Every unit of electricity from a wind turbine has to pay a connection and balancing charge to SaskPower that is more than double that paid by coal. This is despite the fact that, with their much lower capacity factor, wind turbines make much less use of the electricity network than does coal-fired capacity.

 

Source:  SaskPower's Open Access Transmission Tariff as at September 2014. Attachment G

 

This difference in charges is a massive amount and represents the difference between a profitable and an uneconomic project.

 
 

So why does wind have to pay so much more than coal?

Every month SaskPower charges any generator $3,832, per megawatt of installed generating capacity, for the right to be connected to and to transmit power over, the Saskatchewan power system. The charge is called the Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT) and details are contained in a lengthy document on SaskPower's web site. Conceptually, at least, the charges are the same for all generators.

But the reality is very different. Although, as mentioned, the OATT charge is levied based on the installed capacity, different types of generators (i.e. wind, hydro, gas & coal) generate different amounts of electricity from the same installed capacity. The term given to this is the 'Capacity Factor'. 

The following table shows that coal has the highest capacity factor in Saskatchewan (77.8 percent) and wind the lowest (37.2 percent).

 
Source: SaskPower 2013 Report and Accounts

Source: SaskPower 2013 Report and Accounts

 

The practical implications of this are, as shown in the chart at the top of this blog, that each unit of electricity from a coal-fired generator pays less than half the amount of SaskPower charges as a unit of electricity from a wind turbine.

The result is that this is yet another way and a very successful one, in which wind energy is effectively excluded from the Saskatchewan electricity system. This is one more thing which we hope that SaskPower will consider reforming sooner rather than later.