Wind Power Chaos: There When You Don’t Need It – Never There When You Do

Well, you said you wanted to rely on the weather …

 

It’s no news to sailors, that the wind is never there when you need it and often there when you don’t. Coal-fired steamships took the guesswork out of Maritime navigation, ensuring passengers and cargo arrived safely, promptly and on schedule.

Bucking the trend set by the Industrial Revolution, Australia’s wind power capital, South Australia blew up its last coal-fired power station in 2017.

With 1,929 MW of wind power capacity, SA has the greatest reliance on chaotically delivered wind power of any state in Australia. It suffers the world’s highest power prices as a result.

The South Australian economy is on the skids, with its once dominant motor manufacturing industry a fading memory, and mining and mineral processors struggling under the weight of skyrocketing power prices. The best and brightest have long vacated, leaving an ageing and moribund population. With tens of thousands of households unable to afford power, declining industry and a shrinking population, electricity demand has fallen.

When breezes turn to bluster, SA has more wind power than it can safely handle. Unable to dump it on neighbouring states – in order to avoid further repeats of its mass load shedding events and statewide blackout – wind power generators are forced to shut down and limit their output, as JoNova details below.

More wind and solar than SA can use — we threw away 10% of the generation
Jo Nova Blog
Jo Nova
2 January 2018

South Australians have so much wind power, too much, that in Quarter 3 last year the AEMO had to intervene to cut off excess wind and solar generation. Ever since the Great Blackout of 2016 new rules mean that there must be enough back up power running to cope with the fickle vagaries of intermittent energy. (Obviously, this wasting of sacred green electrons wouldn’t need to happen if people weren’t so persnickety about blackouts!)

This graph is from the Quarter 3 AEMO report for 2018. It is technically about both wind and solar, but it appears to be mostly wind. Solar is not a star player in Q3 because it’s winter.

Would we put up with any other industrial output that had such a dismal performance. Imagine this was your car….

AEMO Quarter 3 report page 7

 

Synchronous generation is the kind that comes from machines that spin at 50 Hz (like coal, gas, hydro, nukes). These keep the system stable. Happy happy hertz.

But ten percent of all the wind and solar power had to be thrown away in SA because there wasn’t enough reliable back up power to guarantee the stability of the system.

During Q3 2018, total curtailments of non-synchronous generation (large-scale wind and solar farms) in South Australia increased to around 150 GWh (or 10% of South Australian non-synchronous generation) (Figure 6), with curtailment occurring for 26% of the time during the quarter. This was the highest amount on record and around 70 GWh higher than the next highest quarter (Q3 2017). Key drivers were record high wind generation (Section 1.3.4) and insufficient synchronous generators being available to meet system strength requirements.

The reliable generators had gone home for the day (so to speak) because they couldn’t make enough money in a screwed market where intermittent and unsynchronised electricity is preferentially subsidized. So in order to make up for the damage done by a subsidy designed to drive fossil fuels out of business, we added another subsidy to keep them running. As you would.

The extra subsidy to counter the first subsidy cost $7m that quarter.

We may have the illusion of free market competition but increasingly the government controls more and more of the industry.

“Fascism is an economic system in which the government controls the private entities that own the factors of production.” Antifa, where are you?

Over the quarter, AEMO intervened on multiple occasions to direct synchronous generation to remain online to ensure adequate system strength in South Australia and thereby maintain the grid in a secure operating state. On average, directions were in place for around 40% of the time during the quarter (Figure 5), with a cost of $7.4 million, which was $0.35 million higher than the prior quarter. This compares with directions in place for 50% of the time in Q2 2018 and 30% in the period since the system strength unit combinations were introduced in September 2017. Key drivers of system strength directions during the quarter included periods of relatively low prices (<$50/MWh) and high wind output (>1,100 MW) which resulted in synchronous generators seeking to decommit from the market for commercial reasons

After the SA system black, the AEMO brought in new rules which “… allow for wind to go up to 1200MW without restriction if three gas units are operating, and beyond 1200MW if four are offline.”

No wonder the renewables team want us to buy them a big Interconnector.

REFERENCES: AEMO Quarterly Energy Dynamics, report. Q3 2018
Jo Nova Blog

Torrens Island: powering SA with ever-dependable gas.

 

JoNova picks up the September 2016 blackout (aka ‘Black Wednesday’) when the whole State of SA went black. A sudden collapse in wind power output during a vigourous spring storm (wind turbines automatically shut down in high winds) delivered what’s known as a ‘system black’.

The response was, as JoNova points out, ‘curtailment’ – capping wind power output well below what might be generated without that limitation, as mentioned above SA’s total notional wind power capacity is 1,929 MW.

The target ‘curtailment’ figure is 1,280 MW, which is the capacity of AGL’s Torrens Island gas-steam power plant, situated near Port Adelaide, to the north-west of Adelaide’s CBD.

After Black Wednesday, AEMO determined that it was a whole lot safer to have no more wind power in the system than could be matched by the total capacity of Torrens Island.

By capping wind power output at 1,280 MW, any sudden and total collapse could be accommodated by spinning reserve held by the Torrens Island Power station.

Spinning reserve involves a thermal power plant burning fuel (ie coal or gas) to generate steam, maintaining pressure in its boilers, so that the plant in question can come online and throw power into the grid in a split second.

Before the chaos delivered by wind and solar, spinning reserve represented a small proportion of a thermal generator’s capacity, and was held largely to accommodate generally predictable increases in load (ie demand). These days, however, that proportion has necessarily grown to accommodate total and totally unpredictable collapses in wind power output, as well as sunset, which, funnily enough, has an equally crushing effect on solar power output.

In the graphics below – care of Aneroid Energy – the effect of AEMO’s curtailment rules on wind power operators in SA’s made plain. We selected July, August and September which are the months referred to by JoNova. Apart from a couple of very brief occasions, wind power output is never permitted to exceed the regulated curtailment figure of 1,280 MW – 649 MW less than SA’s total notional wind power capacity.

Of course, with AGL burning gas at Torrens Island to maintain spinning reserve in any event, it begs the question: why bother with heavily subsidised and chaotically intermittent wind power, in the first place?

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Ertimus J Waffle says:

    This is what was always going to happen. Keeping the Coal fired or in this case gas fired reliable base load power stations running inefficiently to back up the costly unreliable intermittent renewable power. It all works fine instead of having one system we now have two systems running in parallel, perfect as long as the planet is saved by having renewable energy, it all makes sense. If the Greens and Climate Change morons had a brain they could see the stupidity in the present set up but alas that is the reason they believe in the greatest HOAX of all time. It’s like governments paying people to stop roads being built. We can hope that in the near future the same governments will pay people not to work, oops sorry we have politicians filling that role already.

  2. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak and commented:
    It’s no news to sailors, that the wind is never there when you need it and often there when you don’t. Coal-fired steamships took the guesswork out of Maritime navigation, ensuring passengers and cargo arrived safely, promptly and on schedule.

    Bucking the trend set by the Industrial Revolution, Australia’s wind power capital, South Australia blew up its last coal-fired power station in 2017.

    With 1,929 MW of wind power capacity, SA has the greatest reliance on chaotically delivered wind power of any state in Australia. It suffers the world’s highest power prices as a result.

    The South Australian economy is on the skids, with its once dominant motor manufacturing industry a fading memory, and mining and mineral processors struggling under the weight of skyrocketing power prices. The best and brightest have long vacated, leaving an ageing and moribund population. With tens of thousands of households unable to afford power, declining industry and a shrinking population, electricity demand has fallen.

    When breezes turn to bluster, SA has more wind power than it can safely handle. Unable to dump it on neighbouring states – in order to avoid further repeats of its mass load shedding events and statewide blackout – wind power generators are forced to shut down and limit their output, as JoNova details below.

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