Blow Out of Wind and Solar in the Ontario Electricity System

Industrial wind turbine  Haldimand County

Written by:  C  Mitchell

The blowout of wind and solar in the Ontario Electricity System is revealed by production levels that are well below the rated installed capacity.

Ontario can produce power from nuclear, natural gas, hydro, wind, solar and biofuel energy generators. The results are recorded in many ways but the three used here are (A) the total installed capacity of each generator type (what was installed), (B) the forecast capability at outlook peak (what can be produced) and finally the (C) generator output by fuel type for 2017 (production).

According to the IESO report – 18 Month Outlook: An Assessment of the Reliability and Operability of the Ontario Electricity System from October 2017 to March 2019 – ( ) Page 17 – Table 4.1 provides (A) total installed capacity and the (B) forecast capability @ outlook peak

Existing Generation Capacity (MW/hr) / Capability @ Peak / Output

Fuel Type A   Total Installed

Capacity (MW/hr)

B  Forecast Capability      @Peak


C    OutPut

Jan – Aug 31




as %

Nuclear 13,009 MW  11,537 MW  7,548.17 MW       65% of       capability
Hydro  8,480    5,786    3,207.07       55.4% of capability
Natural Gas 10,277    8,371       416.66      4.9% of capability
Wind    4,213      533        764.32        18.1%

of installed capacity *

Solar        380         38          50.02       13.2%

of installed capacity *

Biofuel        495        439         36.49       7.4%

of installed capacity *

Total 36,853  MW/hr  26,704     MW/hr    12,022.7


It is neither possible nor desirable to run the electricity system flat out and some redundancy needs to be built into the system for maintenance and emergencies. The total installed capacity of all fuel types reported is 36,853 MW, but at peak demand the system is capable of producing 26,704 MW of power each hour. The total production that IESO counts on at peak demand is 26,704 / 36,853 = 72% of the energy system potential.

The second column provides the Forecast Capability at Outlook Peak and takes into account deratings, planned outages and “allowances for capability levels below rated installed capacity”. When you compare the installed nameplate capacity for wind and solar with the actual production there is an 80 to 90 % drop in production over nameplate capacity!

The total output for all fuel types (column C) for Jan – Aug 31, 2017 is available on the IESO website – ‘Generator Output by Fuel Type  Monthly Report 2017’. The total output from Jan – Aug was 12,023 MW of power produced each hour. According to the IESO the forecast capability of the existing generator stations at outlook peak is 26,704 MW of power each hour. The production from the electricity system was 12,023/26,704 = 45% of the capability. So why did we agree to purchase power from Quebec?

The renewables – wind and solar are intermittent power sources and require back-up power. Natural gas was the choice made for Ontario. Natural gas is a responsive base load fuel that can be ramped up or down quickly. Nineteen natural gas plants have been commissioned in Ontario since 2003. According to the IESO they are capable of producing 8,371 MW of power each hour, yet the natural gas plants only produced 416.7 MW of power each hour from Jan – Aug. We have gas plants operating at 4.9 % of their potential!! This means that they are being under utilized and sit idle the majority of the time. The private for profit corporate owners are not running a charity so the Ontario ratepayers are paying millions of dollars each month to gas plants paid not to produce power.

Wind and solar on the other hand blew out. They were only able to produce 13.2 to 18% of their nameplate capacity. The production from wind for Jan – Aug 31 was 764 MW per hour from a name plate capacity of 4,213 MW. A dismal performance with 18% production from the installed nameplate capacity. According to the IESO the forecast capability for wind at peak demand is 533 MW or 12.7% of the installed capacity.  The difference is explained as an “allowance for capability levels below rated installed capacity.” No kidding – considerable distortion exists in the presentation of material when a product has an 80% drop in production over the stated manufacturer nameplate capacity. This is like telling me that my new car is capable of 1000 km on a tank of gasoline and instead it goes 200 km!

According to the IESO the monthly wind capacity contribution values range from 12.6% to 37.8% of the installed capacity (18 – Month Outlook p.19). So the nameplate capacity of an industrial wind turbine is somewhat arbitrary.

To understand the limits of wind power, Glen Schleede explains it best. “Wind turbines have little or no ‘capacity value’ because they are unlikely to be producing electricity at the time of peak electricity demand. Therefore, wind turbines cannot substitute for conventional generating capacity responsible for providing reliable electricity to customers.

Second, a kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity from wind has less value than a kWh of electricity from a reliable (dispatchable) generating unit providing base load power – nuclear, natural gas or hydro which can produce electricity whenever the electricity is needed.

These issues are important because “wind farm” developers and lobbyists have misled the public, media and government officials by making false claims and by using terms intended to confuse their listeners

The true capacity value of a wind turbine or ‘wind farm’ is generally less than 10% of nameplate capacity and often 0% or slightly above — simply because, at the time of peak electricity demand, the wind isn’t blowing at a speed that will permit the turbine to produce any or much electricity. Claims of wind turbine capacity value have been exaggerated by wind industry officials and lobbyists, by regulatory agencies”, and as we are finding out in Ontario industrial wind turbines generate a minimal amount of electricity.

The IESO hourly wind generator output 2006 – the present provides data on every industrial wind facility in Ontario. If we use the West Lincoln NRWF industrial wind facility as an example we find that the facility is rated at 230 MW nameplated capacities. On average the facility produced less than 27 MW per hour during July, Aug and Sept of 2017, when electricity is generally at its greatest demand. The production was 11.7% of the name plated capacity! It never once reached its nameplate capacity of 230 MW and it only went above 200 MW for 20 hours in the last three months.

Hydro – a baseload renewable energy source – produced 3242 MW of power per hour from Jan – July from a potential of 5,786 MW. So we are only using 56% of the potential production from our cleanest, greenest, cheapest energy source. The sad reality for the ratepayers of Ontario is that the hydro plants could easily have been ramped up an additional 850 MW per hour to cover the contribution of wind and solar. Instead we ran the water over the dam.

Using nameplate capacity creates a false sense of the ability of renewables – wind and solar – to provide power. Wind and solar are both intermittent so we can not ramp them up or even depend on them for power because they only produce power when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

Consumers know they want the lights kept on, the refrigerator running and the industry rolling. But it is difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about the success or failure of a program when information is presented in such a convoluted manner. The renewable energy initiative in Ontario was a political decision. According to several reports from the Auditor General the Ontario government did not conduct a cost benefit analysis. To continue installing a power system that can not provide power on demand to cover up a bad decision will eventually lead to failure of the total electricity system and will be considered an act of betrayal by the ratepayers that are responsible for the bill.

To accommodate the wind industry, we are paying for hydro power generators to run inefficiently; we are paying for power generators not to produce; we are entering into contracts to purchase power when we are awash with over production and with the “Fair Hydro Plan” we are downloading $20 to $40 billion of debt onto our children and grandchildren.

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