 cannot be seen in the production data as it is just a sleigh of hand, finessing of the output numbers, for optics sake.  But it will show up in the export data.

3 can be seen in the production data, there will be a corresponding drop of production somewhere when the wind is blowing.  But it won’t show up as any increase in export data.

It is suspected that all three are happening.

We have already seen in coal and natural gas that there is no change in the profile of them to compensate for or lack of wind.  Including the other sources of power (Hydro and “Other”), checking each one against wind, there is no correlation with wind output.   So that leaves only one place for wind to be going.  It is all exported all to the US, or other power is supplied in kind. In either case it simply contributes to the total energy available for export!

If the data holds this to be true, then this has tremendous ramifications for the position of the government and NGO’s promoting wind.  Recall the premise is that wind is supposed to be providing Ontario with “clean, reliable and renewable” power.  Well, not if it’s all going to the US.

But is there any evidence to back up the claim that all of wind is heading south?  There is if you can tease out the numbers from the morass of data.

This plot for July 14, 2010 (just as good as any day) shows each of the source’s contribution to the demand.  Nuke at the bottom for base, all the way up to wind at the top, that tiny yellow tip.   The back line is the Ontario Supplied Demand limit.  Below that is the domestic demand, above that is exported.  Notice wind is well into that range.

Oh, but that’s unfair, other sources could be supplying that export, not wind, the critics will claim.  Yes, that could be, and obviously is since wind is such a small percent of that exported power.  Other sources are making up the bulk of that export.  But if wind was not there, that is, it didn’t exist, the graph would look the same except the yellow tips would not be there.  With no wind, the Gross Export would have dropped by exactly that amount since the Ontario Supplied Demand wouldn’t change.  So this means all of the wind MUST be in the exported power, or allow an equal contribution taken from other sources — which amounts to the same thing.

Is there any empirical evidence to support that claim?  Oh, indeed there is.  But it is very difficult to expose because of the complexity of what makes up the export.  For example, if they need to send out 3000 Mega Watts of power for export, which they are doing for a few hours supplied from any excess from all sources, and wind kicks up from 30MW to 600MW, what would the IESO, who balances all this, do?  They can’t feed it into the domestic demand if this is in middle of the night and is not needed.    So they have no choice but to boost the export if there is nothing that can be slowed down in response (and we have seen no evidence of this happening anyway).  Now they could be doing minor tweaking of the whole system, lowering those exports for the wind.  But regardless, the wind is getting exported since it cannot be used domestically.

If they do tweak the other output then any spike in wind will be lost in the over all export profile.  But if they can’t for what ever reason, or the US is willing to take wind’s extra output, we should see a corresponding spike in the export at the same time as the wind spikes. Conversely, if wind is making up the export, and it suddenly drops, and can’t be made up quickly, there would be a corresponding drop in export with the drop in wind.  Both indicative signs that wind is getting exported.

The following graphs will show the change in exported power as wind does its spikes of up and down.  Take this example from July 2010.  Since summer wind output is so poor, there won’t be too many spikes to add to export. (Click to enlarge)

Virtually every spike in wind has at least some corresponding spike in export.  Some spikes are not so close in appearance, others are better.  Winter would be superior to show any correlation since there is more wind power.  See the Jan 2010graph below (click to enlarge).

Winter obviously has better wind production, but more a complicated export profile.  There is a significant drop in export volume mid month which makes matching difficult, but some matching can be done.  It is best to look at a closeup view.

Jan 10 to 12  is the third spike from the left in the previous graph. The black line is the exported amount, the blue line is wind’s output, both in Mega Watt Hours (MWH) and at the same scale.  The red line is the export with the wind removed from it.  The yellowed area certainly is a good candidate to show that wind contributed to that extra export.  The curved nature of that bit of the black line matches nicely with the curve of the wind.

Another example, July 16 to 18, 2010 (click to enlarge).

In this example, each generating station for coal, hydro and “other” was scanned individually to look for stations where the output was not cyclic.  The criteria had to be stations that had a generation profile similar to the export profile.  Those chosen stations were then placed together, with wind’s output and all added for each hour.  That’s the stacked bar graph.  The black line is the exported power.  Notice how it matches almost identical to the very tips of the stack, which has wind at the top.  The red line is wind removed from the exported power.

This is likely very close to which stations are contributing from the mix to be sent for export, and wind has to be one of those sources.  It is very likely that some of those stations are dropped or others added as the need arises, which would account for the white areas between the bars and black line.

So, a strong argument can be made that all wind is sent south, not used domestically.

Some may want to argue that certain retailers, who are championing expensive power so you can feel righteous about “saving the planet”, claim they are getting power from wind.  If that is what wind is providing, then it is being used domestically for this purpose.  However, there are problems with this assertion.  First, they would have to prove that, saying it doesn’t make it true.  Second, if one adds up all their contracts, does that equal wind’s output?  If it’s more, and it has to be, then they cannot make that claim.  Third, when the wind is low or idle in the summer, do they lower their price to customers because there isn’t sufficient wind to supply their clients?  Not likely, they just profit from the difference so you can feel good.  Fourth and finally, what is the wholesale price they are charged for this “wind” output?  Is it the $90-140/MWH?  Will they be charged $800/MWH for a solar component?  I doubt it, thus their claim is highly dubious.

The data is clear, the $800 million paid for wind power by Ontario consumers all went to the US. It was either given away in the form of Zero Cost Power, Low Cost Power, or we paid US customers to take it off our hands when the surplus was too great. Yes, there are times when there is so much surplus power that we actually pay US customers to take the power!  How does it feel that our Green Energy Act is helping our US neighbours reduce their carbon emissions, supply them with cheap or free power so they can save on coal?

Wasn’t the GEA supposed to do that for us?

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6 Responses to Chapter 4.11.4 Then where is Wind all Going?

  1. […] shut down.  If it is the optimum speed yet comes when not needed, it cannot be stored.  In fact, it is even suggested that after “the $800 million paid for wind power by Ontario consumers all went to the US. It […]

  2. zen2then says:

    Two comments:
    The exported wind power will be supported by an on-demand power source which would not have been in operation if wind was not on-line. The red-line should be flatter or more reflective of domestic consumer use or non-use. Without wind spikes would have to come from large energy consumers going off line or dips from large energy consumers going on line. If the spikes are caused by wind going on and off line than the red line would be smoother as supporting on-demand power source would not be needed.
    Hydro is not just a shut off valve. “Spills” occur under high water conditions or if the dam is a run of the river type or if reservoir capacity is limited or holding back is not possible. Power potential is lost if not a planned shutdown. The efficiency rating of a hydro facility will decrease if combined with IWTs.

    The changes in wind power production are more erratic and can occurring in less than 5 minute intervals. It is hard to see the graphs to see at what period is being measured, but most data available are reported at hourly rates, which is rather insane as we know hourly MW production gives the illusion IWTs are more consistent producers. Adjustments needed on the grid to accommodate those minute to minute changes to accommodate wind onto the grid are a hidden inefficiency. It would make your evaluation the best case scenario. The situation is worse.
    Wish better data was available. Great job.

  3. zen2then says:

    Additional comment: Your writing is great so this is for added thought. Power is bought and sold for what is expected to be either needed or in excess. For example if more power than can be produced locally is expected to be needed in the next hour contracts are made and power is bought (pre-paid to be available)for delivery for that hour. Wind power is difficult to buy or sell because it is difficult to determine what would be available, if anything. Contracts to deliver power must be met so power has to be shipped. This would mean power agreements to sell power would have to be in place ahead to deal with wind power if it comes on line (no different than having a user that may come on line). If IWT doesn’t come on line another source of power generation would have to be ready to follow through with the contract. Bit of a theory right now, but other than dumping or curtailment, how else could a grid manager deal with IWT power if it came on line when there is no demand locally? Managers would have procedures in place and grid stability is priority one.

    • jrwakefield says:

      Unfortunately we are not privy to what goes on behind the scenes. My speculation is wind is a nightmare to manage. They may or may not get a day or two notice of a frontal system moving in, but we know how accurate such forecasting is. It’s almost ironic, the claim from the AGW faithful is that there is catastrophe awaiting us in 100 years if we don’t put in more solar and wind, yet those sources are reliant on weather predictions that can’t forecast more than a few days ahead. Thanks for the posts.

  4. […] could head north.  JR Wakefield, editor of the excellent Ontario Wind Performance blog tells this horror story “The data is clear, the $800 million paid for wind power by Ontario consumers all went to the […]

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