Worthless Wind & Solar: Once Again Output Totally Collapses During Freezing Weather

Keen to survive when dead-calm, freezing weather sets in? You’d better have access to nuclear or fossil-fuelled power sources, simply because wind and solar generators are bound to deliver absolutely nothing, at all.

Texans and Germans know all about it.

Now, Canadians are getting a taste of what it is when you pin your daily energy hopes on the weather.

In the middle of a bitter, frigid Northern hemisphere winter, wind and solar output have been utterly pathetic, notwithstanding claims that we’re well on our way to an all wind and sun-powered future. You know, that old chestnut about the ‘inevitable transition’?

Brian Zinbchuk details the all too deadly risk associated with attempting to rely on the unreliables.

Alberta wind and solar produced 76 megawatts out of a theoretical 3,005 megawatts at noon on New Year’s Eve, with cold warnings all over the province
Pipeline Online
Brian Zinbchuk
January 2022

The last week of December proved pretty damned cold in Saskatchewan and Alberta, with temperatures at -30 of below most of that week. I ended up writing a lot about it, and the realizations were startling.

A lot of this came from following the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) website, and particularly, its minute-by-minute coverage of the power output of every generating station tied to that province’s grid. SaskPower doesn’t provide such granular detail, which is a shame. I think it would be eye-opening. But what I saw from Alberta was alarming enough for both our provinces.

Alberta has been in a rush to get out of coal. This rush was led initially by the Rachel Notley NDP government, but was followed up by the United Conservative Party, who didn’t stop it. Much of this has been fueled by the federal Liberal government’s race to get rid of coal, and its greenhouse gas emissions.

On Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve, it was cold across Alberta and Saskatchewan. On that day, TransAlta, one of Alberta’s largest power generating companies, announced it had completed its conversion from coal to natural gas. It was also shutting down the Highvale coal mine, west of Edmonton.

Their release noted, “In aggregate, TransAlta has retired 3,794 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity since 2018 while converting 1,659 megawatts to cleaner burning natural gas. This achievement, coupled with TransAlta’s growing and diversified generating portfolio, including hydro, wind, solar and battery assets, helps position TransAlta to be a highly competitive provider of reliable, low and zero-emitting electricity for customers in Canada, the United States, and Australia.”

About that wind and solar:

The AESO website revealed some literally cold, hard facts that weren’t in the TransAlta press release. As of noon, the TransAlta Keephills Unit 1, which was scheduled to retire that very day, was still putting out 302 megawatts, of its 395 megawatt rated capacity. At the same time, Alberta’s entire fleet of 13 grid-connected solar facilities, rated at 736 megawatts, was contributing 58 megawatts to the grid. The 26 wind farms, with a combined rated capacity of 2,269 megawatts, was feeding the grid 18 megawatts.

Alberta solar generation summary at noon, MST, Dec. 31, 2021. Source: Alberta Electricity Service Operator

Alberta wind generation summary at noon, MST, Dec. 31, 2021. Source: Alberta Electric System Operator

Did I mention it was cold across Alberta? And that wind turbines must shut down at -30 C, or they could shatter from the cold?

The red indicates extreme cold weather warnings across most of Alberta at 1 p.m. MST on Dec. 31, 2021. Source: Environment Canada.

So the total contribution of ALL solar and wind, at noon, was 76 megawatts out of a theoretical 3,005 megawatts of supposedly green, renewable energy. That meant that, at that moment, Keephills Unit 1, on its scheduled last day, was providing four times the output of all the grid-linked solar and wind generation, combined, in the entire province.

Four times. Just one coal unit. And that one coal unit was running at three-quarters capacity. If it was spun up to full capacity, it would have been more than five times.

Around the same time, Alberta’s internal power load was floating around 11,232 megawatts, just 500 megawatts or so shy of its all-time record. As I write this, I wonder if they will actually shut off Keephills Unit 1 on New Year’s Eve, or decide to let it run a few more days? What would you do?

That wind and solar power energy can’t be green, and it can’t be renewable, if it doesn’t exist. It’s not even hot air, because at least you could duct that through a generator. It’s theoretical. That giant gap of nearly 3,000 megawatts between the installed based and actual production simply is not there. It’s vapourware, masquerading as feel-good power that the earthmuffins feel is our salvation.

I might seem like I’m harping about this all week, but this is when it matters, when it’s top of mind, and we aren’t sitting in the sun at the beach. We cannot afford to have rolling blackouts in the middle of winter, when the temperatures are the coldest, because we decided for the sake of all that is holy in the Church of Climate Change that we must rely on wind and solar. The reality, proven on Dec. 31, 2021, is that we absolutely cannot, in any way, shape or form, rely on wind and solar, period, on the Canadian prairies.

While setting up for my year-end interview with Premier Scott Moe, he pointed out wind is cheaper power these days. And, as premier with a Crown corporation tasked with providing the province’s power, I’m fairly certain he has accurate information in that regard. So wind, now may very well be cheaper.

But it is not reliable. New Year’s Eve proved, at least in Alberta, that for each and every megawatt of wind and solar power installation installed, you absolutely must have reliable backup generation, principally in the form of natural gas-fired power generation.

We cannot take the risk, ever, of enduring what Texas went through this last February. If we lost power here for days and weeks on end, during the coldest part of the year, we could see thousands die. This province would, in a matter of hours, become uninhabitable. Not uncomfortable. Uninhabitable. We cannot, and must not, set up our grid such that there’s any possibility of that happening.

Sure, we can continue to build out wind generation. During the last two years, with the border closed most of that time, I’ve noticed curious lights on the horizon, just south of Estevan. At night, the blinking anti-collision lights atop the wind turbines can be seen for miles – a giant wind farm, built about a dozen miles or so south of Estevan, the Energy City. If there’s wind south of Estevan, I’m guessing someone’s going to figure out there’s wind around Estevan, too. So, I expect to see the 120 metre tall wind turbines spinning around here, in short order. I hear we’re the sunshine capital, too.

But for every megawatt of wind and solar we put up, we damned well better be building an equivalent megawatt of natural gas-fired power generation. That means we better build the gas plants necessary to capture and conserve every molecule we can from associated natural gas production – the gas that comes up with oil. We might even want to consider drilling for natural gas in this province again, if natural gas prices continue to improve. That’s something that hasn’t really happened here for over a decade.

We might want to really reconsider shutting down coal, too. We should be building carbon capture, now, and keeping coal in the mix. Indeed, we might need to build more coal, with carbon capture.

As David Yager wrote for Energy Now in January, 2020 , “Repeat After Me: Canada is Uninhabitable Without Fossil Fuels.”

New Year’s Eve, 2021, proved that.

Happy New Year. Stay warm.
Powerline Online

Not cool: never reliable & hopeless in icy winter weather.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Essie Dube says:

    Thanks, but no thanks! My vote goes to fossil fuel. You can have your electric vehicles. What happens when they fail and hold up traffic so nobody behind them can make it to a charging station in time? Suddenly you have a complex problem on hand. Every car on the highway is dead. Now what happens?

    • KMartin says:

      I’ve been driving an all-electric car for nine years. It’s great for around town and short trips. No oil changes, no engine issues. No repairs at all, just an annual (or less frequent) check of the brakes and lubrication. I can’t calculate the tens of thousands of dollars (more?!) I’ve saved with this car. That’s not to say it’s for everyone or every situation. Electric will never be appropriate for ambulances, fire trucks, police, and those with long commutes. But they do have their place in our motoring arsenals.

  2. Jim Simpson says:

    A sensible Energy Policy is all that’s needed. In the absence of empirical evidence proving the case against CO2 , the key elements of such an Energy Policy would require that it;

    • is technology agnostic (i.e., embraces both fossil fuels, hydro, wind, solar, geo-thermal, biomass, wave, batteries & nuclear – all on the table),
    • provides NO SUBSIDIES i.e., a level playing field.
    • enables generators to choose any mix of technology in an open, transparent & competitive environment where normal market forces prevail.
    • invites generators to contract in advance (auction), making a firm commitment to deliver guaranteed power, 24h/day in accord with clearly defined technical parameters to meet forecast demand next day/week/month at their BEST competitive price(s), including short notice demand / supply.
    • imposes high level QOS (Quality Of Service) standards with substantial financial penalties imposed for any failure to meet clearly defined contractual obligations (force majeure permitting, in the event of natural disasters e.g., earthquakes, floods & bushfires etc). [promotes development of secure infrastructure].
    • requires land restoration (where applicable) to pre-industry use (e.g., open cut mining, wind and/or solar-PV infrastructure etc) plus a redundant (waste) materials strategy prior to any generation / construction project. A bond paid in advance plus stiff penalties to apply for generators who fail to properly manage any resultant waste products from their operation & to meet ecological recovery standards.
    • repeals current ban on nuclear energy together with any Legislation associated with subsidies in support of the ‘Unreliables’ of wind & solar-PV. – it’s time they stood on their own two feet in the real world!

    If the power generating industry finds these T’s & C’s unpalatable, then simply re-nationalise the power generation industry & return it to whence it came i.e., the responsibility of respective State and/or Federal Governments & be done with it!

  3. When you divide the expected annual production by the average yearly use of a household, the whole problem disappears like snow on a sunny day. See? Let’s go green asap. .. Oh, .. wait ..

  4. Shudong Zhou says:

    The biggest lie in this century.

  5. Thank you very much for this article.
    I will spread it as far as I can
    Kind regards from Germany.

  6. Someone should call Brian Zinbchuk and tell him about a little invention called nuclear power. Reading the article above one is persuaded that he’s never heard of it.

    • And Nuclear Power Version 2, Molten Salt Reactors. Alvin Weinberg (ORNL) inventor of the Light Water Reactor, invented a normal pressure, no containment building needed, higher temperature thus more efficient, simpler, cheaper to run, cheaper to build, Nuclear Power. A type of this reactor, Molten Chloride Fast Reactor, consumes the spent nuclear fuel of Light Water Reactors and Pressure Water Reactors. There are US, Canadian, UK Danish, China, Indonesian, etc. companies are designing / building new models, (ORNL’s ran in the 1960s-70s)

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