Just Deserts: Wind Power Outfits Sued For Causing South Australia’s Statewide Blackout

On 28 September 2016, the automatic shutdown of wind turbines in South Australia during a spring storm delivered a statewide ‘system black’.

South Australia’s hapless Premier, Jay Weatherill led the wind industry’s propaganda charge, claiming that the collapse of a couple of power pylons in the state’s mid-North was what done it.

The collapse of a single transmission line could never has caused the collapse of the State’s entire power supply, but that didn’t stand in the way of a good pro-wind power PR story. The rest of the State’s transmission lines remained untroubled by the strong winds.

South Australia’s fleet of whirling wonders, did not fare so well, because they were never designed to. STT’s report on the story was posted before dawn the following day: Another Statewide Blackout: South Australia’s Wind Power Disaster Continues

Predictably, the renewable lobby went ballistic, as did plenty in the mainstream press.

The line was spun that wind power could do no wrong and that the whole debacle was caused by coal-eating, climate deniers.

In response, Weatherill’s Labor government squandered $815 million on Elon Musk’s mega-battery and 276MW of inefficient open cycle turbines, which chew up 80,000 L of diesel an hour; and blew up SA’s last coal-fired power plant at Port Augusta, to prove a point. [Note to Ed: if they were out to prove that the state was run by deluded lunatics, point proved!]

Well, 3 years on and the Australian Energy Regulator has taken a different stance, and one more closely aligned to STT’s reporting of what happened.

The AER is taking the stick to those responsible, suing Tilt Renewables, Neoen SA, Pacific Hydro and AGL for the chaos and havoc caused when their turbines shutdown in high winds, precisely as they are designed to do.

Here’s some coverage from The Australian.

Lawsuit tells wind farms: cut the hot air
The Australian
Graham Lloyd
8 August 2019

Legal action against Australia’s biggest wind farm operators provides a test case for the federal government’s push to force ­renewable energy suppliers to ­deliver what they promise.

The Australian Energy Regulator yesterday started proceedings in the Federal Court against subsidiaries of AGL Energy, Neoen SA, Pacific Hydro and Tilt Renewables for alleged breaches of the National Electricity Rules.

Each of the companies had allegedly failed to maintain generator performance standards leading to a statewide blackout in South Australia in September 2016. The wind companies have said they will defend the claim but, if successful, the action could lead to class actions against the companies for millions of dollars in damages.

Approximately 850,000 customer connections in SA lost power on the day, which saw a cascading failure after a severe storm hit the state. The blackout, known as a “black system event”, affected the entire state network and was acknowledged as the most significant market event since the establishment of the National Electricity Market 20 years ago.

It has led to greater scrutiny of the amount of renewable energy that can be put into the electricity system without back-up.

AER said the companies carried some responsibility for the cause and scale of the blackout because they had failed to ensure the wind farms had sufficient protections and “ride-through” capabilities during system interruptions.

A review of the blackout found that severe weather had damaged transmission and distribution ­assets, resulting in voltage disturbances on the network.

The rapid series of voltage changes caused several wind farms, generating about 456MW, to shut down. Sudden loss of wind generation caused the Haywood Interconnector between South Australia and Victoria to trip, separating South Australia from the rest of the NEM. The state was without electricity supply for ­almost five hours.

In a statement announcing the Federal Court action, AER chairwoman Paula Conboy said the proceedings had been taken “to send a strong signal to all energy businesses about the importance of compliance with performance standards to promote system sec­urity and reliability”.

“These alleged failures contributed to the black system event,” Ms Conboy said.

A spokesman for Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the action was being taken by the regulator, not the government. “The AER makes its decisions independent of government,” he said.

The action is considered a strong warning of the federal government’s determination to enforce a reliability obligation on renewable energy providers.

“New generation needs to be properly integrated,” Mr Taylor said. “It needs to perform, particularly in circumstances that are tough, like we saw at the end of 2016 in South Australia. It also means that solar and wind need to be backed up appropriately, so when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, customers know that when they flick the switch, the lights come on.”

The Clean Energy Council said the legal action was “disappointing” and would “reignite misleading claims that wind farms were responsible for the events in 2016”.

AGL yesterday called the allegations “highly technical” and said it believed it had complied with its legal obligations but would consider its position. In a statement to the New Zealand stock exchange, Tilt said it believed it had “acted in good faith”.
The Australian

Angus Taylor says Australia Energy Regulator doing its job with court action against SA wind farms
The Australian
Richard Ferguson
7 August 2019

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says Australia’s energy regulator is doing its job by taking four wind farm operators to court, saying wind farms need to be backed up and perform during severe weather.

Heavy weather left more than 850,000 homes and businesses in the southern state without power in September 2016, and sparked a national conversation about the reliability of wind farms in providing baseload power.

Australian Energy Regulator chairwoman Paula Conboy said today the AER will take AGL, Neoen SA, Pacific Hydro and Tilt Renewables to the Federal Court and alleged they breach the National Energy Rules.

Mr Taylor would not go into the details of the cases but said the AER was doing its job in enforcing energy rules. He also said wind farms were fine, but needed to be “properly integrated.”

“850,000 South Australians were in darkness as a result of that event … part of the reason it happened, we know, is the wind farms were not generating as they should have,” Mr Taylor told Adelaide’s 5AA radio.

“People are going to bring wind and solar farms into the system, that’s fine, but they have to be properly integrated.

“They have to be backed up so that when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, we have the power we need to keep the lights on, to keep the wheels of industry turning. And they have to perform.

“We expect those rules to be kept and the AER’s jobs is to ensure those rules are kept. And that’s what they are doing here.”

Announcing the court action earlier, Ms Conboy said: “The AER has brought these proceedings to send a strong signal to all energy businesses about the importance of compliance with performance standards to promote system security and reliability.

“These alleged failures contributed to the black system event, and meant that AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) was not fully informed when responding to system wide failure in South Australia in September 2016.

“Providing timely and accurate information to AEMO is critical in ensuring power system security and the effective operation of the wholesale energy markets,” Ms Conboy said.

The AER will allege each of the wind farm operations failed to ensure their power plants complied with performance requirements to ride-through tough weather conditions, and failed to provide automatic protection systems to deal with voltage disturbances.

A key AEMO report in 2017 highlighted the problems with South Australia’s high level of renewable generation, finding that control settings on wind farm turbines led to last September’s statewide blackout in South Australia.

AMEO found wind farm settings “responding to multiple disturbances … led to the Black System”.

This is despite then-South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill repeatedly insisting that renewables had not contributed to any blackouts in the state.

A number of the wind farm operators have responded to the court action this morning. AGL said it would review the allegations against three of its wind farms.

“AGL has previously stated that it considers that it has complied with its legal obligations in relation to the events of 28 September 2016 but will review the allegations made by the AER and consider its position,” an AGL spokesman said.

Tilt Renewables today said it is believed its Snowtown 2 Wind Farm acted within the national electricity rules.

“Snowtown 2 Wind Farm believes it acted in good faith and in accordance with the applicable National Electricity Rules, and the company will continue to engage with the AER in an endeavour to resolve this matter,” a Tilt Renewables spokesman said.
The Australian

Regulator’s verdict on blackout is an ill wind for industry
The Australian
Graham Lloyd
8 August 2019

Despite industry pleadings, there can now be no doubt that renewable energy failure was at the heart of South Australia’s statewide blackout that cost households and industry millions and transformed Australia’s energy debate.

The “system black event”, the worst blackout in the 20-year history of the National Electricity Market, exposed the fragility of the system to high levels of intermittent renewable energy without back-up.

Most analysis then centred on the fierce storm that caused havoc to transmission lines. The most-used image was of a twisted electricity pylon that detailed analysis showed probably collapsed after power had been lost.

In its Federal Court action yesterday, the Australian Energy Regulator sheeted the blame for the power loss to wind power.

The generators had allegedly “failed to provide automatic protection systems to enable them to ride through voltage disturbances to ensure continuity of supply”.

When voltage levels moved erratically, wind farms shut down. After power was lost, the link to Victoria tripped and all power was lost.

The AER said wind power had directly contributed to the system black event.

The actual failings are very technical in nature and became relevant only because of the extreme nature of the events on the day.

They have been easily fixed.

Yet just as the South Australia blackout peeled back the covers on what intermittent energy sources can mean for grid stability, the court case will have wider implications for solar and wind going forward.

As a result, the wind companies involved can be expected to mount a vigorous defence.

The potential damage goes well beyond the potential losses of tens of millions of dollars in legal costs and penalties of up to $100,000 per contravention, which allegedly extended for months before the event.

A loss for wind companies will open the door to damages claims by companies and individuals that lost electricity supplies and money during the event.

Most pressing will be the determination shown by the AER to ensure that intermittent wind can be considered a reliable form of power.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor is pushing hard with a reliability obligation for generators to ensure that they can be depended upon, and this will mean bigger investment in storage and fast-response generators to cover them.

It could tip the scales back in favour of future investment in some traditional sources of baseload power.
The Australian

It is now a given that the forced shut down of 315MW of wind power output caused the complete collapse of SA’s grid, and it is unarguable that wind turbines were shut down as wind speeds increased on Wednesday, 28 September.

In a cascade of events, the progressive and rapid shutdown of turbines – due to high wind speeds – caused a drop in voltage across that part of the grid dominated by wind turbines in SA’s mid-North, and the resulting drop in voltage triggered the turbines’ on board control systems to shut down to prevent a loss of control.

As to the automatic shut down of turbines due to high wind speeds, take Tilt Renewable’s Snowtown 1, for example; which we have isolated in the graph above – care of Aneroid Energy.

The reason why 315MW of wind power output went missing, as STT followers are well aware, is that wind turbines automatically shut down when wind speeds exceed 25m/s (90km/h, 55mp/h or 48 knots), which it most certainly did on Wednesday, 28 September 2016.

At 9:00 am, Snowtown 1 is merrily producing close to 100% of its installed capacity of 99 MW. On 28 September one thing that South Australia wasn’t short of was wind, which reached gale force across the State, without relent: the hills at Snowtown were being buffeted by wind clocking over 100km/h throughout the day.

Notwithstanding an abundance of wonderful ‘free’ wind energy it was a complete ‘down tools’ at Snowtown 1 at 10:30am – with no return to work until 3:00pm; and then only for a 40MW spurt lasting a few minutes. That minor spurt occurred about 35 minutes before the entire grid went down. At 6:30pm there was another burst of activity, until just before 9:00pm; but, apparently the wind got the better of them, and Snowtown 1 was out for the rest of the day.

Wind turbines do not supply themselves with power to operate their internal control systems, that comes from the grid; and when the grid collapsed there was no power to control turbines, such that they could not be restarted even if the operators wanted to.

Here’s some of what STT posted the morning after:

STT’s SA operatives tell us the blackout occurred during a blustery spring storm (heavy rain, lightning and surging, gusty wind). The power supply went down across the entire State at precisely the same time (a little after 3:30pm). It took more than 5 hours to restore power to a few parts of the State, and many regions remained powerless for much longer than that.

True it was that lines were damaged in the mid-North around Port Augusta, but that doesn’t explain why the whole State’s supply went down. Grids are designed with a level of redundancy, and to avoid complete collapses by isolating damaged sections, in order to keep the balance up and running.

For those truly interested in the cause, what appears in the graph above – care of Aneroid Energy – gives a clue as to the culprit.

SA’s 18 wind farms have a combined (notional) capacity of 1,580MW.

On 28 September (aka ‘Black Wednesday’), as the wind picked up, output surges by around 900MW, from a trifling 300MW (or 19% of installed capacity) to around 1,200MW.

As we explain below, electricity grids were never designed to tolerate that kind of chaos, but it’s what occurs in the hour before the collapse that matters.

From a peak near 1,200MW, there are drops and surges in output of around 250-300MW (equivalent to having the Pelican Point Combined Cycle Gas plant switched on and off in an instant).

At about 2:30pm there is an almost instantaneous drop of 150MW (1,050 to 900MW), followed by a rapid surge of around 250MW, to hit a momentary peak of about 1,150MW.

Then, in the instant before the blackout, wind power output plummets to around 890MW: a grid killing collapse of 260MW, that occurs in a matter of minutes (it’s all happened before, as we detail below). That 260MW collapse was the deliberate result of an automatic shutdown of the wind farms based in SA’s mid-North, located in the path of the storm front: the final and total collapse in SA’s power supply follows immediately thereafter.

In a repeat of what occurred on 1 November last year, that sudden, unpredictable drop in wind power output placed an exponentially increasing load on the interconnectors that supply SA with meaningful base-load power from Victoria’s coal-fired plant in the Latrobe Valley. The interconnectors, faced with rapidly increasing loads, that fast exceeded their thermal limits, shut down as a means of self-protection (for detail on the 1 November event – see our post here). There followed a complete collapse of the grid in SA.

Wind turbines produce no power at all until the wind speed reaches a constant 5-6m/s; when the wind really gets blowing and hits around 25m/s – as it did on 28 September – turbines automatically shut down to protect themselves from permanent structural damage: 11 tonne blades being flung about the countryside isn’t just a PR nightmare, it tends to impact on the unit’s operational capacity thereafter.

In the aftermath there was plenty of waffle about the system shutting down to ‘protect itself’: indeed it did.

But it was SA’s mid-North wind farms that were in damage control. Neigbouring Victoria was also battered by the same storm, but – perhaps due to the fact that it chugs along with ample capacity from reliable coal-fired plant and has a tiny amount of wind power capacity by comparison with SA – didn’t suffer anything like SA’s date with the Dark Ages.

During the blackout and in its aftermath, STT’s site was inundated by hits from South Australians looking for answers (no doubt on half-charged smart phones, while sitting freezing in the dark); using search terms such as: sa blackout cause; sa vic interconnector problems; south australia blackouts; south australia in turmoil; sa blackout wind responsible; sa premier blackouts; and south australia electricity chaos.

For those South Australians still looking on the internet (power supply permitting) for answers as to why their grid collapses on a regular basis, here is a primer on power generation for dummies.

There are 3 electricity essentials – that the power source and its delivery to homes and businesses be: 1) reliable; 2) secure; and 3) affordable. Which means that wind power – a wholly weather dependent power source, that can’t be stored and costs 3-4 times the cost of conventional power – scores NIL on all three counts.

As the wind power calamity unfolds in South Australia, all comers (including mainstream media hacks) are starting to take an interest in electricity generation which – before South Australia’s recent experience of statewide blackouts, routine load shedding and skyrocketing power prices – was something that the last few generations of Australians have taken for granted.

In the aftermath, STT predicted that there would be litigation pursued against the wind power outfits responsible. The immediate cost to South Australian households and businesses was in the order of $370,000,000: South Australia’s September Wind Power Blackout Cost Businesses & Households $367 Million

Now the Australian Energy Regulator has finally decided to pursue the culprits, the same class of clowns who told us it had nothing to do with wind power, at all.

Welcome to your wind powered future!

Wind ‘powered’ Adelaide: where the future is now…

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. In a cascade of events, the progressive and rapid shutdown of turbines – due to high wind speeds

    That happens not to be the case.

    If you read through the excellent post event studies by the AEMO, you will see that the turbine shutdowns were not directly due to the high wind but the collapse of some transmission tower. What this did was to introduce a distinct perturbation in the grid frequency/voltage (since they go hand in hand for AC systems) which exceeded the trip limits of some of the wind farms and caused them to go offline. The remaining wind farms than had their limits exceeded and tripped causing a larger frequency dip which THEN caused the generation shortfall and the subsequent overloading of the Heywood interconnector. All this happened over the course of about 2 seconds.The incident analysis is comprehensive and beautifully written and presented (from an engineers’ POV)

    https://www.aemo.com.au/-/media/Files/Electricity/NEM/Market_Notices_and_Events/Power_System_Incident_Reports/2017/Integrated-Final-Report-SA-Black-System-28-September-2016.pdf

    It can be argued that the partial blackouts in Victoria and South Australia last January were caused by generation shortfalls due to low wind, just as the recent UK partial blackout was almost certainly caused by a sudden drop in wind across a medium sized (for the UK) windfarm.

    Reliance on wind and other intermittent sources only serves to enrichen those involved in deploying and running the things at the expense of destroying reliability and decent pricing but let’s be precise about the issues.

    • Sorry, that should have been

      What this did was to introduce a distinct perturbation in the grid frequency/voltage (since they go hand in hand for AC systems) which exceeded the trip limits of some of the wind farms and caused them to go offline. This caused a larger frequency dip which exceeded the limits of the remaining wind farms and these THEN tripped causing the large generation shortfall and the subsequent overloading of the Heywood interconnector. All this happened over the course of about 2 seconds.The incident analysis is comprehensive and beautifully written and presented (from an engineers’ POV)

    • It not only happens to be the case, the example from Snowtown 1 at 9.30am, 6 hours before the system black, shows precisely that: an automatic shut down of turbines with wind speeds in excess of 90kmh, they were over 110kmh at Snowtown then. Turbines shut down automatically at 25m/s or 90kmh and that’s a fact. The AEMO IS the wind industry, but if you’re ready to accept the wind industry’s analysis, that’s a matter for you.

  2. David O'Neill says:

    Whilst it is my hope this action has teeth, I have a worry. Would your energy regulator not have had some oversight in the original setup, therefore a degree of complicity?
    For example it could be argued that a more effective due diligence from the regulator was appropriate?
    My fear is that it would induce a taming of the action.
    Apologies in advance for the negativity. I suppose you can tell I have had a few disappointments in the past from such bodies in my own neck of the woods.

  3. Jacqueline Rovensky says:

    I’ve just put a comment on the previous story, but it is also relevant to this one. They CANNOT with certainty ensure the security of our energy supply when they rely on things that can be so easily interrupted – damaged by a storm.
    These things have so many faults and problems associated with this industry, why the hec cannot those with the ability to stop the nightmare continue to support it.
    What is needed is a very quick turnaround with support for other energy production facilities until acceptance of Nuclear plants and their construction has begun.
    That may be at a time when many of these Turbines are coming to the end of their use-by date, so we need to ensure there is no delay in starting the process, and have to put up with the inhuman and environmentally damaging ‘renewable’s’ for some time to come, because unfortunately this country has been manoeuvred into a situation where we are without secure energy production sources to move forward with expansion of our employment and industrial industries due to a lack of energy production and supply.
    We are holed-up for a decade or more having to live without energy at the whim of the structures we hate and we have to stand by and watch our wonderful environment decay before our eyes.
    Welcome to the Lucky Country – but only for the investors in the nightmare we have to live with.

  4. Stench on North Terrace says:

    With exquisite timing, the hapless SA Liberal ministers Null and Pelican earlier this week have) approved (quietly under the national radar- what are they afraid of?) another wind farce in South Australia in the Southern Flinders Ranges near the town of Crystal Brook. (Haplessness is a bipartisan affair) The wind farce proponent is Neoen, the same company named only days later in legal moves by AER to seek accountability for the statewide SA power blackout debacle. Whatever were HAPLESS Dan and Stephan thinking??? Were they thinking??? They certainly were not thinking of the good burghers of Crystal Brook who now are set to be guinea pigs in a sonic torture experiment D&S have authorised and/or supported. There truly is something rotten with politicians (of all persuasions) on North Terrace when it comes to intermittent unreliable toxic industrial wind. The burning question persists as to whether it is wind-fall money that is clouding their judgement, whether virtue signalling about intermittent unreliable unaffordable industrial wind mills is perceived as buying them bucket loads of votes, or whether they just do not care about the well-being of their fellow citizens. It is plain they exist in an ethics free zone. Perhaps it is all of the above- it certainly smells like it, and it is not just what is stuck to the sole of their shoes. It is the stench of an ill wind they themselves have created. Perhaps the journalists at the Australian could start sniffing around…

  5. Son of a goat says:

    Oh dear me, I see a million people in England were affected by a large power outage involving a gas generator an offshore wind farm in stormy conditions last Friday night in rush hour.

    How long peoples is it before the penny drops?

    • Yes it was very similar to the last load shedding event triggered by a dual failure a decade ago when a nuclear station and a coal station tripped in quick succession.

      Our National Grid appears not to have learnt the lesson from that to make the system dual-failure tolerant.

      From both events, it looks like the system can’t handle a >1.5GW drop-out, so what will happen when/if Hinkley Point C comes online and one day drops its 2×1.6GW from the supply – such load shedding is likely to become more frequent.

  6. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  7. Reblogged this on Climate- Science.press.

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