Monday, 13 August 2012

Scorching summer dries up hydro power
5 Aug 2012

The hot, dry summer means there's not much hydroelectric in your hydroelectric bill this summer. In Ontario, consumers use "hydroelectric" as shorthand for electricity. But technically, hydroelectricity means power generated by water. With not much rain and lots of evaporation this summer, rivers and lakes are at low levels, so there's less water to whirl the turbines at hydroelectric generating stations.

How much less? The amount of hydroelectric power produced in Ontario dropped 20% this July compared with July a year ago, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator. In fact, Ontario got more power from natural gas-fired generators in July than it did from its hydroelectric stations. Gas-powered generation jumped 33% from a year earlier. That meant hydroelectric contributed 17% of Ontario's power supply in July, while gas-fired units churned out 20%.

also took up some of the slack as hydroelectric production dropped, increasing by 7% year over year. The total amount of power generated in the province was a fraction of a% higher this year than last. Ontario Power Generation generates most of the province's hydroelectric power. Early in the year, there was plenty of wet weather in the northwest, said OPG spokesman Ted Gruetzner, but it was a different story elsewhere.

"Through the central, northeast and eastern parts of the province, we didn't get much snow, and we haven't had much rain, so the reservoirs are down", he said in an interview. The biggest drops in production were at OPG's smaller hydroelectric stations; total production was down a more modest 10% at the big hydroelectric stations at Niagara Falls and Cornwall.

The other power source with a dramatic production drop was coal, which was down 42% from the year before. The province continues to shut down coal-fired units as it aims to cease coal generation by the end of 2014; in July, it produced 5% of the province's power, down from close to 9% a year ago. Combined output from renewable power sources such as wind, solar and biomass was little changed.