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Letter: Blowin’ in the wind

Re: “Rising bills feared amid shift from coal,” June 6. This article makes a gross error in stating that Alberta gets nine per cent of our electric power from wind: “The report forecasts growth in wind power, which currently generates about nine per cent of supply, and suggests it could potentially produce 36,000 MW of electricity.”

According to Alberta Energy, it is our wind generating capacity that is nine per cent (actually 7.95 per cent in 2012), not our actual power generation from wind, which is only 3.62 per cent of our 72,900 GWh power generation in 2012.

This means Albertans are paying a premium for generating capacity that is not even used. Conventional coal and natural gasfired power generation capacity duplicates this wind power generation capacity as they must be available as a standby precaution.

Wind power is notoriously variable. A portion of the wind power generated is duplicated by conventionally powered turbines spinning and burning fuel, but not providing power, known as “spinning reserves,” so it can be called upon on short notice when the wind fails.

If the 36,000 MW of potential wind power generating capacity mentioned in this article came to be, it means Albertans would have to fund another 36,000 MW of coal and natural gas-fired power generation for standby when the wind does not blow and this power is not generated.

At a minimum cost of $1.3 million per MW of installed wind power generating capacity, this 36,000 MW capacity would cost Albertans $46.8 billion, not including costs for backup generators.

Ken Gregory

Calgary