Wind Power Output Collapses Send Power Prices into Orbit: The World’s Biggest Joke Just Got Serious

Intermittent wind and solar are a natural guarantee of grid chaos and rocketing power prices. The debacle that started in the renewable energy ‘superpower’, also known as South Australia has broken the border and is spreading fast.

New South Wales is now being treated to a lesson on how increasing reliance on the ‘unreliables’ inevitably sends power prices into orbit.

The Australian’s Andrew White, has been the front man for renewables rent-seekers for years now, routinely running friendly puff pieces on wind and solar projects, with nary a hint of objective criticism. Hence his attempt to avoid the unavoidable in the piece below. STT deals with what Andrew fails to, further below.

Outages ‘result of renewables’
The Australian
Andrew White
9 June 2018

Generators at five of the six NSW coal-fired power stations were hit by outages heading into the long weekend, stripping about a third of the state’s capacity and spiking spot prices to a forecast high of $14,000 in the early evening.

Generation units at Vales Point, Tallawarra, Liddell, Bayswater and Mount Piper went offline this week due to planned and unplanned maintenance issues, with only Eraring, the state’s biggest and most modern, operating at full capacity.

The outages threatened a third day of shutdowns at the Tomago aluminium smelter, the state’s largest single energy user, to avoid multi-million-dollar losses on the high energy prices.

Tomago chief executive Matt Howell said Australia was at a crisis point with its energy system because it was losing baseload generation needed for heavy industry.

“This is a direct result of renewable energy hollowing out the baseload generation in this country,” Mr Howell said.

Since the closure of the Northern and Hazelwood coal plants only new wind and solar capacity had been built, but it was not suitable for heavy industry.

Tomago had to shut down one of its three aluminium potlines for 45 minutes on Tuesday evening and two others for an hour each on Thursday to avoid exposures to peak energy prices. The shutdowns reduced demand by 300MW.

Mr Howell said that at $14,000 per MWh — the maximum allowed in the National Electricity Market — it would cost $200,000 to make a tonne of aluminium and the plant would lose $5 million an hour.

“If we want to be a nation that makes things, rather than one that imports all of its needs, we must have internationally affordable and reliable energy — a system that can reliably deliver, independently of the weather,” Mr Howell said.

The Australian Energy Market Operator said NSW lost 3800MW of generation capacity this week, nearly a third of its 12,000MW installed coal generation capacity.

It coincided with overcast and low-wind weather that limited renewables generation and forced NSW to draw more heavily on power from Queensland and Victoria.

Spot prices calculated on five-minute intervals jumped to almost $300 in NSW, more than double the prices in other states, heading into the evening demand peak period.

It came in a week in which two of the three biggest retailers and generators, AGL Energy and ­Origin Energy, announced modest falls in retail electricity prices.

AEMO said the conditions did not lead to any “involuntary load shedding” — industry speak for blackouts.

“While a number of generating units in NSW were out of service due to planned maintenance, this had no impact on reserve conditions,” AEMO said in a statement.

“A further two unplanned forced outages, however, did ­result in 1320MW dropping out of the market and resulted in tighter reserve levels.”

One of the four 420MW generators at AGL’s Liddell plant will be out for up to six weeks, while a second unit has been “derated” to around two-thirds of its capacity so that it can operate safely.

Two of the 660MW units at the adjacent Bayswater plant have suffered boiler tube leaks that took them out of action at the same time as a third unit was out for scheduled maintenance

The founder of Global-Roam consultancy Paul McArdle said only 6000MW of NSW coal ­capacity was available yesterday, which was an improvement on Thursday, but about 2000MW less than at the same time last week.
The Australian

Liddell delivers on demand, not according to the weather.


Andrew White goes to great pains to imply that the reason power prices rocketed in NSW this week is that “coal-fired power stations were hit by outages”. Almost as an afterthought, White notes that these out ‘outages’ were due to “planned maintenance”; and that the price spikes “coincided with overcast and low-wind weather that limited renewables generation”.

It would be rude of STT not to dig a little deeper, starting with what happened in the spot market for power in NSW on 7 and 8 June 2018 (from the AEMO data dashboard).

On 7 June, at 5:30 PM and again at 6:30 PM, the spot price (depicted in dark blue) topped out at the regulated market cap of $14,200 per MWh.

NSW has 10 wind farms spread across the state with a notional capacity of 1,294 MW:

Here’s what they were up to on 7 June, care of Aneroid Energy:

Never topping more than 50% of their notional capacity, a fair proportion of NSW’s fleet of whirling wonders must have determined to take a little ‘unscheduled’ downtime, as the day wore on and demand rose (depicted as the feint grey line in the AEMO graphic).

During the critical time when power demand was rapidly increasing (5:30-6:30 PM), total wind power output in NSW was never more than 400 MW (or 31% of notional capacity) and – plummeted to an almost trivial 250 MW (or 19% of notional capacity).

The right side of the AEMO graphic above depicts the spot price for power on 8 June when, at 5:30 PM the spot price hit $14,000 per MWh.

Here’s how NSW’s wind farms were performing at the time:

During banking hours – 9 to 5 – the ‘team’ managed to muster up around 450 MW (but never more than 500 MW) (or between 34% and 38% of notional capacity).

As demand again increased (like clockwork) in the early evening – as householders fired up ovens, lights, heaters and air conditioners – wind power did just exactly the opposite of what’s expected from a power generation system: it collapsed, again.

Dropping – without warning – from 500 MW to 270 MW, just when grid managers needed it most, no sentient being would ever describe wind power generation as a ‘system’, at all. It is, of course, a patent nonsense.

No household, hospital, business, industry, transport system (think electric trains and trams), traffic control system, you name it, can operate around the vagaries of the weather.

Andrew White goes to great pains to pin the blame on maintenance work being carried out on NSW’s coal-fired power plant. However, as soon as the engineers have completed and certified their work on the boilers and generators in those plants, grid managers and power consumers, alike, can fully expect to have power as and when they need it from those plants. Plants that run like clockwork, just like the daily increases in power demand.

Now, at this point in our analysis, the wind cultist accuses STT of ‘cherry picking’ and starts rambling about the ‘wind always blowing somewhere’.

On Australia’s Eastern Grid, that ‘somewhere’ covers an area more than four times the area covered by the UK:

As depicted above, on the Eastern Grid Australia’s wind farms are located in 4 States – Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and NSW – and spread from: Hornsdale in the Mid-North, west to Cathedral Rocks on lower Eyre Peninsula and south to Millicent in the South-East of South Australia; down to Cape Portland (Musselroe) and Woolnorth (Cape Grim) in Tasmania; all over Victoria; and in New South Wales, at Broken Hill in the far west, and right up to Glen Innes in the New England Ranges.

There are over 1,800 turbines in 80 odd wind farms (which range from 20-30 turbine clusters right up to the largest collection of 140 at Macarthur in Western Victoria) – that are spread out over a geographical expanse of 961,335 km².

That’s an area which is 4.19 times the combined area of England (130,395 km²) Scotland (78,387 km²) and Wales (20,761 km²) of 229,543 km². Or 1.75 times the 551,394 km² covered by France.

Set out below is what the Eastern Grid’s entire ‘clean, green’ team (with a notional capacity of 4,980 MW) managed to produce during May.

Routinely collapsing in magnitudes of 2,000 to 3,000 MW – over the space of an hour or less – STT would like to see how Andrew White describes that kind of ‘performance’.

It’s hard to call it ‘scheduled downtime’. And suggesting that nature’s daily ‘outages’ are somehow ‘planned’ is a pretty fair stretch.

No, the only way to describe what’s set out below is pure and utter chaos.

Welcome to your wind powered future!

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Your comments are spot on STT. For unreliable, intermittent generation like wind and solar unplanned, unscheduled outages are a daily event as they contribute as best their pathetic 30% and 18% capacity factors allow.

    Conversely the newer base load coal generators, when allowed to run as they were designed to with uninterrupted access to the grid, once regularly achieved capacity factors of 90% plus.

    Not only that but that 10% down time was overwhelmingly comprised of time spent in scheduled maintenance outages, that is outages that could be planned to best suit normal, predictable customer load requirements. The stop-start operating regimes now being forced on the coal generators by the guaranteed access the RET market distortions bestow on uneconomic wind and solar generation, mean that high capacity factors (and low cost power) are no longer achievable by the coal generators.

    The distorted operating regimes forced by the RET have made coal generators unprofitable to operate which in turn has lead plant owners to defer costly maintenance expenditure, so reflecting on the reliability of those generators.

    Anomalies such as AGL’s exploitation of the ballooning lack of base load capacity with its game of ducks and drakes over the closure of Liddell won’t change things because no private, venture capitalist in their right mind would step in to risk the kind of money needed to build new base load capacity in an electricity market so distorted and at such high risk of ongoing capricious legislation based on fickle political whims.

    Base load plant closures such as we’ve seen recently in SA (Northern) and Victoria (Hazelwood) will gather pace, not withstanding Malcolm Turnbull’s “Magic Pudding” NEG which we’re told will be “technology neutral” but somehow nonetheless will lead to an increase in the penetration of renewables generation. Yeah right!

    The chickens are coming home to roost and things are only going to get worse, much worse.

  2. AGL at Macarthur somedays with good wind they are turned off then a few hours later they are roaring. I reckon once the price spikes they ramp them up. Pure profit seekers selling to the city folk saying wind is free fuel they certainly do alright out of it AGL that is not us, the sucker consumers.

  3. Graeme No. 3 says:

    If the AEMO demanded that generators had to bid to supply in 6 or 12 hour ‘blocks’ renewables would cease to operate. It is only by putting the cost of backup and the variations in output onto the (mainly) coal fired base thus increasing their maintenance and reducing their income that renewables can be profitable.

    In the meantime the subsidy thieves will claim that the price rises are the fault of the coal fired units.

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