What happens if the wind isn’t blowing? How can we maintain reliability of the system and make wind a realistic option?
Wind turbines begin to turn when the wind speed reaches approximately 12 km/h and will shut down when the winds become too strong, usually around 88 km/h. With this operating range, wind turbines produce electricity between 70 and 90 per cent of the time. The system operator, such as Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), may adjust individual wind farm output in order to maintain system reliability.
The level of wind energy that can be reliably integrated onto any given power system depends on a variety of factors such as market design, flexibility of existing infrastructure, capacity of interties with adjoining balancing areas, and that to the extent that such measures are undertaken, renewable energy can reliability and economically be used to meet our electricity needs.
Co-funded by the Canadian Wind Energy Association and Natural Resources Canada, the 2016 Pan-Canadian Wind Integration Study found that the Canadian power system, with adequate transmission reinforcements and additional regulating reserves, will not have any significant operational issues operating with 20 per cent or 35 per cent of its energy provided by wind generation.
Large amounts of wind energy are already being reliably and cost-effectively integrated with the electricity grid; utilities around the world continue to recognize the value wind energy can play within a larger interconnected electrical transmission system. State-of-the-art wind forecasting techniques allow utilities and grid operators to anticipate and plan for increases or decreases in wind energy output to maintain system reliability.
You may be interested in consulting the Pan-Canadian Wind Integration Study for further information on wind integration in Canada.
(Question originally answered July 2013)