STT could be forgiven for being just a little smug after events unfolded last Sunday night (1 November 2015) in Australia’s “Wind Farm Capital”, South Australia.
As our post – Wind Power Disaster Unfolds: SA Facing Total Blackouts, Rocketing Power Prices & Thousands More Chopped from the Grid – was being put together for an airing on Monday, unbeknownst to STT – a bit after 10pm on Sunday – 110,000 South Australian homes and businesses were plunged into darkness.
STT’s SA operatives were quick off the mark, informing us of their unscheduled trip to the Dark Ages – with emails and comments on that post.
Without warning, traffic lights were dimmed to dangerous pointlessness; street lights were out, leaving less surefooted and vulnerable pedestrians creeping home nervously in the dark; hotel, cinema and restaurant owners had to show customers the door; service stations were unable to pump fuel for their motoring customers; and TV viewers missed the critical dénouements of favourite crime ‘whodunnit’, NCIS and batty-blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises.
On a more serious note, those in charge of hospitals, like the Lyell-McEwin, had to cross their fingers in the anxious seconds before diesel generators fired up to produce the power needed to keep life support patients ticking along and other critical infrastructure up and running.
Likewise with supermarkets relying on their own diesel generators to keep perishables and frozen food from perishing. However, those small businesses with no access to backup power generation (Delis and the like) and, therefore, no refrigeration, had to otherwise try to stop valuable frozen goods from melting, along with their profits.
While NCIS fans missed out on the who-got-cuffed-climax, the ‘whodunnit’ of real interest to STT was played out in what passes for media in South Australia. Here’s some of it.
Widespread power blackout hits Adelaide
2 November 2015
Power fault ‘could happen again’
POWER has been restored to most South Australian homes after a widespread blackout put thousands into darkness, when the state lost electricity supply from Victoria.
A spokesman for SA Power Networks said the state lost supply from “upstream” when the interconnector shut down, triggering an automatic loss of power — load shedding — in SA, resulting widespread outages.
About 110,000 homes were affected by the load shedding from Victoria, which started about 10.20pm on Sunday night — and there are warnings this morning that such a large blackout could happen again.
Across South Australia, homes from Sellicks Beach up to Nuriootpa, the Barossa and Angaston, to Elizabeth and further north to Munno Para West, and east to Belair all lost power, and many more in between.
The outage also hit the Eyre Peninsula, with Cowell, Lucky Bay, Mangalo and more losing power.
SA Power Networks spokesman Paul Roberts said the blackout wasn’t planned.
“There was no time to warn customers about the loss of supply,” he told ABC 891.
“We’ve always relied to some degree on the Victorian interconnector — that’s why it’s there, it’s been there for 25 years.
“Many times other supply will kick in and there’s always stuff on standby, but in this case it may well have been the size of the load.”
When the Victorian system shut down, 160 megawatts of energy was lost and wind power did not supply energy because it often does not start until 3am.
Mr Roberts said when outages were planned, people on life support were notified.
But last night’s blackout “caught everyone by surprise”, despite the fact Victoria had issued a low level risk notice for a power outage for the past seven weeks.
Mr Roberts said a review would be conducted into the widespread outage.
On its Facebook page last night, SA Power Networks said it had “been advised the interconnector was available again and we are gradually restoring power”.
“SA Power Networks does not generate electricity, we are reliant on upstream supply.
“In this case, the loss of capacity from Victoria resulted in automatic load shedding to avoid wider issues.
Hmmm…. A few clues there. Could it be the dreaded “interconnector”? Or was it the fact that, as SA Power Networks observes: “wind power did not supply energy because it often does not start until 3am”?
Let’s keep digging.
SA to push for electricity sharing
2 November 2015
South Australia will push for national action to boost energy sharing between states after a blackout cut power to about 110,000 homes and businesses across Adelaide and parts of SA.
The cause of Sunday night’s blackout has been traced to an electricity substation in the state’s southeast.
The fault brought down the 275,000 volt interconnector between South Australia and Victoria, causing a series of rolling blackouts as automatic safety systems began load shedding.
Properties were affected from Sellicks Beach, south of Adelaide, across the metropolitan area and north into the Barossa Valley with services in some areas out for more than two hours.
The Australian Energy Market Operator is investigating the incident along with transmission companies ElectraNet and SA Power Networks.
But Premier Jay Weatherill says there are also broader issues surrounding the power network’s ongoing stability.
“We have a network at the moment which would be more stable if there were greater interconnections through to Queensland,” Mr Weatherill said on Monday.
“But there are a whole range of regulatory matters that prevent that from occurring.”
Mr Weatherill said SA would seek to advance those discussions at a national level.
He has also ruled out South Australia’s growing reliance on wind power as a factor in Sunday night’s load shedding.
SA Power Networks said once the interconnector with Victoria went down it was powerless to prevent the blackouts as automatic systems kicked in to prevent wider issues.
It said while the link to Victoria was restored before midnight it took until about 1am to restore power to all customers.
“SA Power Networks does not generate electricity, we are reliant on upstream supply,” the company said.
There were no reports of incidents, including road crashes, related to the blackout which shut down traffic lights across Adelaide.
Some people with medical conditions were forced to rely on personal generators or other back-up supplies.
Hundreds took to Twitter and other social networks to comment, some seeing the funny side of being plunged into the dark by predicting a baby boom in nine months time.
SA Power Networks spokesman Paul Roberts said it would review the incident to determine how it could have been handled better.
“It certainly caught everyone by surprise last night,” he said.
SA’s vapid Premier, Jay Weatherill, being pretty dismissive there, of even the vaguest possibility that SA’s 17 wind farms had anything at all to do with the one of the most widespread and longest blackouts in SA’s recent history.
No, Jay points the blame at not only the existing interconnectors, but those which he claims should exist.
How rotten of Queenslanders not to build an extra transmission line just for SA?
A high voltage line that would need to travel a distance in excess of 2,000km – Brisbane to Adelaide; that would cost quite a few lazy $billion to build; and be fully utilised a few dozen times a year.
No mention by Weatherill of the phenomenal cost of an extra interconnector or the transmission lines to feed power to it; nor of just who might pay for it?
An attitude entirely consistent with a State that’s prepared to spend first and ask questions later; and, when it comes time to pay, that pleads poverty and demands that the Federal government pick up the tab for its blatant acts of fiscal stupidity (think $1.5 billion on a Desalination plant that has never been used in earnest).
Throughout the week, Jay Weatherill kept up the charade, telling radio interviewers that the mass blackout was all the fault of the interconnectors; and that there was plenty of wind power being produced throughout SA’s date with darkness.
SA’s deluded Premier wasn’t alone in efforts to protect SA’s 17 wind farms from any proper scrutiny.
Oh no, there were the usual band of intellectually challenged wind worshippers desperate to deflect any attention from the obvious; the Climate Spectator’s Tristan Edis at the top of the list with a truly “fantastic” effort to exonerate his beloved power generation source.
In a classic piece of wind industry ‘smoke and mirrors’ (available here), Edis managed to recount almost every single fact about electricity generation on the night in question, bar one that – to the objective eye at least – would seem to be fairly significant: namely, what SA’s wind farms were doing at the time.
SA’s 17 separate patches of these whirling wonders clock together a ‘notional’ total capacity of 1,477 MW (said to represent around 40% of SA’s total generating capacity).
While energy lightweights like Tristan Edis are quick to tell you about wind power’s “highs”, they become more than just a little cagey about wind power’s daily “lows”: hence the production of a piece which steers well clear of precisely what happened with wind power output.
In the game of Cluedo, players become more confident about whodunnit, as they collect their cards and the facts reveal that it really was Colonel Mustard, in the kitchen, with the candlestick. In this round, though, the cause of the need for there to be candlesticks in 110,000 or so kitchens was …….
Ah, now; there’s your villain.
During the first part of the day – 4am to noon – SA’s wind farms were producing generally less than 100 MW (or 6.7% of total capacity), falling to a derisory 10 MW around 10am – barely enough to power a few fridges and kettles across a few suburbs.
As an afternoon coastal breeze whipped across the state, output managed to briefly spurt (for around 60 minutes) to 700 MW (or a whopping 47% of total capacity). And that was the ‘best’ output they could muster: less than half of total capacity for barely 1 hour out of 24 – or 4.16% of the day.
As the briefly benevolent sea breeze worked itself into a tree-tickling zephyr, output plummeted to around 150 MW by midnight; an interconnector killing drop in output of 550 MW, over a span of less than three hours. With the most rapid drop of 250 MW seen in the 20 minutes before 9pm; and a further 150 MW drop from that point to midnight.
One aside that we can’t overlook is to have wee swipe at that guff about SA’s wind farms ‘powering’ hundreds of thousands of South Australian homes – last Sunday night the figure was more like a doughnut, but we guess that’s not meant to count? And, that in the wind worshippers’ eyes, the villain can do no wrong?
Having, for years, swallowed up mountains of PR rubbish from the Clean Energy Council, and the like, about the ‘wonders’ of wind, SA’s media hacks are, apparently, blissfully unaware that the identity of Sunday night’s villain was only a few clicks away, courtesy of the boys over at Aneroid Energy. When it comes to uncovering the greatest fraud of all time, it’s the site that STT swears by; and the wind industry and its parasites just swear at.
While journalists and radio announcers can be forgiven for being a little gullible or lazy, so-called political ‘leaders’, like Jay Weatherill, ought to know a whole lot better.
Weatherill, a former solicitor whose firm represents Labor controlled Unions, and specialises in workers’ compensation claims (with ‘mixed’ results), wouldn’t be among the first people you’d call on when it came to electricity grid management, energy economics and the like. But, you might reasonably expect that he would take just a little advice from those in the know.
Instead, Weatherill and his fellow Labor travellers – have been waxing lyrical about the wonders of wind power with a maniacal fervour – pushing for a ludicrously impossible 50% renewable energy target – entirely dependent on the vagaries of the weather. Could it be that the party line is what keeps Weatherill from even attempting to be honest with his long-suffering subjects?
Dissembling and obfuscation appear to be the order of the day in SA. One fiction that Weatherill & Co appear wedded to, is the suggestion that SA’s interconnectors were solely responsible for Sunday night’s almost statewide blackout.
Their confused pitch seems to be that interconnectors actually “produce” power. They, of course, do no such thing. They are part of a transmission system; and don’t “produce” anything at all.
Funnily enough, it’s generators that “produce” power: transmission lines “transmit” power; and interconnectors work like plugs and sockets that connect high-voltage lines travelling over vast distances in one part of a grid to another, conveying large volumes of power produced by generators located hundreds, and sometimes thousands of kilometres away from the “load” aka “customers”.
No, SA’s power collapse was all about the lack of local generating output – of a particular kind. In fact, the interconnectors’ failure was precisely due to the collapse in wind power output (as depicted above).
On a Sunday night, the load (ie the power being consumed) would have been in the order of a modest 1,600 MW or so. This was a Sunday night, with little industrial activity from SA’s few remaining manufacturing or other businesses; and it was mild – ‘Goldilock’s weather’ – no power-hungry ACs were required for either heating or cooling.
Had wind power output remained around 700 MW that night, there would have been absolutely NO prospect of any blackouts whatsoever.
As wind power output collapsed during the evening, the load required to be carried across the interconnectors increased exponentially; and well beyond their capacity to convey the load being demanded.
Transmission lines (and the interconnectors that direct the power that flows from one part of the grid to another) have limited physical capacity to convey electricity (think “resistance”, “impedance” etc), which is referred to as “thermal capacity limitation”.
Think about the high school science experiment you did where you had some fuse wire connected to 2 terminals; and increased the voltage to the point where the wire glowed and then melted.
Transmission lines carrying abnormal loads suffer failures for much the same reason. The line is only as strong as its weakest link; pinch points like sub-stations, switching gear and the like – upon which interconnectors depend – are all prone to failure, when called upon to convey massive increases in load; particularly when that occurs in very short time spans.
Electricity transmission grids are, by definition and design, “systems”: the widely dispersed and interconnected systems that form the Eastern Grid were never engineered to be so robust as to withstand the absolute chaos dished up by wind power generation (as seen above).
The only amazing thing is that the events seen in SA last Sunday are not more common.
The normal response by generators in SA is to drop in “spinning reserve” and/or to bring on fast start up peaking power plants (Open Cycle Gas Turbines or diesel generators) to fill the gaps when wind power goes AWOL, as it did last Sunday.
However, owners of plant which are only meant to run sporadically, and cost more than $300 per MWh to run, look to cash in on the grid operator’s panic, by holding off their supplies until the spot price zooms way above their breakeven point; heading past that – starting at around $70 – towards (and often reaching) the market price cap of $13,800 per MWh:
Some might call being forced to pay a figure almost 200 times the average spot price “chiselling”; STT calls it “state-sponsored theft”. And market gaming around wind power output collapses is, without argument, one of the key reasons as to why South Australians pay the highest power prices in the nation; if not (on a purchasing power parity basis) the highest in the world.
Paying ludicrous sums for what should be a basic and affordable commodity is one thing. But, despite many still being perfectly willing to pay for it, being deprived of an essential element of social and economic welfare, is quite another.
Among the wind industry’s parasites and spruikers – like the ‘touched’ boys over at ruin-economy (see this fantasy piece) – desperate to disconnect their idols from the calamity – the most troubling line being peddled was one to the effect that people should be happy to sit freezing (or boiling) in the dark knowing that their enforced gloom was, somehow, a “good thing”.
STT is not quite sure from which planet these beings emanate? The concept that statewide power collapses could be of “benefit” to anyone stretches the imagination; and requires entertaining the kind of malevolence that people like Stalin and Mao were prepared to dish out to their very own people.
Thankfully though, STT was thoroughly impressed with the comments that appeared in droves on the various news sites carrying the story, where the vast majority immediately identified SA’s wind farms as the culprit of the calamity; challenged comments from a handful of noisy wind worshippers with the obvious and unavoidable facts; and bemoaned their futures at the hands of their dimwitted Premier.
It’s also to be borne in mind that these 110,000 homes and businesses were plunged into darkness at a time when SA’s Northern and Playford coal-fired plants at Port Augusta (with a combined capacity of 784 MW) were still happily chugging away.
The owner of Port Augusta’s plants, Alinta has already signalled that it will close them in April 2016, due to the market distortions caused by the massive subsidies to wind power set up under the Large-Scale RET. If it does, South Australians can expect statewide blackouts with the kind of regularity that you’d be hard pressed to find outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
Already an economic basket case, South Australian businesses are unlikely to tolerate this type of chaos for much longer.
Despite efforts by Jay Weatherill (and the wind industry’s usual suspects), South Australians have all suddenly woken up to the seriousness of the energy debacle that’s been foisted upon them.
A single Sunday night scratching around for matches and candles might have been a bit of a “lark”. However, make no mistake, modern economies run on cheap and reliable electricity; deprive an inner city hipster of a charging point for his iPhone for a few days and he will soon cease to exist, as his presence on Twitter quickly fades.
More seriously though, schools, universities, hospitals, businesses of every description, households, factories, mines, road safety systems, street lighting all depend on having a uniform and constant supply of electricity, delivered to them 24 x 365: not at the fickle whim of the Wind Gods.
The little “fright” suffered by South Australians last Sunday, has literally sounded the death knell of the wind industry in Australia (if not around the world).
No matter how hard they try to spin away the results, the wind industry will not escape the consequence of having a whole population alive to the fact that attempting to rely upon wind power as a meaningful power generation source in a modern economy is patent nonsense; pure and simple.
Sure, for ‘dreamy’, sandal-wearing types, cruising past a wind farm in a Prius might be a kind of religious experience; in their eyes, things of ‘beauty’ and ‘wonder’. But it’s that very kind of woolly-headed ‘thinking’ which means that, all too often, the “debate” about these things boils down to an infantile nonsense about whether or not one likes the “look” of them.
As if meaningfully powering an economy is about “aesthetics”; rather than providing something that is affordable and can be safely depended upon to be delivered around the clock; rain, hail or shine.
But, try as they might, South Australia’s massive wind-power-collapse driven blackout is a fact that cannot be hidden, erased or avoided: as they say, ‘you can fool some of the people, some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time’.
As one frustrated South Australian commented on the Advertiser’s site:
“This is what happens when 40% of our power is provided by solar and wind and you have to rely on another state for the rest, my tip, get used to it. Renewable energy works well in Utopia, meanwhile in the real world …”.
“At the price we pay it should simply NOT HAPPEN”.
“When you pay a premium price you expect a premium service. The most expensive power in the world and the most unreliable, sort of says something don’t you think?”
And another – who scored a direct hit:
“Solar only works during the day and wind only works when it blows. The wind stopped blowing last night and loaded up the interconnector and it was only the Pt Augusta Power Station that stopped this state going into darkness. We do not have a reliable base load generator to take up the slack when the wind stops blowing as said by the state treasurer this morning.”
The fundamental failure of wind power generation – namely that it can only ever be delivered at crazy, random intervals (if at all) and can’t be stored – was picked up in hundreds of other comments on the same story (and other news sites); and along the same lines, as those few selected above.
Electricity has no commercial value, unless it can be delivered 24 x 365 – ON DEMAND.
Now, to the horror of 110,000 South Australian households and businesses, the failure of wind power to deliver at all, has just shocked them into the realisation that not only does wind power have absolutely NO commercial value; it comes with whopping, unexpected and uncontrollable costs. Along with totally avoidable risks to life and limb.
For just a couple of examples of what having reliable power really means, think of cars and trucks thundering through unlit intersections without traffic lights after dark; and people plugged into life support systems in blacked-out homes; or hospitals where their backup generator goes down, too.
In the Australian wind power capital’s ‘court of public opinion’, the wind industry’s ‘case’ has been thoroughly rejected, with its 17 wind farms found guilty of caprice and impertinent sloth. And rightly so.
After last Sunday’s debacle, power punters undertook their own ‘whodunnit’, and it didn’t take them long to pin the culprit.
In a world where governments and a gullible and pliant media have been spruiking 50% renewable targets; and the ‘marvels’ of wind power, for close to a decade, there arises a little ‘messaging’ problem, when the objects of their fawning desire fail to deliver the goods.
Whether you’re a ‘hard-right, coal-eating, climate-denier’; or a ‘social-progressive (read ‘neo-Marxist’), believer’, you’ll have at least one thing in common, as the great wind power fraud reaches its inevitable climax; and that’s sitting freezing (or boiling) in the dark. Welcome to your wind ‘powered’ future.