Sunset Industry: Solar Power Obsession Threatens to Destroy Western Australia’s Power Grid

When power demand is driven by the rhythm of human activity and its supply by the angle of the sun in the sky, expect mixed results.

Of course, when the sun drops over the horizon and disappears for 10-12 hours or so, those claiming to depend on solar power can expect none at all.

Then there’s the drops and surges in voltage and frequency that follow the passage of clouds over those millions of shiny panels.

Western Australia shares the nation’s obsession with heavily subsidised solar power and is starting to pay the price. Not least because the chaotic delivery of solar power is threatening to destroy its once wholly reliable electricity grid, as JoNova details below.

Jeopardy: What happens when your single largest generator is uncontrolled and coordinated by clouds? Watch Western Australia
Jo Nova Blog
Jo Nova
1 December 2019

Western Australia is a giant experiment: Even the Energy Experts are saying solar is jeopardizing the grid — it’s “dumb”

Watch this space — blackout coming, 3 years and counting…

The Western Australian grid is a separate island from the rest of the nation. It’s roughly a 2.5 GW system for 2.5 million people. WA is getting into trouble faster than nearly anywhere else. Solar PV is now up to …. something larger than 850MW (which is the size of the coal fired generator). The ABC doesn’t tell us what the real figure is (according to the AEMO it’s around 1300MW, and growing at 120MW a year). There are no interconnectors to rescue WA, just the taxpayer or hapless electricity consumer.

Unreliable solar is now the largest single generator in the Western Australian grid. It’s not only bad because there are no other states to dump the excess energy on, or to save the state, but despite the vast size nearly everyone lives within 100 kms (60 miles). So when the sun peaks for one it nearly peaks for all. When the clouds roll over, especially when those nice north-south aligned fronts roll in, it covers most of the infrastructure in minutes.

This could be fun (but not for Western Australians).

Now he tells us?

The rise of solar power is jeopardising the WA energy grid, and it’s a lesson for all of Australia
Daniel Mercer, ABC News

It is a cautionary tale for the rest of the country of how the delicate balancing act that is power grid management can be severely destabilised by what experts refer to as a “dumb solar” approach. “We talk about ‘smart’ this and ‘smart’ that these days,” said energy expert Adam McHugh, an honorary research associate at Perth’s Murdoch University.

“Well, solar at the moment is ‘dumb’ in Western Australia. We need to make it smart.”

Adam McHugh’s an “Energy Expert” at a uni, so his solution involves more centralized control and more dumb money. Apparently, we need to control people’s solar panels, and install “smart” batteries. Jo thinks we don’t need smart batteries, we need smart politicians, and smart academics. We need a smart grid — one that isn’t trying to control the weather, just to keep the lights on.

Now High and Low-demand days are both risky: “congrats”
It used to be that peak summer and winter were the headache days for the AEMO, now they get to worry about fine days in spring and autumn too. Some “achievement”.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which runs WA’s wholesale electricity market (WEM), said the islanded nature of the grid in WA made it particularly exposed to the technical challenges posed by solar.

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said these challenges tended to be most acute when high levels of solar output coincided with low levels of demand — typically on mild, sunny days in spring or autumn when people were not using air conditioners.

As random solar drives out the cheap reliable coal, the WA grid is headed for the intractable bind where solar destroys the thing that allows people to afford and run solar.

In other achievements we gained random unneeded electricity and lost “flexibility”:

“We’ve never worried about a system around low demand. You’re always worried about the highest periods of the summer.

“What we’re recognising now is that the flexibility we need in the system is one [issue] that we have to think about — how do we integrate solar and storage better? And these are new problems that we have to solve.”

Death by duck curve?

The Duck Curve occurs in the middle of the day and gets fatter as more solar is added. The ramp up in the evening gets steeper and more expensive. This is the advanced Californian Duck Curve (above), but the WA one will be following…

Rolling blackouts possible within three years

In a “clarion call” earlier this year, AEMO said that if nothing was done to safeguard the grid, there was a credible danger of rolling blackouts from as early as 2022 as soaring levels of renewable energy periodically overwhelmed the system.

At worst, AEMO warned there was a “real risk” of a system-wide blackout.

It’s not just the voltage at risk, the state finances are too

The glorious State machine is driving it’s own state-owned energy company out of business.

The onslaught of renewable energy in WA has cut a swathe through the finances of state-owned electricity provider Synergy.

In September, the utility handed down a massive $657 million loss for the 12 months to June 30, the biggest reverse ever recorded by a government enterprise in WA.

So federal rules that steal money from non-solar consumers (through the RET scheme) helped people buy solar which dumped the cost on non-solar owners. This forced the price of electricity up, making even more people choose solar in order to afford electricity. Now running the grid — which most solar homes are totally dependent on — is more inefficient, which costs more, and either state taxpayers will pay, or non-solar electricity consumers will.

The Government is taking this seriously, they say, they’ve “launched a series of reviews”:

While Mr Johnston said he would be guided by the recommendations of the Government-appointed energy transformation taskforce, he acknowledged there were a few obvious changes that could be made to improve WA’s electricity system.

One was removing antiquated regulations that acted as a barrier to investment in storage capacity, such as community or grid-scale batteries.

How about we remove antiquated regulations that stop consumers from buying electricity from wherever they want to? How about we stop destroying the free market? How about we start charging solar customers fairer prices for the grid stability, both in voltage, frequency, and in back up power that they so depend on? This won’t seem at all fair to solar consumers who were sold something under false pretenses, so how about we figure out who’s accountable for making those decisions?

How about we immediately stop people adding more solar power problems to the grid unless they go “off-grid”?


The AEMO page on Western Australian Grid: The Statement of Opportunities for the WEMS 2019, see, fig 8, page 26 for the solar capacity.

No doubt some readers will find some interesting data there. Someone’s got to watch WA.

“This PV capacity is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 7.6% (122 MW per year), with higher uptake expected in the early years of the outlook period, to reach an estimated 2,500 MW installed by 2028-29.”

Jo Nova Blog

Sunset industry: hope to see you in 12 hours or so…

About stopthesethings

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


  1. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  2. Any junior engineer can easily predict the addition of a chaotic source of power, like wind and solar, will yield the problems described here. So, why didn’t they do it?

    Politically, it is a forbidden subject. Anyone who might have spoke up was probably fired to keep the lid on.

    We are therefore destined to suffer the consequence of rolling blackouts before common sense prevails.

  3. The Lone Wind Ranger represents how these wind turbines are routinely turned on to DUMP POWER or at minimum malfunction or be purposely energized from the grid drawing massive amounts of power so the mechanisms don’t seize as they often can sit doing nothing for too long during no wind periods, while all those profiting from subsidies are always busy spending the endless supplies of taxpayer’s energy.

  4. I read they’d thought about dropping the solar incoming to the grid – not sure what effect that’d have on the outputs going nowhere from all the units? And has anyone got access to the daily gen rates from these idiot PV farms?

    Because I’m wondering how they’re handling the 40 degree days and little cool down at night on the cells. I hear they drop output as temp rise. And I bet they weren’t designed for days and nights not going much, if any, under 30C and peaking over 40C. Ditto the storage batteries, the SA battery will be taking a hammering IF the supposed heatwave maintains itself across the states this week.

  5. Reblogged this on Climate-

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