When a mass blackout thrusts your State onto the international stage, as an outrageous possibility, there just could be a little something wrong with your energy policy. Here’s the view from the USA.
Australia Has Serious Problems With Green Energy Triggering Blackouts
The Daily Caller
23 November 2016
South Australia is still struggling to figure out how to keep green energy from triggering blackouts and crashing the electric grid, according to an article published by Inverse Tuesday.
The Australian state invested heavily in solar and wind power, but those power sources’ inherent reliability issues place a massive strain on the state’s power grid, according to the article.
Australia’s Energy Council noted in early September that increasing use of solar and wind power in the state “has not only led to a series of technical challenges” but “also increased wholesale price volatility as the state rebalances its supply from dispatchable plant to intermittent generation.” Roughly 25 percent of homes in South Australia currently have solar panels installed, and the state gets 41 percent of its power from wind, solar and other green sources.
Officials concluded that “violent fluctuations” in the supply of wind power caused a blackout affecting 1.7 million people in South Australia later that September. Australian Energy Market Operator, the country’s utility, blamed the blackout on a wind farm in Snowtown, which suddenly stopped providing 200 megawatts of power, causing the state power grid to become extremely unstable.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed South Australia’s state government for putting too much emphasis on generating electricity from wind farms, placing the country’s power grid and energy security at risk by “distorting the national energy market.”
“This has been very much a Labor obsession, to set these heroic renewable energy targets,” Turnbull told a radio station in October. “They assume that they can change the composition of the energy mix and that energy security will always be there and the lights will stay on, and that has been brought into question.”
This instability likely caused other Australian power grids to shut off their links to South Australia, causing the state’s power grid to collapse entirely. This made the entire state look a lot like North Korea.
South Australia’s head of government, a member of the progressive Labor party, blamed the massive blackout on the weather. However, the state has experienced a green energy-caused power crisis since July, when its last reliable coal power plants were shuttered in favor of wind. Hugh Saddler, a professor of climate economics at Australian National University, warned that South Australia’s green energy policy would lead to blackouts due to a lack of reliable base-load coal or natural gas powers.
Independent experts believe that the ability of an electrical grid to absorb unreliable green energy becomes increasingly more difficult at scale. South Australia’s reliance on wind power makes blackouts more likely because the amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine is very intermittent and doesn’t coincide with the times of day when power is most needed. This poses an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and makes power grids more fragile.
The power crisis in South Australia has caused the price of electricity to spike to 200 cents per kilowatt-hour of power. The average Australian currently pays about 25 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, according to research by the country’s parliament. To put that in some perspective, the average American only spends 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour of power, roughly half the cost. Major businesses in South Australia have already threatened to suspend operations entirely until the price of power comes down.
Household electricity prices in Australia have risen by more than 40 percent between 2007 and 2012, the same period when the government offered lucrative wind subsidies. Power prices in Australian states with a lot of wind power are almost double the rates in other states.
The Daily Caller
When South Australia’s power crisis started to escalate in July this year, its vapid Premier, Jay Weatherill started spinning stories about running extra-long extension cords to his eastern state neighbours, so that he could plug into reliable base-load, coal-fired power in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales; in Jay’s delusional world, no different to throwing an extension lead over the neighbour’s back fence, really.
After Black Wednesday (28 September), the rhetoric ramped up: Weatherill claimed that a few interconnectors were all that was needed to drag his economically beleaguered State back into the first world. Before the ‘Big One’, back in August, STT predicted that Weatherill’s plans to salvage his State – by hypocritically leeching off his neighbours’ coal-fired power plants – would cost around $4 billion and take five to ten years to build. We weren’t far off.
South Australia’s power solutions ‘costly and protracted’
23 November 2016
Building an electricity interconnector between NSW and South Australia could cost up to $3 billion and take as long as seven years to solve South Australia’s energy challenges, which contributed to a statewide blackout in September.
Releasing new research on solutions to South Australia’s power challenges, the Australian Energy Council today will warn that the interconnector option relies on ageing black coal-fired generators that might not exist by the time the transmission line became ready for operation.
It will release research by consultancy ACIL Allen, which analysed 22 possible solutions to problems of intermittency in SA’s power grid that relies on intermittent power sources such as large-scale wind generation or solar rooftop panels for more than 40 per cent of its electricity.
The research considers several different interconnectors, including those from Victoria and NSW, the favoured option among state and federal energy ministers, suggesting all have serious drawbacks in terms of cost-effectiveness, construction time or reliability.
AEC chief executive Matthew Warren said a lack of co-ordinated electricity policy in Australia would mean the situation facing SA would become more widespread.
He said the challenge of building an interconnector with NSW, which SA electricity transmission firm ElectraNet estimates could cost up to $2.5bn and take up to 2022 to build, was the risk it would be delivered after coal-powered generators in the state had already begun to shut down.
The ACIL Allen analysis suggests one NSW-SA option would cost $3.05bn and decrease the power price in SA by 3.2 per cent, while a second would cost $400 million and reduce power bills by 1.9 per cent. Either, however, would take up to seven years to build.
“It’s harder than it looks … fixing the SA reliability and stability issue isn’t going to be inexpensive or easy,” Mr Warren said. “The challenge with the NSW interconnector is it has to be done as part of a national energy strategy and … be a viable solution every day of the week.
“At the moment you are connecting to ageing black-coal generators in NSW and relying on power from those generators that may not be there by the time the interconnector is finished.”
State energy ministers met federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg last month in response to a sudden loss of half of South Australia’s wind power in September, which led to a surge in demand for power from elsewhere, disconnecting the state from the National Energy Market as the Heywood interconnector with Victoria failed.
Energy ministers are due to meet again on Friday.
The ACIL Allen report considered upgrades to the Heywood interconnector, as well as installation of a similar facility known as Murraylink. Another option examined was connecting SA with Burnie in Tasmania or Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
The latter two options would take more than seven years to build, and cost $1.06bn and $2.46bn respectively, the report concluded.
It’s a disaster, to be sure. A fact quickly recognised by The Australian’s online readers:
At last, the penny drops!!!
The simple answer is for the South Australian voters to elect sensible people to run their state. Why should the rest of the country bail them out when the wind stops blowing. Building the interconnectors sounds like the desalination plants projects. Large scale, expensive and irrelevant.
So, SA government is so convinced about renewable energy that it will spend $3 billion on a back up plan for when it fails: good government at its best!!
Surely, if Weatherall is to be believed, that the outage in SA had nothing to do with the State’s 40% reliance on renewable generation and everything to do with the storm damage to transmission pylons, there is absolutely no basis or justification for a further interconnector, to NSW, Victoria, Tasmania (it is Burnie, surely?), or anywhere else?
Until the ACIL Allan report is available to the public it is not possible to understand why interconnectors, both AC and DC, are the solution; that is if they are the solution.
That said, the Heywood AC interconnector carries power, but it also carries ‘Spinning Reserve’ (SR), reactive power(var) and locks the grid frequency in SA to that in Victoria and NSW. The problem with carrying the Victorian grid frequency is that this disables the SR and UFLS in SA.
In the event of generation loss in SA, this is replaced instantaneously by SR on the Heywood interconnector which becomes a real power transfer. Overload the interconnector and it trips. I look forward to understanding how ACIL Allen deal with this issue.
@GiveA You have not commented on the deficiency of a DC link: it cannot support fault levels of any magnitude, nor significant frequency or voltage disturbances.
The Australian Comments