Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY Ottawa (CEO) has a simple goal: to lead the development of energy science and technology solutions for the environmental and economic benefit of Canadians.
CanmetENERGY, a research and technology organization in the field of clean energy, operates a network of research laboratories throughout Canada. Active areas of research include transportation, clean fossil fuels, buildings and communities, bioenergy, oil sands, industrial processes, and renewable sources of power, including wind energy. The CEO lab coordinates national research efforts in the field of wind energy.
CEO is actively involved in a number of areas of research and development concerning wind energy, which are broadly categorized into three main areas: grid integration, cold climate operations, and remote/off-grid communities and industrial operations.
Grid integration encompasses a number of ongoing and potentially future activities. CEO staff are directly engaged in a technical support role with the North American Renewable Integration Study (NARIS) and the Regional Electricity Cooperation and Strategic Infrastructure (RECSI) initiative.
NARIS. Spurred through previous work undertaken by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, such as the Eastern Renewable Grid Integration study and the Interconnection Seams study, as well as the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s Pan-Canadian Wind Integration study, this latest body of work involves collaboration with utilities across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to model the North American power system under various future scenarios, consisting of multiple renewable technologies. Noted as the largest renewable energy integration study to be undertaken to date, NARIS will study the power system through a series of models, including production cost-modeling at five-minute intervals using PLEXOS, an energy model and simulation software. The scenarios to be modeled – based on various capacity expansion models for several future years (e.g., 2025, 2030 and 2050) – will account for current commitments and goals among all three countries. Capacity expansion will also include a number of optimization runs and will consider generation technologies on both the distribution and transmission network. Sensitivities will account for variables such as gas prices, transmission build-out and hydro dispatch, among others. Results from NARIS will be available in 2019 and 2020.
RECSI. The goal of RECSI is to assess a variety of projects (relative to a base case) in order to rank and prioritize provincial-led initiatives that will lead to the greatest reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, by cost, in different regions across Canada. As announced in the 2016 federal budget, projects will be evaluated against a base case that will include projects or initiatives that are already planned, such as new transmission (e.g., Maritime Link) or changes to generation (coal retirement in Alberta). Projects to be assessed will include a wide range of potential initiatives, including significant new transmission opportunities, electrification of liquefied natural gas, new embedded storage projects, new large hydro projects, a mixture of regionally focused non-hydro renewable projects, or a combination of the above.
Two key regions are participating – the western region, consisting of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and the Atlantic region, consisting of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Representatives from provincial governments, utilities and system operators are participating in working groups led by the Renewable Energy and Electricity Division of NRCan and supported by CEO staff. Results from both the western and the Atlantic region studies will be available at the end of 2017.
Advanced wind plant forecasting. CEO has contracted with the University of New Brunswick, which, in collaboration with the Wind Energy Institute of Canada (WEICan) and the TechnoCentre éolien (TCE), is working directly with utilities in the establishment of new approaches to forecasting techniques that meet the emerging needs concerning wind plant forecasting. These include improved short-term forecasts, the development of a ramping forecast product and an ice production loss forecast. The various forecasting tools are being developed and tested using the Environment Canada weather forecasting modeling software. At the completion of this research, a methodology will be published that will be available to the public.
Wind plant data research. Although Canada has a significant amount of utility-scale wind energy in all 10 provinces and two of the three territories, there is a lack of timely and accurate wind plant data. Through the Canadian Wind Energy Association, CEO has teamed up with the wind industry and WEICan to organize the collection, aggregation and analysis of representative Canadian wind fleet data. Of primary interest is data related to energy production and wind turbine availability. This ongoing, multiyear effort will serve to provide reliable wind plant operational data for the benefit of owners and the public alike.
Wind plant frequency regulation. The ability of a wind plant to follow an automatic generator control (AGC) signal set point was tested by WEICan under a contract with CEO. This research demonstrated the capability of their wind plant to follow a utility-supplied, four-second AGC signal. A performance evaluation demonstrated that the wind plant was able to achieve a higher performance score than gas, coal or hydro generators in the same balancing authority. CEO is planning future research involving several utilities, wind plant owners, wind plant OEMs and WEICan to demonstrate frequency regulation capabilities and potentially other essential reliability services, such as inertia and governor response during frequency disturbance events.
Cold climate operations
The Canadian wind fleet operates in harsh and cold environments, and as such, wind plant owners face unique challenges in this regard. In response to this, CEO has been studying the effects of cold climate on wind plant operations, as well as researching tools that can be used to forecast and mitigate icing effects on wind plants.
Assessment of cold climate on wind plant performance. CEO completed a study of 23 wind farms across eight Canadian provinces with the objective of quantifying the degree to which cold climate operation affects wind energy production in Canada. Over the six-year study period from May 2010 to April 2016, the average loss factor for the summer period (May to October) was estimated to be 4.2% compared with 8.1% for the winter period (November to April), resulting in an average cold climate loss factor of 3.9%. For individual wind farms, the 2010-2016 average cold climate loss factor ranged from -6% (higher losses in summer than winter) to 16%. Cold climate losses were estimated to total 959 GWh across the country each year (based on the 2016 installed capacity), representing lost revenue of approximately $113 million annually. The granularity of the monthly production data prevented identifying losses related to non-meteorological sources such as maintenance, outages or curtailment. Further research will help to accurately classify and quantify losses directly attributable to winter weather conditions.
Development and validation of an ice prediction model for Canadian wind farms. CEO contracted with TCE to develop and validate the GEM-LAM-Jones-Makkonen (GLJM) model for forecasting meteorological icing. This model is the result of pairing the GEM-LAM weather forecasting model, developed by Environment Canada, with those designed by Jones and Makkonen to predict icing accretion. The objective of the validation was to assess the capacity of the GLJM model to predict icing episodes at wind farms and the associated production losses. Meteorological data, coupled with in situ observations and the Weather Research & Forecasting (WRF) ice prediction model, formed the basis of comparison for this study. Meteorological data collected in the winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 was used to identify and characterize icing events in order to evaluate the production losses sustained by the wind turbines included in the study. The events were modeled with GLJM, and the production losses associated with the icing predictions were calculated.
Although the GLJM model has been developed in the context of this project, its performance was similar to that of the WRF model. Consequently, TCE recommended that the model be further tested and refined in order to improve its use within an operational context (see Advanced Wind Plant Forecasting above).
Researchers in CEO’s wind group and other researchers within the broader CanmetENERGY family are providing ongoing technical support to federal departments engaged in reducing the reliance on diesel fuels in northern and remote energy systems. These efforts will move toward the implementation of renewable energy solutions (including wind-diesel-storage hybrid generating systems) in remote and off-grid communities. Recent projects have demonstrated that wind-diesel systems at the Ramea Island community, located off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador; the Diavik diamond mine in Northwest Territories; and the Raglan mine in Northern Quebec can reliably and economically reduce diesel fuel usage for electricity generation. The CEO wind group will continue to support wind-diesel-storage opportunities as they arise over the next several years and will be developing additional in-house tools to support various efforts in these areas.
Tom Levy, M.A.Sc., P. Eng., leads and coordinates CanmetENERGY Ottawa’s wind group research activities. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.