Australia’s ‘Wind Power Capital’ – South Australia – Becomes the ‘Blackout State’

Wind powered capital: Adelaide 28.9.16


While STT was taking a well earned summer break, South Australians found themselves, yet again, groping around in the dark.

In the lead up to Christmas, South Australians living on its West Coast in places like Ceduna were left powerless for close to 3 days, said to be the result of storm damage to transmission lines and equipment.

Immediately after Christmas, huge swathes of South Australia found themselves without power for days on end.  We’ll start with a roundup from the ABC.

SA storms: Thousands still without power as businesses suffer losses in blackout
29 Dec 2016

Thousands of South Australian properties remain without power after a day of wild storms, as businesses count the costs of blackouts and lost trade.

Crews were continuing to repair widespread damage to the electricity distribution network caused by the torrential storm that hit South Australia late on Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning.

About 155,000 properties were blacked out at the peak of the storm and phones, internet services and traffic lights were also affected.

Many hotels and businesses across South Australia were forced to close on Wednesday as a result of the power outages.

District Council of Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter said ongoing blackouts in SA could result in the loss of life.

He said there had been eight blackouts, including three extended outages, in recent months.

One of those was just before Christmas.

“We’re having elderly people sweltering in heat without any means of keeping cool,” he said.

“We lose our communications. Someone could be the victim of a heart attack and there’s no means of summonsing urgent medical help.

“It is far past a joke and something needs to happen as a matter of urgency.”

Businesses losing money during blackouts

A statewide blackout that followed severe storms in September costs businesses $367 million, according to the peak business lobby group, Business SA, which called on the State Government at the time to secure electricity supplies.

Crystal Brook hotel publican Phil McSkimming in SA’s north said generators helped keep him serving drinks but not meals.

He said the only other local business open on Wednesday was a supermarket and the blackout had caused serious losses to the region’s economy.

“I was taking to the bloke that owns service stations around here and he’s pretty well frustrated,” Mr McSkimming said.

“They probably own around 36 service stations and only one of them has got a generator.”

Collinswood chicken shop owner Nasta Moukachar lost a large amount of stock at her chicken shop in Adelaide’s inner-north. She said the power only just came back on this morning. “We start all over again, waiting for new stock,” she said.  “It just feels like a mess and it’s an inconvenience. It’s very hard.”

Another storm front moved through the state’s north last night, with Port Augusta recording a wind gust of 126 kilometres per hour at 6:18pm and 25 millimetres of rainfall in less than 30 minutes. The town’s CBD was flooded with water.

On Thursday afternoon, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the North East Pastoral district. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicted heavy rain that could cause flash flooding in the outback, and damaging wind gusts of between 90km and 120km per hour.

The Australian picked up the thread with this piece.

SA Power Network to pay millions in blackout compo to customers
The Australian
Meredith Booth
30 December 2016

The owner of South Australia’s electricity distribution network will pay millions of dollars in compensation to customers, thousands of whom remained without power for a second day after a storm lashed the state on Wednesday.

A total of 155,000 households, almost 20 per cent of SA Power Networks’ customers, endured a prolonged blackout, with some not expected to switch the lights on until 4.15pm today, a 54-hour interruption.

Businesses closed their doors while calls on mobile phones and landlines, traffic signals and internet services were disrupted by the cuts.

SA Power Networks has made significant guaranteed service level payments this year to customers who have experienced “excessively long interruptions to supply” since storms damaged the grid in July, September, October and this week.

The payments of up to $605 for 48 hours without power, will be paid automatically to customers over the next few months.

The network operator deployed 600 workers yesterday to repair 1200 problems in the grid, mostly caused by fallen trees. Blackouts were in a wide arc of the state, ranging from Yadlamalka, 380km north of Adelaide, to Finnis, 80km south of the city.

While a statewide blackout on September 28 costs businesses $367 million, peak business lobby group Business SA was yet to estimate the cost of the latest blackouts to its members, many of whom had closed their doors, lost sales or thrown out refrigerated items such as produce, vaccines and medicines.

Simon Dawe, partner of Adelaide Hills chemist The Green Dispensary Pharmacy, said about $10,000 worth of medicines in five refrigerators were likely to be destroyed after an expected 38-hour blackout.

Two of three sites owned by Mr Dawe in the metropolitan area experienced power loss this week.

“The hard thing is these three days are three of the busiest days for us because everyone wants their discounted prescriptions before the PBS safety net deadline of December 31,” he said. “We can do 250 a day or one third of the month’s scripts this week.”

Lights remained out for 34,000 properties in the state yesterday.

A second storm front saw winds up to 126km/h recorded at Port Augusta and 104mm of rain in pastoral Mount Mary, 130km north east of Adelaide.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said the blackouts were the fourth serious blackouts experienced by South Australians this year.

“It’s time for this government to get off their hands and have a more reliable system in South Australia and more than that, a better response to the crises that are now enveloping South Australia,” he said.

Premier Jay Weatherill has said “no power system in the world” could “withstand a gumtree hitting a power line and dragging it to the ground”.
The Australian

Jay Weatherill: not a grid engineer …


Once heralded as Australia’s ‘wind power capital’, South Australia has become renowned worldwide for its power pricing and supply calamity: routine load shedding and statewide blackouts are now the norm.

The mass blackout on 1 November 2015:

SA 1 Nov 15

The 28 September 2016 blackout:


And the 1 December 2016 blackout:



– all had one thing in common: a precipitous collapse in wind power output.

That data is collected from the AEMO and helpfully compiled by the boys at Aneroid Energy. For anyone with a passing interest in South Australia’s current wind power calamity, a few clicks is all it takes to get behind wind industry spin and political obfuscation.

While there is no question that storm damage to transmission lines causes interruption to any power supply, South Australia is a place that relies heavily on the weather for its power supply. By way of contrast, neighbouring Victoria was battered by the same series of thunderstorms that buffeted SA but suffered hardly any power interruptions – in coal-fired Victoria, the blackouts were brief and isolated – more minor irritant than the life-threatening disaster that played out in wind ‘powered’ SA.

In both the ABC and The Australian articles reference is made to wind speeds of ‘90km and 120km per hour’ reaching ‘126km/h recorded at Port Augusta’.

As we have pointed out time and time again, these things will not operate when wind speeds exceed 25m/s or 90km/h.

That unassailable fact helpfully appears on German turbine maker, Siemen’s  website – which has this to say about the automatic shutdown of wind turbines when wind speeds hit 25m/s (90km/h):

Nature presents us with different kinds of challenges. High wind can create extremely high loads, and as a result wind turbines are normally programmed to shut down if the 10-minute mean wind speed exceeds 25 m/s. This may pose a significant challenge for the grid system – for example, if turbines in large wind farms shut down simultaneously.

It was precisely that feature that saw wind power output collapse on 28 September 2016, as wind speeds reached gale force across the State.

So with a little help from Aneroid Energy, let’s have a look at what SA’s 18 wind farms with a notional capacity of 1,576MW were doing during South Australia’s most recent statewide blackouts, starting with 27 December:


According to the ABC, power disappeared for most in SA with the storm that hit ‘late on Tuesday night [27 December] and into early Wednesday morning [28 December]’.

At around 11pm, SA’s wind power output was, for a few minutes, clocking a solid 1,200MW. However, within the space of less than two hours, output had collapsed by a whopping 850MW to around 350MW. Bear in mind, by way of comparison, one of South Australia’s last remaining base-load power plants, GDF Suez’s Pelican Point CCGT plant has a capacity of 485MW.

Here’s what occurred on 28 December:


On 28 December a rapid weather driven climb from 350MW to 1,300MW is followed by a meandering collapse to around 50 MW by midnight.

On 29 December, the picture again looked more like a roller-coaster designed by a madman, rather than anything associated with the secure and reliable supply of electricity.


While the same band of morally bankrupt idiots that pretend to run South Australia continue to defend the indefensible – treating with contempt anyone with the temerity to point to wind power as a possible cause of the most erratic power supply anywhere in Australia – grid engineers know different.

All things equal, a functioning grid requires stable, synchronous power generation which is something that wind power is not and will never be.

Moreover, wind turbines do not generate power independently of a stable supply delivered to them from the grid – generated by conventional sources: kill the grid supply and wind turbines go into lock-down; and, once there, are incapable of adding a single watt to the grid until conventional power sources have re-energised the grid – what’s termed a ‘black start‘ – only nuclear, fossil fuel or hydro generators have ‘black start’ capability.

With all eyes on SA and its clearly failed wind power experiment, we’ll re-run an earlier analysis, starting with this insight from the AEMO about what’s required to maintain the integrity of a functioning electricity grid. [Note that the term Power Electronic Converter (PEC) is the euphemism used for wind and solar power generation.]

Fact Sheet: System Strength

What is System Strength?
System strength is an inherent characteristic of any power system.

System strength is important as it can materially impact the way a power system operates.

System strength is usually measured by the available fault current at a given location or by the short circuit ratio (the ratio of the short circuit current at a point in the grid with the current at that point under open circuit conditions and with normal voltages).

Higher fault current levels are typically found in a stronger power system, while lower fault current levels are representative of a weaker power system.

A high fault level, or high currents following a fault, could be viewed as the generation on the grid responding strongly to the drop in voltage at the fault – trying to restore the situation. Similarly a high short circuit ratio at a point in the grid is a measure of the strength of the response to any faults in that area.

Fault currents vary around the grid both by location and by voltage level. The fault currents are higher in areas close to synchronous generation and lower in areas further away from this generation. System strength reduces with increasing amounts of power electronic converter (PEC) connected generation, along with the displacement of synchronous generation which contributes more to the fault current.

synchronous and wind turbines

What are the Characteristics of Strong and Weak Systems?

Power systems with a high quantity of on-line synchronous generation and very little PEC connected generation provide larger fault current and are categorised as strong systems. This is manifested by the ability of the power system to maintain stability in response to various types of disturbances.

Parts of the power system with PEC connected generation which are distant from synchronous generation are more likely to be weaker. Low system strength generally leads to increased volatility of network voltages during system normal and disturbance conditions. Low system strength can also compromise the correct operation of protection systems, and result in PEC connected generation systems disconnecting during disturbances.

Some weak systems are easy to identify, for example, an isolated part in the system with no nearby synchronous generation. In other parts of the power system where there is multiple concentrated PEC connected generation, weak systems can only be identified through complex power system studies conducted by engineers using detailed models.

Voltage Management in Strong and Weak Systems

Strong power systems exhibit better voltage control in response to small and large system disturbances. Weak systems are more susceptible to voltage instability or collapse.

Increasing Connection of PEC Generation (Wind Turbines)

Generation that is interfaced to the network using PECs requires a minimum system strength to remain stable and maintain continuous uninterrupted operation. Different types of converters use different strategies to match their output to the frequency of the system while maintaining voltage levels and power flows. In a weak system, these can fail to operate correctly through even relatively minor disturbances.

Operation of Protection Equipment in Weak Systems

While weak systems are not new to system operators, they are attracting greater attention following the rise of large scale PEC connected generation in the power system (more wind turbines. Protection equipment within power systems work to clear faults, prevent damage to network assets and mitigate risk to public safety.

Protection equipment may be triggered when the current following a fault exceeds the protection activation point, or by the impedance calculated from this current. Weak systems exhibit lower fault current relative to the strong networks. In a weak system, protective equipment which is programmed to activate on measured current or the ratio of measured voltage to current, could be susceptible to unintended operation or failure to operate.

Figure 1 – Current response from synchronous and PEC connected generation
Figure 1 – Current response from synchronous and PEC connected generation


So much for the principle and theory, now let’s take a look at an inherently ‘weak system’ – Australia’s ‘wind power capital’, South Australia:

SA Jul 16

The price of living with ‘PEC’ – ie trying to run on sunshine and breezes – is paid for with wrecked electrical appliances and – when the system shuts down to protect itself from wind power surges and collapses – the failure of whole local systems.

The latter has been part and parcel of life for commuters on Adelaide’s Seaford/Tonsley electric train line: South Australia – Wind Powered Train Wreck: Power Supply Chaos Strands Thousands of Commuters

While the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers keep talking about ‘integration’ of their beloved power source, the actual result is ‘disintegration’: of local systems within the grid; and collapses of the entire grid: Wind Industry’s Armageddon: Wind Farm Output Collapse Leaves 110,000 South Australian Homes & Businesses Powerless

In the video that follows, an electrical engineer, Andrew Dodson explains in detail the lunacy of trying to distribute wind power via a grid deliberately designed around on-demand generation sources.

STT recommends it to anyone with even the vaguest interest in how our electrical grid works (and that must now surely include anyone unlucky enough to hang their hat in South Australia).

At the simplest level, think of our distribution grid as akin to a mains water distribution system. In order to function, the pipes in such a system need to be filled at all times with a volume of water equal to their capacity and, in order to flow in the direction of a user, the water within the pipes needs to be maintained at a constant pressure.

Where a household turns on a tap, water flows out of the tap (in electrical terms “the load”); at the other end an equal volume of water is simultaneously fed into the system and pumps fire up to maintain the pressure within it (although gravity often does the work).

In a similar fashion, an electricity grid can only function with the required volume of electricity within it; maintained at a constant pressure (voltage) and frequency (hertz) – all of which fluctuate, depending on the load and the input.

What Andrew Dodson makes crystal clear is that these essential certainties (essential, that is, to maintaining a stable and functioning electricity grid) have been tipped on their head, as a result of the chaos delivered by wind power.



What Andrew has to say about wind power, in general, has special pertinence to Australians, not just South Australians.

The Federal Coalition government helped lock in a $45 billion electricity tax – which is to be directed at wind power outfits; and for no other purpose than to help them spear another 2,500 of these things all over the country.

And more so with Labor’s ‘Electricity’ Bill Shorten crowing louder than ever about a ludicrous 50% RET, the number would need to be in the order of 10-12,000 of them. Never mind the cost; and never mind what happens to the stability of the grid.

As Andrew Dodson points out, grid stability (frequency and load balancing) matters. Back in 2012, Australia’s Paul Miskelly (another highly experienced Electrical Engineer) ripped into the patent nonsense of wind power in his paper Wind Farms in Eastern Australia – Recent Lessons – published in the journal, Energy and the Environment. On the risk to grid stability from attempting to integrate intermittent and highly variable wind power output into Australia’s Eastern grid, Paul wrote:

On an electricity grid supply and demand must be maintained in balance on a second-by-second basis (AEMO, [6]). Kirby et al [7], for example, in discussing these fundamental concepts, state:

“Small mismatches between generation and load result in small frequency deviations. Small shifts in frequency do not degrade reliability or markets efficiency although large shifts can damage equipment, degrade load performance, and interfere with system protection schemes which may ultimately lead to system collapse.”

Bevrani et al [8] discuss control parameters and strategies in detail and stress that any degradation of electricity grid control system safety margins will result in frequent, unscheduled, widespread blackouts (“system collapse”). A recent German government report highlights the likely catastrophic consequences resulting from any such event.

In South Australia, wind power output fluctuations (rapid surges and precipitous collapses) mean that “the [massive] mismatches between generation and load result in [huge] frequency deviations” – with “widespread blackouts”; which has “degraded load performance”, and led to a dangerously unstable power supply.

STT’s operatives inform us that the wide range in supply voltage caused by wind fluctuations has seen the grid managers in SA (SA Power Networks) reduce the voltage running in the grid to 220 Volts (the Australian Standard is 240). Ordinarily, the system is set to operate at 230 Volts, allowing for normal – load driven – fluctuations above and below that level, such that the upper limit never exceeds 240. Surges above 240 Volts put appliances (especially electronics) at risk of permanent damage. Now, with massive wind power surges a daily feature of SA’s power supply, the grid operator is faced with frequent and rapid rises in voltage; and has adjusted the operating voltage downwards to accommodate it.

So far, so technical. But what really matters is having power whenever and wherever you need it – for many, a life-and-death matter.

During the mass blackout on 28 September, the politicians that put South Australia on the map (for all the wrong reasons) and the useful idiots in SA’s media that helped them, were all left sitting freezing in the dark, while they pondered where it all went wrong.

Back then, there were still a few in SA probably prepared to give wind power the benefit of the doubt, but with a run of blackouts through December and over the Christmas holidays they are unlikely to do so now.

Welcome to your wind powered future!

ICU Respiratory_therapist
Ahh, so you’re keen to know how the grid works, NOW!??

9 thoughts on “Australia’s ‘Wind Power Capital’ – South Australia – Becomes the ‘Blackout State’

  1. Andrew Dodson – Wow! Telling it like it is! First time I’ve seen the mess revealed. Also, note the value of hydro power (“pumping it up a hill”) as an efficient surge tank.

  2. Welcome back STT. What an extraordinary thing that even with the disaster unfolding in South Australia the wind power fantasists just ‘keep on keeping on’ ignoring reality and clutching at any excuse they can think of to blame anything but the root cause of the problem. I feel very sorry for the likes of Paul Miskelly and a few other actual experts who have been forced to live with banging their heads against brick walls for years and years and have been so totally vindicated by results but still receive no acknowledgement of having been correct all this time.The main reason for this, it seems to me, is that the big time noisy experts are not ‘experts’ at all but are computer modelling experts who have little, if any, real on the job experience. I recall the hubris of such individuals as associate professor Mark Diesendorf University of NSW. It is to these ‘experts’ our governments and administrators and journalists turn to for advice and guidance rather than the Paul Miskelly’s. Perhaps another amazing example of this is the new CSIRO chief who the government has appointed to head its enquiry into energy security- Alan Finkel, who has a degree in electrical engineering, but is a great fan of ‘renewable energy’ and apparently has little interest in calling ‘wind farms’ to account. In the USA Trump is apparently ‘draining the swamp’ of establishment ‘experts’ and starting afresh – until that happens here it will remain ‘the same old same old’.

  3. STT are right in their explanation describing how a grid works

    Put simply power generation requires a constant pressure
    a) Hydro. Weight of water behind the dam
    b) Coal or gas fired. The pressure of the steam boiler

    The generation industry knows through years of experience there are peak loads ie when people rise for work in the mornings and switch on jugs and toasters and when they return home from work to cook the evening meal and of course extra in the winter for heating.

    Power stations operate with a constant pressure and the power stations adjust the generation by as in the hydro through adjusting the sluice gate or in the coal/gas stoking the boiler.

    In fact the adjustment to meet supply and demand is very critical and complex and power stations are constantly making adjustments. The public have to realise power generation is very complex. Wind does not fit in.

    Any idiot can understand there is no constant pressure with wind. The wind is all over the place doing its own thing. How is a generator supposed to meet extra demand as the wind drops. It can’t. Jay Weatherill are you paying attention?.

    Windmills do not work

    Windmills do not belong to the grid

    Which raises the question. Why is Jay Weatherill seemingly not embarrassed. In fact he is all to ready to come up with excuses.

    Weatherill is obviously being fed some very dodgy information and possibly believes all the problems are teething issues.

    What will it take for Weatherill and Co to realise these problems are only going to get worse and to think they dynamited a power station. Someone should be going to gaol.

    Apparently a trade union has a couple of billion invested in wind farms. Unbelievable. Talk about psychotic.

    1. Weatherill has been involved in the cause of the Wind Industry for many years. He approved a project when he was Planning Minister even though his own Department advised against it. This project was one which then Premier Mike Rann declared he had a Conflict of Interest in, because his brother was involved with it.
      Weatherills failure to accept advice continues, as he has been advised of the dangers of relying on Wind to supply our energy needs and continues to ignore such advise. He now has unrefuted evidence of the inability of the Grid to cope with intermittent wind energy, he has standout evidence that turbines fail to operate when the wind speeds are too high or too low, yet he ignores this evidence. He even ignores the cry’s of those suffering ill health as a result of living too close to these things. Yet Weatherill is obviously a man stumbling through he time as Premier with his eyes and ears shut and his brain turned off.
      Its that, or he’s a puppet being manipulated by people unseen but perhaps with reasons of their as to why this industry should still be given high priority and support.
      You have to wonder how not only the Premier but a whole Government could be so stupid as to continue to accept advise from those who have proved to be SO WRONG which has led SA down a path of destruction.
      Lets hope other States wake up and cut the puppeteers strings before they too join SA on the road to self destruction.

  4. Welcome back, STT.

    You didn’t have to search for material for your first post!

    Yet again you patiently (or perhaps not) explain the grid system, and we are pleased to see the reprise of Andrew Dodson’s excellent video which we’ve highlighted in our intro for those who haven’t seen it.

    What is so hard for politicians – not just yours; they don’t have the monopoly on wilful blindness – to understand?

  5. I don’t often agree with the ABC television’s media watch program however I did agree when it’s host suggested recently that today’s journalism is more an exercise in Public Relations rather than any form of investigative journalism.

    Take for example today’s Adelaide Advertiser it runs an article (page 55 business daily section) on how a straw biomass plant coupled with wind and solar could supply the SA governments procurement for 75% of its power needs.

    No critical analysis from the reporter, just a spruik from a desperate developer who has the hide to say the Ceres wind farm will go ahead by June this year.

    No wonder the once proud state of SA has been trashed.

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