RE Reckoning: Solar Powered Households Forced to Pay For The Grid Chaos They Cause

Australia’s obscenely generous subsidies and Feed-in-Tariffs for domestic solar resulted in millions of households blanketed in panels. The consequences for the power grid have been diabolical; its management is now a daily nightmare.

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.

In a further effort to quell the chaos caused by the uncontrolled delivery of unwanted power, the Australian Energy Regulator has put forward a proposition that instead of being paid to deliver what they produce, householders will be forced to pay for the opportunity to deliver it.

Solar feed-in charges can stabilise grid, AER reviews says
The Advertiser
Chris Russel
1 July 2020

Solar panel owners are used to getting paid for sending power back to grid but now energy authorities say they may be made to pay instead.

Making rooftop solar owners pay to send energy into the grid should be considered as the system grapples with keeping the grid stable, the Australian Energy Regulator says.

Other options include charging solar owners for the necessary upgrades to the grid — or paying them to have their panel output turned off when the system is overloaded with too much power.

The options are canvassed in a special report in the AER’s annual review of the state of the energy market.

Under current rules, rooftop solar owners pay to connect to the grid but SA Power Networks, which runs the distribution network, cannot charge for the use of the grid when a homeowner sells power into the system.

“Forward and reverse power flows through a distribution network fluctuate widely during the day,” the AER said.

“This fluctuation can impact the quality and reliability of power supplies at certain times, especially during periods of very high or low demand, when voltage instability is more likely. “These costs affect all customers but are not charged to (rooftop solar) owners, so are not factored into (householder) investment decisions.”

Upgrading the system to accommodate the extra solar is expensive which has raised concerns about the inequity of the costs being shared by all electricity customers, whether or not they have solar panels.

An SA Power Networks survey of more than 1000 consumers considered three options — a comprehensive upgrade of the network, a “do nothing” approach where new solar owners would be barred from entry in choke point suburbs or a “dynamic” model where solar could be turned off for short periods but also export limits would be increased at other times.

The survey respondents favoured the dynamic model.

The AER report, published on Wednesday, said reforms should consider whether households opt into such a model with “rewards for their solar panels being constrained from exporting to the grid when the network is under pressure”.

The State Government last month allocated $10 million to underwrite SA Power Networks bringing forward upgrade work to support more solar and to pursue a call by the Australian Energy Market Operator for solar to be switched off remotely at times of overload.

“Solar is now a fundamental part of the system and we are reaching the limits of the hosting capacity of the network,” SA Power Networks spokesman Paul Roberts said.

In just the past year, some 400MW of solar power has been added to the SA network.

The Northern Power station in Port Augusta which closed in 2016 when its owners found it too uneconomic had a 520MW capacity.
The Advertiser

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Kevin McMenamin says:

    I presume Australia does not have a wholesale market price like NZ which seems like the obvious solution. The wholesaler sets the price (which is based on supply and demand). At low or negaive prices there is a disencentive to supply and an incentive to store until the wholesale price goes up.

  2. Jacqueline Rovensky says:

    OK so we have people who blame the rooftop solar for the diabolic state of our Grid networks.
    Well sorry but that is a load of you know what.
    Yes they export energy not used by themselves on site to the Grid via a Retailer who at the time of installation were paid to provide a ‘connection’ to the Grid.
    They receive a return on excess energy delivered to the Grid (after what they have used) then draw on that ‘battery’ ie the Grid when needed, lets say at night or when the clouds role in.
    The energy they draw back is ‘paid for’ at the rate any other user pays and any that remains they get paid for, of course most of the time this ‘battery’ stored energy will be on sold to other customers of the retailer – the rate people are paid is gradually being reduced to the point many will be getting a bill at every quarter for the energy they use above and beyond what they send to the ‘Grid’ or actually to the Retailer.
    As for the lines which transport to their homes, they do pay because NO ONE except the Retailer communicates directly with the end customer, in SA this is SA Power Networks and they bill the Retailer for use of their poles and lines. They do not send out a bill to the end user ie you and me the Retailer adds this to the price they charge their customers.
    Now as we know more and more Massive Industrial sized Solar Panel and Turbine Projects are continuing to be applied for and installed. Are they not the ones causing the problem with the Grid Stability?
    Yes the uptake of roof top solar has been growing especially with incentives from Governments, but the people do not continue to get paid a subsidy by the Government once it has been installed – yes they can be paid a minute amount for what they send to the Grid but do not use.
    If there is a problem with Grid stability and we know and have known for many years there is, why have so many Massive Industrial Sized projects been allowed to be built when it is clear the system cannot cope?
    It has been said time and time again you cannot rely on the weather to do what you want when and where you want it to do, so there is and always will be inherent problems with the operation of a National Grid or any Grid which relies only or mainly on such energy production methods.
    With the SLOW ACCEPTANCE by AEMO and others that there is a growing problem for the stability of our Nations energy supply you have to ask – who is in charge and why are they not having to answer serious questions in Parliament and by the public as to why this state of affairs has been allowed to fester and grow for all these years? Why did they do nothing to prevent it?

    MAYBE WE NEED ALSO TO ASK OUR POLITICIANS OF ALL PERSUASIONS WHY THEY HAVE LET THIS NATION DOWN SO BADLY AND WHY THEY ARE NOT MOVING QUICKLY TO HAVE IT RECTIFIED BY FAST TRACKING OF BUILDING ENERGY PRODUCTION FACILITIES WHICH WILL BRING US BACK TO AN EVEN KEEL AND CAPABLE OF STANDING PROUD AND PROSPEROUS.
    With the building of facilities that can ensure the future of our environment and health of this Nations population no matter where they live.

  3. Solar generated electricity and wind generated electricity must be about the only buyer, seller relationship wherein the seller can rock up at any hour of the day he chooses with product (daylight if it’s solar) in full expectation that the buyer must buy all the product he offers, whether or not it’s needed. Not only that but even if the buyer has no use for the product, he must pay a premium over and above what he could, if permitted, pay alternative supplier 2 for his superior product (dispatchable coal generation) which is delivered when and as the buyer orders it.
    Guess that’s how “free” weather dependent electricity works?

  4. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak and commented:
    Australia’s obscenely generous subsidies and Feed-in-Tariffs for domestic solar resulted in millions of households blanketed in panels. The consequences for the power grid have been diabolical; its management is now a daily nightmare.

    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:

  5. Reblogged this on uwerolandgross.

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