Lifting the cap on Alberta wind

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The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) has contracted three companies to provide forecasting services for wind plant output in a C$1 million, year long study that is being touted as a key step in integrating more wind energy into the province's power grid. New York-based AWS Truewind, Denmark's WEPROG and Energy & Meteo Systems of Oldenberg, Germany, will provide wind forecasting services through a trial period running from March 2007 to March 2008. Ortech Power, based in Ontario, has been contracted to analyse the effectiveness of the three models, while Calgary's Phoenix Engineering will assist with collecting the required meteorological and operational data for the study.

"We are piloting three different methodologies to find out what will work in Alberta and try to correlate that with what we actually see. Really it is the first of its kind in Canada to do that kind of detailed analysis," says the AESO's Warren Frost.

The wind industry, says Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) president Robert Hornung, sees the study as a major step in opening up the Alberta market to continued development. Last year, the AESO imposed a controversial 900 MW cap on wind power capacity because of its concerns about the impact of wind variability on system reliability. (Windpower Monthly, July 2006).

"Our main objective with respect to this study is that it will provide all stakeholders with the comfort required to remove the 900 MW threshold. Although forecasting is not a panacea and it won't address all the concerns, it is an important contributor and, we think, will provide enough confidence to move up to another level," says Hornung. CanWEA and the AESO are also in the process of developing a series of market rules and operational tools to help manage increased amounts of wind on the grid.

The cost of the forecasting study is being paid by the AESO, the Alberta Department of Energy and the Alberta Energy Research Institute.

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