Guest essay by Wayne Delbeke
From the 180 on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Monday, March 21, 2016.
The maximum California can realistically achieve from renewables is 18% of their total energy supply.
The comment was made by a former member of the California Energy Commission during a CBC review of Alberta’s goal of “UP TO 30%” of it’s power supply from wind and solar. The key word from a political standpoint is “UP TO” since 1% actually achieves the goal POLITICALLY.
The new Alberta government plans to use a carbon tax to fund subsidies for “renewable” energy projects – whatever that means. People think “solar and wind” but that is not necessarily the case.
Still an interesting listen.
“In California where I used to be a regulator, we went out and did a complete estimate looking at all the land we could get access to and be able to use for renewables and find out what’s the best you could do… and the best we could ever imagine, if you fully committed to renewables was thirty percent. Then we backed off and said what’s it realistically going to be, and the best we could come up with was eighteen percent. – Michal Moore, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary “
“Last week, The 180 visited the town of Hanna, Alberta, where residents worry they’re living in a town without a future.
Hanna’s coal-fired power plant has had an uncertain future since the release of the NDP’s climate plan in November. Dean Girodat works at the mine that feeds the plant, and is worried about life after it closes — both in terms of his own ability to make a living, and the province’s ability to power itself without coal.
But while coal power is on the way out in Alberta, wind is picking up. The Alberta government’s plan sees renewable energy, like wind and solar, to provide up to 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity once coal is gone. The 180 visited a turbine farm near Pincher Creek, Alberta, where wind from the Rocky Mountains whips across the rolling foothills and ranch-land.
Wayne Oliver supervises TransAlta’s wind operations in Pincher Creek, Alberta. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)
Wayne Oliver is the Operations Supervisor for the company TransAlta’s wind operations in Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod. The company operates 412 turbines around around Pincher Creek.
If you consider that your fuel source is free, once you put up your tower, all you have to do is maintain it. Then, it’s a great supplemental source of energy for the grid… of course, sometimes it’s not windy. I don’t know if wind will replace everything we have, but it’s a great supplemental source of energy. -Wayne Oliver
So there’s one of the challenges in bringing renewable energy up to 30% of Alberta’s energy grid. Right now, wind turbines provide 4% of Alberta’s electricity. Solar power, another renewable energy source, has challenges of its own, such as efficiency in a province where for much of the year, the sun is at a low angle.
Michal Moore is a Professor of Energy Economics at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. He was also a commissioner of the California Energy Commission. He says getting renewable sources to power 30% of Alberta’s grid is a good, but difficult, goal.”
Note: in the last full year of reporting (2014), Coal-fired plants provided 55% of Alberta’s power. There is more Natural Gas generation (44%) than Coal-fired on line but coal-fired (38%) was still providing the majority of electricity in the province. That may change as there are a number of new NG plants. Wind and solar – not so much. It’s snowing as I write this, my solar panels are covered with white stuff and the wind is calm. But I have grid power and a Propane fired 12 kW generator for when the wind and/or snow knock the power out – which happens regularly in my remote neck of woods in the Alberta boreal forest.
The NDP goal of 30% of electricity from Wind and Solar in Alberta is likely nothing more than “California Dreamin’ ” If sunny California can’t achieve 30%, then it is highly unlikely that Alberta will – in terms of ACTUAL production as opposed to “installed capacity”.