Here’s a question that we should all be asking of both the provincial government and the turbine manufacturers/suppliers/installers/supporters.
Exactly how much net power do these turbines actually produce?
Believe it or not, it seems that that single question has never been satisfactorily answered, and by all accounts probably never will be.
Turbines have a “plated” capacity, the theoretical maximum that the unit can produce.
Most newer turbines are in the 2 to 2.5 MW range (I stand to be corrected if some of the figures here are a little incorrect).
However, the figure we’re interested in is based on the Capacity Factor, usually stated as being in the range of 15 to 35 per cent, with 20 to 25 per cent being considered the norm.
So, if a 20 CF is applied, a 2 MW turbine actually produces only about 400kW.
Getting the idea? But that’s not the end of it.
We now have to consider how much power the turbine actually consumes for its own needs, and yes, turbines do use power themselves and that’s the part that we’ll never hear about.
Ironic isn’t it?
Power is needed to set the blades, adjust the yaw (turn the head so that it’s pointing in the correct direction), run the instrumentation, and in cold climates like ours, to heat the blades to prevent ice formation.
Keep in mind that turbine blades are designed like aircraft wings and yacht sails – they need to be ice-free to provide the equivalent of “lift”.
And there are likely other power requirements too.
All-in-all, estimates seem to point at best to an overall net output of around eight per cent of the “plated” capacity.
So that 2 MW unit is providing us a paltry 160 kW of power, enough for only eight to 10 average homes.
As a footnote, you’ve probably seen the single turbine in Toronto’s Exhibition Grounds – according to local residents that (and another like it at the Picekring GS) are probably not producing power at all – they are simply show-pieces being driven by motors.
They always point in the same direction and the blades are almost always turning, in an area not known for high winds.
It’ll be interesting to see what responses, if any, this produces.
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