STT followers might be tiring of our focus on South Australia. However, the disaster – both economic and social – unfolding in SA should be taken as a warning to any policy maker foolish enough to believe that an economy can be powered using sunshine and breezes. Here’s another take on the debacle from The Advertiser.
Watt a Shocker
14 July 2016
SOUTH Australia’s biggest employers were on the verge of costly shutdowns caused by skyrocketing electricity prices – forcing Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis to plead with a private power station to produce more energy. The Pelican Point gas-fired station at Port Adelaide will lift supply from tomorrow until Sunday week to avoid temporary closures affecting thousands of staff at firms understood to include BHP Billiton and Arrium.
Mr Koutsantonis said he was forced to intervene yesterday for the first time since ETSA was privatised.
But he insisted the desperate plea to Pelican Point operator Engie would be the last time he took such action.
That request came after a delegation of between six and 10 major manufacturers told him they were considering shutdowns after wild fluctuations in energy prices, blamed in part on this week’s storms.
Wind farms can be shut down for safety reasons in the event of high winds.
The companies are understood to include besieged steelmaker Arrium, Olympic Dam operator BHP Billiton, Port Pirie lead smelter Nyrstar, cement producer Adelaide Brighton and automotive supply chain firms linked to Holden.
The social services sector has called for an immediate summit, warning that the state’s rapid rush into green energy has created uncertainty for both households and employers.
SA’s power charges have soared in the past week, hitting more than seven times the Victorian price and almost eight that in NSW, because the state’s market is isolated from the rest of the Australia.
Upgrades to an interconnection cable between SA and Victoria have been delayed by the wild storms. The Heywood cable had long been scheduled for an upgrade between last Monday and today, but the repair timeline has blown out.
Mr Koutsantonis said frigid conditions in the eastern states were also eating up gas supplies, which had further left SA fending for itself and created huge price volatility. SA has had to overwhelmingly rely on intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Mr Koutsantonis refused to reveal details of the request to Engie but said the companies that considered the shutdowns were major employers and very large energy consumers.
“They’re some of the state’s largest employers, responsible for big numbers of jobs,” he said.
A report from Deloitte Access Economics has also warned that household prices will spike over the next two years, and blackouts will become more common, due to SA’s high level of green energy.
An Arrium spokeswoman said: “Power spikes are hugely problematic and costing the company a lot of money.
“The State Government is moving to bring alternate power online and the company is working with (it) to find solutions to the problem.” The steelworks goes on the market later this month, amid doubt over its future. Uniting Communities advocacy and communications manager Mark Henley said the state needed to hold an energy summit to come up with a long-term fix. “It is much better if the State Government does intervene briefly in the short-term, so that we can actually work out a decent strategy for SA after that,” he said.
“We need everyone around the table — business, community and government — to work out what the real problem is.” Pelican Point will provide 239MW of extra supply to the market from tomorrow.
Mr Koutsantonis said he had been “dragged” to agreeing to intervene in the market and request more baseload energy production. He said companies should insure them-selves against future instability by accessing set-price energy contracts, which are similar to fixed mortgage rates.
“This work was scheduled 12 months in advance, they knew it was coming,” he said.
“There was an opportunity for companies to hedge. I would say to them that this is not going to become a normal occurrence. That’ll be the last intervention I make.” Mr Koutsantonis said the recent instability had caused “massive price fluctuations” for business, but was unlikely to flow through to households that were on more stable, long-term contracts. He also rejected suggestions the state’s long-held policy of pushing green energy, which has made SA more reliant on those sources than almost anywhere in the world, caused the crisis.
SA needed approval for new infrastructure to connect with more states, so it could export more green power and share supplies with more than just Victoria, he said. Last week’s State Budget included $500,000 for a study to explore more connections.
Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride said he feared investors would begin to doubt that the state offered a secure energy supply and turn away from job-creating projects.
“Without energy security and price competitiveness, and if we continue to have events like this occur, it’s symptomatic of a system that is failing,” Mr McBride said. “This can affect having the confidence to invest in this state. The futures on power prices are going to continue to rise.” Opposition energy spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan said households ultimately faced higher prices as the long-term effect of “failed policies” flowed through the market.
“All South Australians are paying the price of the Weatherill Government’s failed energy policies,” he said. “The over-zealous rush into wind farms without associated large-scale battery storage is directly responsible for the surging price of electricity in SA.”
Daniel Wills is right on the money with his observation that: “Wind farms can be shut down for safety reasons in the event of high winds”. Indeed they are.
On Tuesday, 12 July 2016 South Australia was belted with strong to gale force winds across the State. However, despite thumping breezes, around 2pm, the bulk of SA’s 17 wind farms (with a notional capacity of 1,580MW) were deliberately pulled to a halt.
The following comes from Aneroid Energy – the website that STT swears by and that the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers just swear at:
While thumping along at over 1,000MW for most of the morning, around 2pm wind power output collapses by a grid killing 550MW in a matter of minutes.
The collapse was caused by hundreds of turbines automatically shutting off to protect their blades and bearings, from destruction of the kind seen in this delightful, yet terrifying video:
To prevent such cataclysmic implosions, these things automatically shut off when wind speeds reach 25m/s (or 90kmh) – which they did last Tuesday.
STT hears from its SA operatives that a number of wind farms in the mid-North remained out of operation (despite plenty of strong wind) until Wednesday morning, when things calmed down somewhat.
Where Dan Wills gets a nod for endeavour, the Liberal opposition energy spokesman, Dan van Holst Pellekaan merely raises eyebrows for his comment that: “The over-zealous rush into wind farms without associated large-scale battery storage is directly responsible for the surging price of electricity in SA.”
The way Dan van Holst Pellekaan puts it makes the ‘failure’ to procure “large-scale battery storage” sound like a matter of simple oversight; like forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home – a forgetful slip that can be remedied, without consequence, in a heartbeat.
Nowhere in the world has wind power (or electricity of any description) been stored by way of “large-scale batteries” at the scale required here. Grid-scale electricity storage is not just impossible at an economic level, it is impossible at an engineering level:
When challenged about its consistent failures to match output with demand, the wind industry and its parasites respond by mumbling about “battery technology improving”.
The pitch is that – one day “soon” – there will batteries big enough and cheap enough to allow huge volumes of wind power produced when it’s not needed, to be stored for the occasions when it is. That way, the “variable” output (as they put it) from wind farms could be delivered when there might just be a market for it.
Of course, the pitch is made so the subsidies keep flowing to allow an endless sea of these things to be erected now – in order to take advantage of the (so far, elusive) storage technology that’s just over the “horizon”. Except that the “soon” is more like light-years and the “horizon” is a mirage.
Even if a technology was invented (STT likens it to the chances of finding a perpetual motion machine or alchemy turning lead into gold) to store large volumes of the electricity output (in bulk) from all of the wind farms connected to the Eastern Grid, say (which now have a notional capacity of 3,771 MW) – the economic cost would be astronomical – and readily eclipse the value of the power produced. Not that the wind industry has ever made any economic sense.
South Australia is destined to a dark and dismal future, thanks to its attempt to run on sunshine and breezes; and politicians – on both sides of the fence – that haven’t the faintest clue about power markets, generation and distribution. Welcome to your wind powered future.