Avoidable Self-Harm: Chaotically Intermittent Wind & Solar Destroying Australia’s (Once) Reliable Power Grid


An obsession with chaotically intermittent wind and solar poses an existential threat to Australia’s power grid. So far, it’s been limited to “demand management” (a euphemism for controlled blackouts) and in wind and solar obsessed South Australia, plenty of uncontrolled blackouts, including the big one in September 2016 when the whole State went black: SA’s Wind Farms Guilty: 28 September ‘Black System’ Caused by Wind Power Output Collapse; parts of it for more than a week: South Australia’s September Wind Power Blackout Cost Businesses & Households $367 Million

That Australia has destroyed its reliable power generation system, should come as no surprise: the $60 billion plus in subsidies (plus soft loans, mandated targets and fines) payable to wind and large-scale solar under the Federal government’s LRET was designed to do just that.

As they say, be careful what you wish for.

On a day-to-day basis, coal-fired power still accounts for the best part of 80% of the electricity being distributed around Australia’s Eastern Grid. Of course, when the sun sets and/or calm weather sets in wind and solar account for nothing. Sudden and total collapses in wind and solar output leave the grid manager scrambling for the balance, which comes from coal-fired power plants running ‘spinning reserve’ (ie burning coal with generators ready to dispatch in an instant, but not dispatching until called upon), fast start up gas ‘peakers’ and hydro.

Digging into the detail of Australia’s output data, Rafe Champion continues with his probing analysis of Australia’s self-inflicted renewable energy calamity, below.

Windwatching to anticipate life after Liddell
Catallaxy Files
Rafe Champion
16 April 2020

It is generally accepted that we will lose up to 15GW or 60% of our coal power by 2040, and maybe sooner if the states and Zali Steggall have their way. It is supposed to be replaced by some 30GW of new RE capacity.

Simple arithmetic based on readily available information on the supply of sun and wind indicates that the plan cannot work. At the inevitable low (choke) points of supply 30GW of RE capacity delivers practically zero electricity.

Yesterday was a particularly good day for the RE enthusiasts. The wind blew between 30 and 40% of capacity all day and at noon 2.3GW of wind plus field solar approaching 2GW and rooftop PV at 5GW delivered 37% of the demand on the grid. In the chart below the rooftop PV is white for contrast. None of the minor players were contributing enough to be visible.

There are two points to draw from this exercise, one is the need to look past the high points to find the low points of RE supply. The second – do we need the RE that we have at present?

First, looking low instead of high.

37% is a very gratifying number for RE enthusiasts but the measure of the capacity of RE to replace conventional power sources is not the high points of supply but the low points, in fact the very lowest point, unless we are prepared to put up with regular power failures if we try to get by with with less than 100% of conventional power available for the times when there is effectively no input from the sun and the wind.

The AEMO warned that we had virtually no spare capacity after Hazelwood closed, so what happens when Liddell goes in 2023 as planned and we have 1.8GW less capacity in the system?

Ignoring solar power that is not available most of the time, how much wind capacity is required to guarantee 1.8GW of power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (and 366 in leap years)?

Will it work to double the current 7GW of wind capacity to 14GW? At the average of 30% that is 4.2GW that is more than 1.8 but we know that the fleet performs under 10% of capacity several times a month, and some of those dips go as low as 2% in my experience and veteran wind watchers have (very rarely) seen next to no wind for days on end.

So what is the AEMO plan for the green energy transition, given the stark reality of the choke point problem?

Second, what is the use of the RE we have at present?

37% of the power, some 9+GW looks like a great contribution but is it necessary? Consider the unused conventional power capacity at noon yesterday when black coal was running at 9.2GW, brown at 4.0, gas and hydro each below 1GW. 7GW of coal capacity was not being used. Both gas and hydro can run up to 5GW although presumably not for long periods.

On those numbers the RE in the system is surplus to requirements but putting it on line has cost many billions in subsidies, doubled the price of power and driven coal stations out of business, with more to follow.

One more thing. The high points of solar power are doing more harm than good in the smaller grids in WA and the Northern Territory where voltage fluctuations have emerged as a major issue. The same problem applies here but not yet to the same extent.
Catallaxy Files

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. Jacqueline Rovensky says:

    Nothing can make the turbines turn or the solar panels burn if there is no wind and/or no sun or little due to cloud cover.
    This morning in SA at approx. 10am:
    Total energy production from all sources = Gas 301MW, Wind 88MW, Large Solar 83MW. Small Solar 390MW = 852MW total. DEMAND/required Total = 1,346MW.
    This afternoon at approx. 3.20pm:
    Gas 301MW, Wind 74MW, Large Solar 116MW, Small Solar 383MW = 892MW total. DEMAND/required 1,400MW

    So where did the difference between production and need come from – interstate of course as they were operating in the Black not the Red. But what would have happened IF they too were operating in the Black? Output from Black coal was this afternoon around 11,017MW and Brown coal 4,699MW.
    No amount of tweaking of turbines or wishing for the sun to shine through clouds can ensure we will have energy when and where we need it.
    Even if they cover the land with their foolish fantasies they will never be able to provide what is needed when and where it is needed at all times and not even most of the time.
    We might just as well shutdown all industrial energy production facilities and go straight to looking after our own individual needs, it would be a LOT cheaper, but a lot harder after we have burnt all the furniture, floorboards, car tyres, and stripped all the forests.

  3. Raphael Semmes says:

    Interesting that US leftist film maker Michael Moore has just put out a documentary that savages Big Wind and Big Solar as environmentally harmful and unreliable.

  4. David O'Neill says:

    Hi, I just wanted to pass this on to STT, It was the only way I could think of. Are you aware of this? I’m usually the one who moans about battery storage but not this time. There will probably be quite a thump off this model, given the rotor diameter. https://www.renewable-energy-industry.com/countries/article-5628-vestas-scores-in-ireland-and-australia

    • Yep, wrote about this a year ago after it was released at the Traverse City Film Festival 15. Like all of Michael’s stuff he slathers it with dramatic extremes. It’s like he wants us to be cave men to “fix the problem” while he and the rest of many enjoy the full fruits of capitalizm plus he still believes in warming change without cooling change while he collects a lot of our change. People need to understand that physics does not allow what is claimed about carbon blanketism and do a film about that, or if we go his route as this film might suggest, just ugh about it. Such a documentary though would be too boring and never make any money thus I may make it myself and show it on my cave walls, to my horse of course. And please let me know the moment any of these people give up their cars in trade for such energy efficient modes of transportation that poop or just start only walking to any place they need to get to.


  5. Reblogged this on uwerolandgross.

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