Dark Ages: South Australia’s Solar Power Obsession Threatens Total ‘System Black’

Keen to rely on solar panels for your power? Then get ready for one hell of a bumpy ride.

A maniacal reliance on 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.

Western Australia’s fixation with heavily subsidised solar power is threatening to destroy its once wholly reliable electricity grid, thanks to its sporadic and unreliable delivery.

In October last year, Alice Springs (in Australia’s Red Centre) suffered a widespread blackout that lasted for around nine hours, thanks to a little pesky cloud cover that interfered with the output from its thousands of solar panels, which are meant to provide a substantial proportion of the power needed to run the outback town of around 29,000 inhabitants.

The NT government’s spin doctors went into damage control, with a waffling response that avoided any reference to solar panels being the (obvious) culprits, as the ABC dutifully reported:

The outage was caused by a cloud which rolled in to Alice Springs about 2:00pm on Sunday, which caused a “reasonably large increase” to the system, Mr Duignan said. “That resulted in the majority of our units going into an overload condition,” he said.

“Those units stayed in an overload condition for a number of minutes before they tripped off on their protection systems … the battery energy storage system went to full output before it tripped off as a consequence of the outage.”

So, what type of power source might be interfered with by “a cloud”? For more on that embarrassing RE failure, see Jo Nova’s post: Oopsie solar-battery fail? Cloud causes System Black event at Alice Springs affecting thousands

In South Australia – Australia’s wind and solar capital – the situation is out of control and has reached the point of high farce, with the grid manager begging for legislated powers to shut down domestic rooftop solar panels in the hope of preventing another total ‘system black’ taking South Australians back to the Dark Ages, once again.

AEMO report says solar surge leaves SA at risk of major blackouts
The Advertiser
Matt Smith
18 June 2020

SA’s leading uptake of rooftop solar systems leaves the state at risk of mass blackouts, a new report says, triggering a multimillion-dollar push for the power to cut them off as needed.

Household solar panel systems could be turned on and off under State Government instructions in a bid to avert statewide blackouts predicted as early as this spring, a new report shows.

The unprecedented move is being triggered by concerns from the national energy market operator that South Australia’s world-leading take-up of solar panels is making the grid unstable.

The concerns, raised in an Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) report obtained by The Advertiser, include that solar systems can stop working after voltage disturbances – or sudden losses of power – which was one of the triggers for the 2016 statewide blackout.

The findings will prompt a $10 million state government investment to fund measures that will allow it to switch household solar on and off to stabilise the grid.

The measure would shore up stability of the grid to help avoid mass blackouts but would also cut revenue earned by the household feeding electricity back into the grid.

The report says that solar panel systems can fail in response to sudden changes in the power grid’s operation.

The concerns are raised even further because AEMO predicts household solar panels in SA could provide 100 per cent of the state’s energy needs on certain days within a few years.

But it says there is “considerable evidence that many distributed PV inverters (solar panel systems) disconnect in response to voltage disturbances” – similar to challenges faced by wind turbines during the 2016 statewide blackout.

It has raised concerns within government that if SA was cut off from the national electricity grid and large numbers of solar panel systems failed, the state could be again plunged into a blackout.

The statewide grid relies on a mix of reliable energy sources, more volatile intermittent renewable energy including solar, and baseload gas.

New rules, which The Advertiser understands will be announced Friday, mean the market operator will have the ability to reduce solar panel outputs – stopping households pushing power back into the grid. New solar panel systems would also be able to be controlled by the market operator via smart meters.

“Analysis in this report demonstrates that a severe but credible fault (in the grid) near the Adelaide metropolitan area could cause disconnection of up to half the distributed PV (solar panels) in the South Australian region,” the report says. Government sources said the issue was incredibly serious, echoing the problems that led to the statewide blackout in 2016.

A loss of power from wind farms and tripping of the interconnector to Victoria combined to collapse the stability of SA’s network and deliver the statewide blackout, a 2017 AEMO report found. The government sources said commissioning of the report had probably saved a repeat of that incident.

There is already so much rooftop solar in South Australia that, at times AEMO struggles to securely manage the system. Figures from the Clean Energy Regulator show there are about 276,000 solar panel systems on SA homes – representing about 35 per cent of all dwellings in the state.

An estimated 11 per cent of small business and 24 per cent of large businesses have solar. Last year, there were times when 64 per cent of SA’s power use was from rooftop solar. The report said SA has already experienced dangerously low operational demand that is required to maintain a stable electricity grid.

Demand is expected to reduce further by spring, prompting AEMO to stress there is “an urgent need” to establish ways to increase more reliable system loads while decreasing the use of solar.
The Advertiser

OK, hands up, whose solar panels caused it this time??

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. One begins to wonder what these politicians are thinking. For example here in Western NSW the state government is throwing more millions into a solar farm. https://dugaldsaunders.com.au/renewable-energy-zone-sparking-investment-boom/#comment-115
    They either do not pay their own energy bill or they have some investment in these things. Keep up your exposing this waste.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    @Jacqueline Rovensky
    basically we are arguing the same things; wind turbines are unreliable and relying on them for the grid is stupid.
    As for what caused the actual blackout (if it was only a single cause) we will never know thanks to a determined campaign to keep them hidden. Some ideas floated….
    1. The wind was to strong so the 50+year old pylons collaped. (Just possibly true as early photos showed some intact but overturned with footings pulled out of the very wet ground). But that might mean the line had been loaded with heavier cables to carry renewables.
    2. As the wind velocity rose in gusts the automatic safety shut down the turbines and restarted them when the gust passed, causing frequency fluctuations and further shutdowns.
    etc. etc.
    I note that in isolated (and windy) Shetland the canny natives have directed the variable output into heating large tanks of water, which is then circulated as heating – required 12 months a year in those parts. Yet their turbines have a higher CF than any in Australia. Like SA they will rely on diesel.

  3. Jacqueline Rovensky says:

    So people should sit back and let the turbines and Large Scale Solar (LSS) arrays provide all their energy, not fight back and try to keep some control of their own energy costs.
    Large solar arrays would not have even been thought off if solar had not been proven by the uptake of rooftop solar and the unreliable turbines had proven to be all they said they are.
    There would be no problem with the amount of solar input if it had been left to rooftops only, but the BIG boys want to remove the individual from the equation and dictate who supplies what and at what price. So now they are rushing in with the take up of LSS with the full support of AEMO who has all along been for the BIG boys at the expense of the lesser beings.
    Shutting off individuals roof top solar which cost them a heck of a lot more than the subsidies paid for is unjust as the BIG boys are the ones that should be made to but back, after all they are happy to accept what the rooftop solar provides when they are not able to meet demand but AEMO are treating these individuals like irrelevant dirt to appease their friends and their inadequacies.
    Would anyone being blaming rooftop solar and demanding they are shut off at peak times, if we were still getting most of our energy supply from coal etc?
    So lets stop blaming the small supplier and concentrate on placing the blame where it belongs – with massive wind turbine and solar projects and AEMO for significantly siding with them.

  4. Jacqueline Rovensky says:

    So many things in this statement from AEMO it has to make even marginally intelligent people wonder just how competent they are in anything other than flimflam.
    So sudden losses of power going into the grid creating changes could cause the grid to go down in SA, therefore the best thing to do is to shut down, in an instant, all those rooftop solar panels which on AMEO’s own admission can produce a substantial portion of the States energy!!!!
    They seem to infer the Statewide Blackout was caused by a loss of power from turbines AND the tripping of the Grid connection to Victoria – well yes the turbines did cause the connection to trip instantly, when they stopped sending energy to the Grid DUE TO THE WIND blowing over distribution towers and cables. Yes the wind did it and as a result an IMMEDIATE shutting down of turbine input. This could and most likely will happen again (as it did recently in Western Victoria) not even AEMO or the Renewable industry can control the weather.
    It is actually probably easier to know when solar panels will begin to reduce their production than when the wind will drop and leave turbines standing impotent/feeble for hours at a time, while clouds can pass in a moment and leave clear sky’s with cloudy days being more easily estimated than the strength of a breeze, this surely makes or should make it easier to operate the system to ensure disconnections do not occur.
    But then of course this call to shut off rooftop solar is nothing more than a pander to the BIG renewable’s industry, because if there is a problem/concern about over supply, then surely it would be better and easier to shutdown the Large Scale solar projects or at least get them to turn off some of their panels than rip individuals off.
    Individuals who have followed the cry from Government, AEMO and the ‘Green’ lobby for people to take charge of their own power supply, have followed the push to have panels put on their roofs to help provide energy for others less fortunate and for those who can afford it to also install batteries.
    These people are the ones who are going to be held to ransom, as they cannot do anything but allow this to happen they are held to ransom.
    Their ‘free’ power will be turned off at the time of day they have been told to make use of their ‘free’ solar energy to do those chores such as the ‘washing’, but now instead of doing it with ‘free’ energy they will be charged at full price without knowing it is happening, as that is the time of day when the price is the greatest for energy – when most is being used.
    They will also lose any financial return for sending excess energy to the Grid for the companies to sell on to others at a much greater price than they pay the individual supplier for it.
    This report also states if the grid failed …’and large numbers of solar panel systems failed the state could again be plunged into a blackout.’!!!!
    Of course if the system goes down solar panels connected to the Grid will not be able to provide energy to either the grid NOR will Turbines or Large Scale Solar systems.
    What they may be eluding to is that if there is a ‘short’ in the Grid system then it could cause a fault with rooftop solar systems, but surely that is something AEMO and the industry should be working to overcome as if their system causes rooftop solar systems to malfunction then they should be liable for repair/replacement costs – as its not the individual at fault but the system.
    Rather than cut off the most secure and reliable as well as productive part of the ‘renewable’ energy system in SA they should be working to ensure it does not happen and fix the system.
    To do this they need to, if there is a problem envisaged, cut off one or two of the BIG producer projects for short periods instead of demonising the individual rooftop systems.
    From the hopeless SA (ir)relevant Minister we are told the installation of the new grid to NSW will solve all our problems – of course it will! As we will be selling to NSW and buying from them – but only if either are making sufficient for their own needs to sell and buy. the money spent on this grid could easily have been paid to build secure reliant energy production system a system we once had a system that did not cause all these problems a system that was secure and reliable.
    AEMO in this request has shown they are nothing more than minions to the BIG guys destroying our environment, health and future.
    AEMO wants to get over playing to rules dictated by the Renewable’s industry and stop playing games with the people who depend on the Eastern Grid.

    • wal1957 says:

      “Individuals who have followed the cry from Government, AEMO and the ‘Green’ lobby for people to take charge of their own power supply, have followed the push to have panels put on their roofs to help provide energy for others less fortunate and for those who can afford it to also install batteries.”

      NO!

      Others less fortunate have subsidised those individuals who have solar panels, AND are still subsidising those individuals by paying for the intermittent, unreliable power the panels produce.

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      @Jacqueline Rovensky:
      It wasn’t the strong wind blowing down the distribution towers etc. as these had been in place for over 50 years (unless you think that rising CO2 causes stronger winds????). The Enquiry found that windfarms were shutting down BEFORE the pylons went.
      The problem is that there has to be a minimum amount of reliable generation to recover quickly from a blackout (5 days last time).
      With more solar PV there is less room on the grid so wind turbines are being (selectively) shutdown. The CF has dropped from 30+% to 27% i.e. they are losing 10% of revenue.
      So when the wind blows strongly some wind farms are shut down. This is important as this is when they produce more electricity (and get more free subsidy Certificates). True, the selling price goes down** as all the windfarmers bid to get accepted.
      The irony is that the current State government pushed for more solar panels and batteries. As these didn’t pay, the size of the average set sold has jumped from 3.5MW to 6.6 MW to try and increase the feed-in tariff return. More generation in sunlight means more windfarms shut down.
      With an interconnector the demand is higher, so the price is higher and “frabjous joy” the Certificates are jam and cream on top.
      There is a SLIGHT problem in that provision of new connections will cause more rent seekers to set up ‘renewables’ along the way, reducing the amount of wind energy that needs to come from SA. Also, Gladys’s Munchousen project n the middle of nowhere will also cut the amount wanted from SA. Don’t buy shares in windfarms in South Australia.

      ** and as Supply & Demand shows the price drops as the wind farms desperately try to get their allotment of Certificates.

      • Jacqueline Rovensky says:

        Whether the cables fell over seconds before or the turbines were overloading the system – the wind which operates the turbines which send energy to the grid still caused the blackout. Interestingly if I recall the towers that came down were ‘behind’ turbines installations by some distance. So if they were the only thing to go down then surely that section could have been separated from the Eastern Grid with the only area affected being perhaps the area pasted the line of turbines – but no there was an instantaneous failure which shot through to the inter-connector, surely a sign that no thought of ensuring a safeguard was in place to prevent such an event. This is also evident in that if the turbines were already shutting down because of the strength of the wind a safeguard should have ensured only a small section of the system could fail – but no, no one had undertaken any safeguarding of the system – but of course this could not happen could it as wind turbines are so wonderfully safe and beyond reproach.
        Surely too intermittent production from massive solar arrays could also be a problem as even if they are working if the Grid is down they are not able to provide energy through the Grid.
        While the amount of uptake of rooftop solar could be concluded as the same as a LSS array they should not be the only ones to be shut off. Ones installed and being installed further north where there is apparently stronger and more sunlight hours should either not be built or shut down when there is an over supply rather than those in the middle of the most populated part of the State.
        I have no problem with turbines shutting down when the sun shines as at least those suffering ill effects get some relief – but I am also not in favour of LSS as we still have no information/research into the long term damage caused to the environment from such projects.
        I am not in favour of our Grid being so completely reliant on unreliable solar or Wind Turbine production we need a secure reliably consistent form of energy production at a price people can afford – give us that and how many would want to spend thousands on having solar put on their roofs.
        As far as batteries large and small we should not need them and frankly we are now seeing the same story from the ‘renewable’s’ industry who first say something is going to be the be all and end all of our needs ie Turbines, Solar panels and now batteries then finding they are not doing what they said they would so we need to build and/or add to more and more and more. It amazes me that those in power keep falling for the same story over and over again and do not see that it is a never ending story which increases costs continually with only one result – the BIG boys get richer with every addition.
        These failings have been pandered to and created by successive Governments and the take over by AEMO of our energy supply in favour of the BIG boys at the expense of the citizens of this country.
        Further the new inter-connector is not the salve we are told it will be, NSW struggles almost every day to produce enough energy for its own needs, they are assisted by the Grid distributing surplus from other States including SA input into the Grid, another inter-connector is only going to be of use if we are cut off from the Eastern Grid and that should not be allowed to happen – did it happen before the ‘renewable’s’ chant began and Wind Turbines started to take over our energy supply and the Grid became an unreliable energy source for all connected States?

  5. Go green the Dutch way, buy surplus energy that never got used and count it as if it had been :

    https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/dutch-do-danish-deal-to-hit-clean-power-target/

    “The Netherlands agreed on Friday (19 June) to pay Denmark €100 million as part of an arrangement that will allow the Dutch government to declare at least 8 TWh of Danish surplus renewable power on its books, in an effort to meet its EU target.”

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      dennisambler:
      The Dutch have been doing that for years. It is far cheaper, and less likely to cause blackouts, than building large quantities of renewables on productive farmland.

  6. Reblogged this on uwerolandgross.

  7. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

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