SA’s Deluded Labor Government Warned Wind Power Push Would Wreck its Grid Way Back in 2009
Desperate, delusional and in denial, South Australia’s hapless Labor government is taking a well-deserved flogging in the press.
SA, the so-called ‘wind power capital’, instead of setting an example of how to run on sunshine and breezes, has become an international laughing stock. Rocketing prices, repeated statewide blackouts and mass load shedding have made SA the ‘go to’ example for anyone seeking to demonstrate the infantile nonsense that is attempting to run an economy on the whims of the weather.
Intermittent wind power is not only guilty of failing to deliver at all, in SA it’s been repeatedly found guilty of destroying the stability of the grid.
Grid stability is all about matching generation output (ie supply) to variable loads (ie demand). It’s a second by second affair, requiring synchronous, dispatchable power sources capable of responding within that timeframe to maintain voltage and frequency within narrowly defined tolerances – see our post: Why Weather Dependent, Intermittent & Unreliable Wind Power is as ‘Useful as a Chocolate Teapot’
Wind power – with its output surging when breezes become gusts and plunging in the reverse scenario – for grid managers is like the unwelcome gatecrasher that arrives unannounced and uninvited at the strangest of hours and, having wrecked the party, determines to vacate the scene of the havoc just as quickly as it arrived.
For those gifted with even basic knowledge of electrical engineering and grid management, none of these matters were earth-shattering revelations. Indeed, characters of that class were warning South Australia’s Labor government more than eight years ago that its wind power obsession had the potential to destroy the reliability of its grid.
Quite apparently those well drawn warnings – which were dug up by STT Champion, SA Senator Nick Xenophon – were dismissed with the haughty arrogance that only wind-cult zealots can muster. Here’s The Australian detailing Jay Weatherill’s delusional netherworld, where wind and solar can do no wrong.
Energy crisis puts the wind up Jay Weatherill
21 March 2017
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has lashed out over the state’s energy crisis, claiming Labor’s relentless pursuit of renewables had no impact on the power grid and independent advice to government in 2009 warning of destabilisation from increased wind power had been proven wrong.
Mr Weatherill, seeking re-election in a year, maintained South Australia’s more than 40 per cent mix of wind and solar generation had not played any role in blackouts since the state’s last coal-fired baseload power station closed in May. “There hasn’t been a blackout as a consequence of the increase in renewable energy,” he said.
“Renewables are a given; they are the future. What is at error here is the absence of a national price on carbon.”
When challenged by journalists from both the ABC and The Australian yesterday about the veracity of his claims, given the role of wind farms in last year’s statewide blackout, the Premier said, “I’ve just said it”, before lashing out at The Australian.
“I know that’s inconvenient for The Australian and I know that they’re wanting to continue their jihad against renewable energy but all of the evidence is to the contrary,” the Premier said.
However, the Australian Energy Market Operator yesterday revealed it had recommended new wind farms in South Australia have tougher technical standards because of the state’s unstable energy mix, which leaves the grid prone to collapse.
AEMO’s recommendation to an inquiry by the Essential Services Commission of SA into the licence conditions for wind farms states: “The high proportion of non-synchronous intermittent generation in South Australia justifies having additional or tighter technical standards than those that currently apply”.
AEMO found a failure of wind farms to ride through voltage disturbances contributed to a statewide blackout in South Australia in September.
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg yesterday said the South Australian government had ignored warnings eight years ago that increasing the uptake of intermittent sources of power beyond 20 per cent would have negative consequences.
He said poor planning and a lack of back-up systems to deal with increased wind and solar generation created South Australia’s power problems. Labor has been in office in South Australia since 2002.
Clear warnings were given to the Department of Premier and Cabinet in 2009 that the power grid could cope with only 20 per cent of wind generation before it became unstable. A report by McLennan Magasanik Associates said: “A level of 20 per cent wind capacity is proposed as a level that can be achieved without compromising grid stability.”
The 2009 report also suggested South Australia invest in “energy storage to maximise potential for its renewable energy resources”, while noting “renewable energy generation has typically a higher cost of generation that conventional forms of generation”.
A separate 2009 report from the National institute of Economic and Industry Research said: “Limitations on wind power output to ensure South Australian grid stability is estimated to be associated with about a 20 per cent limit on wind capacity.”
Here’s the take on the sorry saga from SA’s local rag, The Advertiser.
Labor warned wind farms would destabilise energy grid in 2009
20 March 2017
THE State Government was warned eight years ago that generating more than 20 per cent of South Australia’s electricity using wind farms would destabilise the grid, documents reveal.
Senator Nick Xenophon said it proved the state’s power crisis — which prompted Premier Jay Weatherill to announce a $550 million taxpayer-funded energy plan — was “completely avoidable”.
Two reports prepared for the Department of Premier and Cabinet in 2009 when the Labor Government was setting a new state-based renewable energy target state that grid stability would be compromised if wind generation surpassed 20 per cent.
During the second half of 2016, wind made up 30 per cent of the electricity generated in SA.
“Here’s the proof that this energy crisis was completely avoidable,” Senator Xenophon said.
“The alarm bells were ringing eight years ago but the Labor Government was deaf to the concerns.
“The Government was either asleep at the wheel or reckless in pursuing a jump in renewables without ensuring grid security.”
Senator Xenophon said the reports “spell out” that South Australia could not increase the percentage of wind above 20 per cent without destabilising the grid.
The McLennan Magasanik Associates report states: “A level of 20 per cent wind capacity is proposed as a level that can be achieved without compromising grid stability.”
Another report, by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, advised: “Limitations on wind power output to ensure South Australian grid stability is estimated to be associated with about a 20 per cent limit on wind capacity.”
SA Government launches $500k energy plan TV ad campaign
Asked on Monday if his Government should have taken more consideration of the reports, Premier Jay Weatherill said: “We have been thinking about it and we’ve been implementing changes as we go”.
“The future is renewable energy. What is at error here is the absence of a national price on carbon,” he said.
“Those who are opposed to renewable energy are losing the argument and they’re becoming increasingly shrill.”
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the state should be “proud of our leadership in renewable energy” and insisted that it was not to blame for any blackout.
“The National Electricity Market is an ageing grid, and it has to be managed and updated as new forms of technology are integrated into the system,” he said.
He said Senator Xenophon’s criticism was disappointing given he had supported the Government’s energy plan.
Both the reports note that if baseload generation and connection with other states was increased, more wind power could be put into the grid.
However, since then both the Playford B and Northern coal-fired power stations closed while the upgrade of the Heywood interconnector only began construction in August 2015 and was still in progress.
Mr Weatherill refused to confirm on Monday if Alinta Energy had offered to sell the Northern Power Station to the Government before it closed last May.
He said there was a confidentiality agreement which prevented him releasing details of any offer from Alinta.
Asked if he would lift the confidentiality agreement if Alinta agreed to waive the restriction, Mr Weatherill said he would “take advice about that”.
“There may be other issues that need to be taken into account,” he said.
“Alinta haven’t put that proposition to us.
“There’s never been an offer that’s been made by Alinta that would have met our needs, either temporary or permanent.”
One of the 2009 reports stated wind plant and grid management technology improvements could also allow more to be fed into the grid.
The reports found between a 30 to 40 per cent state-based renewable energy target by 2020 would be achievable but predicted greater use of biomass and the establishment of geothermal technology.
In 2009 the Rann Government increased the state’s renewable energy target to 33 per cent by 2020 which was achieved in 2013-14 and then 2014 a new target of 50 per cent by 2025 was set.
In 2015-16 about 43 per cent of the state’s power generation came from renewable sources.
Meanwhile, two more federal ministers have expressed support for the energy package’s aim of unlocking more gas supply by paying royalties to landholders.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has already backed the move, as has Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg.
On Sunday, Health Minister Greg Hunt — the former environment minister — and Resources Minister Matt Canavan said unlocking resources was important.
Delusion is not a virtue and desperation is a stinky cologne.
Jay Weatherill & Co appear incapable of pulling back from the brink.
Long-suffering South Australians have to wait until March next year to boot Weatherill and his wind-worshipping acolytes out of office. Before then, though, his inability to grapple with the not so minor matter of grid reliability and rocketing power prices is going to lead to further economic punishment for South Australians.
And as the reports obtained by Nick Xenophon and revealed by The Australian and The Advertiser make plain, much of the suffering was knowingly self-inflicted.
The reports are available here:
The report by McLennan Magasanik Associates, ‘Potential for Renewable Energy in South Australia’ delivered on 11 May 2009 was pretty upbeat about renewables in South Australia, but placed a heavy emphasis on geothermal which, unlike wind power, is synchronous and dispatchable (ie it can be delivered on demand).
In discussing the potential for wind power in South Australia, that report set out close to a dozen conditions that would need to be met before SA could overcome the limited ability of its grid to absorb any more than about 20% of intermittent wind power generation, which included building more interconnectors to the eastern states and spending billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on infrastructure upgrades. None of which happened.
Here’s what the report had to say about wind power wrecking grid stability beyond that level:
Wind power in South Australia may be limited by ability of the interconnected transmission system to absorb the variable power without violating requirements for system reliability and service quality standards for voltage and frequency of supply.
Wind resources are not a constraining factor and identified development sites in SA already exceed the projected uptake by 2020. A level of 20% wind capacity is proposed as a level that can be achieved without compromising grid stability. International R&D, especially in Denmark, is focussed on increasing this limit to 50%. Stronger interconnection with other states and increased base load from developments such as Olympic Dam are also likely to increase the grid stability limit.
The other report referred to came from the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, ‘The future prospects for renewable energy in South Australia’ as ‘A report for the Sustainability and Climate Change Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet of South Australia’ delivered on 14 May 2009.
That report also identified precisely the kind of grid instability that would play out in South Australia, should wind power generation exceed about 20% of total generation:
Network constraints have two aspects:
(i) the cost of providing network connection to renewable electricity plants (the total cost and the sharing of these costs); and
(ii) limits on RE output to maintain system integrity.
Additional network costs have not been estimated but could be substantial, particularly for geothermal.
Who will pay the additional costs is far from settled: any contributions from RE plants could significantly affect their economics.
Limitations on wind power output to ensure South Australian grid stability is estimated to be associated with about a 20 per cent limit on wind capacity.
This could limit capacity to about 1,200-1,400 MW depending on evolution of the South Australian system capacity including interconnections.
During those occasions when the wind is blowing just right and not blowing too strong, SA’s 18 wind farms with a capacity of 1,576 MW can produce around 1,200 MW for a few hours, at a stretch (see above).
On those occasions, with the daily load in SA ranging from between 1,500 MW and up to 3,000 MW, wind power generation can represent 40-80% of that load for short bursts and, when the wind drops out, contribute absolutely nothing at all to demand for hours and sometimes days.
It’s that kind of chaos that is causing South Australia’s notorious blackouts and routine load shedding. And it’s not as if SA’s Labor government didn’t know about it.
Now South Australians are paying the price for Labor’s hubris and arrogance. And what a price it is. Weatherill’s $550m power ‘plan’ which includes the urgent installation of 200-250MW of diesel generation capacity will send already rocketing power prices through the roof.
All of this was perfectly avoidable. Knowing that it was avoidable makes Labor’s continued wind power obsession look like the work of economic criminals.
If this is what they mean by a renewable energy ‘transition’, we suspect that there are plenty of South Australians ready to pack their bags and head for the border. Welcome to your wind powered future!