Solar Totally Eclipsed: Sunny Queensland Powered By Ever-Reliable Coal-Fired Plants

Sunset ready: what Queenslanders really rely on for their power.


Despite the hype, the true contribution of solar power to Australia’s grid remains trivial and especially so from sunset to sunup. Oh, almost forgot, cloudy and inclement weather makes a pretty fair dent in solar output, too.

Queensland is renowned as the Sunshine State. But, even there, the massive increase in subsidised solar panels (both commercial and domestic) appears to have had little impact on Queenslander’s incessant need for ever-reliable coal-fired power. As JoNova details below.

A cold snap in Queensland cut the state’s solar power to just 5% of its average daily output
Jo Nova Blog
Jo Nova
4 June 2020

As Paul McArdle of WattClarity says: “the NEM* is becoming increasingly dependent on the weather“

Saturday week ago in Queensland was cold enough to break records. Brisbane “only” made it up to 17.9C (64F). It hasn’t been that cold there in May for 40 years. At the same time a band of cloud covered the populated slice of the state.

The cloud cover meant all the large solar “farms” in Queensland — with a total rated capacity of 1.7GW — produced only 79MW as an aggregate average daily output.

Sunshine State forgets its own branding on Saturday 23rd May 2020

Averaged across the 24 hours in the day yesterday, average aggregate output across all of the Large Solar plant in QLD was a very meagre 79MW only:

1a) Dividing this by an aggregate 1,664MW installed capacity* across the Large Solar plant in QLD this represents a capacity factor the day of just 4.7%

Not surprisingly the same clouds that ruined the large solar farms also wrecked the rooftop solar.

One in three homes in Queensland have solar panels. With 1.8GW of theoretical capacity, rooftop solar is Sunshine State forgets its own branding on Saturday 23rd May 2020(except it hardly ever produces that much). At its peak in January the Qld solar farms worked at 31% of capacity. That’s a big slice of generation that may or may not be there.

There goes another Gigawatt — there one day and gone the next:

As Rafe Champion would say, “this was a chokepoint for solar”. We have to have the backups there to cover the worst days — even if the bad days are only a few days a year.

McArdle estimates that Queenslanders used 17% more electricity that day than the Saturday a week earlier. It was cold (for Queenslanders) so power use went up at the same time as clouds cut the states main generator. When clouds rolled into Alice Springs, they ended up with a nine hour blackout. That didn’t happen in Queensland, but there are five million people who depend on electricity there. There are similar warnings about clouds and solar power causing blackouts in Western Australia.

Coal was, of course, what saved Queensland:

Watch the Australian experiment

If you think this is crazy, worse is coming. Wikipedia has a list of QLD solar farms. Ominously,  another 1.7GW are under construction and another 8GW have been approved. All of which would have been useless together on May 23rd.

Hey, but it’s only one day. They could just close some factories.

For those wondering if Queensland just needs to build some more solar plants “out west”, remember that generators need to be closer to the demand, and regional generators have been punished by price reductions because of the inevitable transmission losses. It’s just not economic to build far distant solar panel farms that earn less per MW than farms near cities. (Not that it’s economic to build solar farms near cities either.) Solar panels are so uncompetitive in 2016 the National Govt allocated $100m to set up 482MW of solar capacity throughout Australia. That was on top of the giant national RET scheme.

But let’s not forget the reason we are building solar panels in the first place: to change the weather.

To that end, consider that 2 million expensive solar panels cut Australian total CO2 emissions by a tiny 1%

Everything you don’t want to know about Solar power in Australia

Jo Nova Blog

Made with coal; backed by coal.

About stopthesethings

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


  1. Awesome article. We have solar panels and can really relate to this. Ours are working for us, but only really as a backup to the real system, and only because we have the time to control it. I’d hate to see it trying to do what we need without constant monitoring. And we are not trying to support a community, and we can handle power failure, sometimes for stretches of time.

  2. Crispin bpm says:

    There were some encouraging rail freight statistics during the coronavirus lockdown, including coal. Rail rose to the challenge of keeping supply chains moving during the crisis, according to MotivePOWER Magazine.


    “Even the coal task across Australia has stayed steady, and projections of increased tonnes are on the table as the world economy starts up again.”

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    Also in the home of the Woke a.k.a. 100% renewables Canberra.
    Courtesy of Rowjay on Joanne Nova.
    June 17, 2020 at 8:37 am
    How did ACT 100% Renewables do this week? Pretty poorly again, only managing to produce at 32% capacity, up slightly from last weeks 29%. More troubling for grid stability were the two days running under 10% capacity with TWO PERIODS OF NEGATIVE PRODUCTION TOTALLING ABOUT 4 HOURS WHERE POWER WAS ACTUALLY DRAWN FROM THE GRID.

    ACT 100% – Total Nameplate – 613.5 MW from 133,000 solar panels and 186 wind turbines
    Date : MWh produced : Capacity Factor
    08/06/2020 : 4,307 : 29%
    09/06/2020 : 4,584 : 31%
    10/06/2020 : 1,329 : 9%
    11/06/2020 : 1,037 : 7%
    12/06/2020 : 6,141 : 42%
    13/06/2020 : 7,400 : 50%
    14/06/2020 : 7,670 : 52%
    Weekly Sum : 32,468 : 32%
    compared to Unit 2 of the black coal supercritical Millmerran Power Station with:
    MPP_2 – Nameplate capacity – 426 MW from one 17 year old unit
    Date : MWh produced : Capacity Factor
    08/06/2020 : 10,446 : 102%
    09/06/2020 : 10,061 : 98%
    10/06/2020 : 10,400 : 102%
    11/06/2020 : 10,370 : 101%
    12/06/2020 : 10,014 : 98%
    13/06/2020 : 10,313 : 101%
    14/06/2020 : 9,970 : 98%
    Weekly Sum :71,573 : 100%
    Once again, ACT 100% Renewables was humbled by the lower capacity MPP_2 which produced another remarkably consistent performance running at 100% capacity for the week and producing more than double the weekly output from the higher capacity ACT 100% Renewables.

    And NOTE: those Canberrans won’t allow wind turbines in the Territory in case it keeps them awake.

    • From what we have experienced of wind turbines it is more than just some lost sleep. The Canberrans may be being crafty, keeping those out. Where do surges go? We saw a lot of destructive stray voltage around us. Where do the leaks from the mechanical issues go? We saw a lot of oil in our water, a new problem, and that produced nausea and a refusal to drink, which makes a whole next problem. Where does the excess power from the blades go? Into the air, with infrasound being a primary distribution of that stray power. VAD is nasty and we may never heal completely, this conclusion coming some three years away from the wind turbines. Time will tell, but only in an absence of wind turbines.

  4. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  5. Reblogged this on uwerolandgross.

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