The writer of this page lives in South Australia among the highest concentration of wind farms in the nation and is proud to be a supporter.
I note (January 2018) that in the lead-up to the state election due in March that both major parties have been strongly supportive of renewable energy; they realise how popular it is with the voters. A recent survey conducted by the Climate Institute found that 96% of Australians want Australia’s future energy mix to be dominated by renewable energy.
South Australia has been doing far more toward reducing its greenhouse emissions than any other Australian state. The need for serious action on climate change was at the time of writing being demonstrated by Hurricane Harvey devastating big areas of Texas, record monsoonal flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, record wildfires in Canada and western USA and Hurricane Irma producing unprecedented damage in the Caribbean and Florida.
In 2017 all well informed, open minded people of at least moderate intelligent accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and with record storms, floods and wildfires and almost every year being warmer than the previous the urgency of action in reducing greenhouse emissions is equally obvious. If other Australian states and other nations were to adopt renewables as enthusiastically as South Australians have done, and continue to do, future generations – our children and our grandchildren – would be able to look forward to a brighter future than they seem to be condemned to at present.
It would be well worth paying higher prices for clean energy, but the fact is that renewable energy is similar in cost to filthy coal-fired energy (which, by the way, kills millions of people world-wide each year by its air pollution).
Research by Ben Phillips, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, published figures showing that the increases in electricity expenditure between 2006-2016 were 109%, 119%, 136% and 87% for NSW, Victoria, Queensland and SA respectively. Ben Phillips' table showing electricity prices is reproduced on the right.record low power demand from the grid about 2pm on 2017/09/10. SA's rooftop solar had already shifted the time of lowest demand from the night to the middle of the day.
A snapshot of SA's electricity generation situation at the time of the change of government in March 2018
A minimal amount of gas generation had been mandated for the stability of the grid (the red section of the SA bar graph), but 80% of SA's power was being generated by wind and solar power. Wind power was generating more than half SA's power (green) and rooftop solar was generating about a fifth (yellow).
Not only that, but generation in SA was much higher than power demand (the shorter, paler, bar beneath the generation bar). The excess power was being exported to the mainly coal-powered eastern states.
Of course the amount of renewable generation varied from time to time, but at the time the Liberals took government from Labor, on average about 50% of SA's power was generated by a combination of wind or solar.
It was arguable whether SA's Labor governments under Rann and Weatherill actively brought about the state's energy revolution, or whether they just didn't stand in the way and allowed it to happen. Whatever the case, unlike a number of Liberal governments, both federal and state, SA's Labor governments did not oppose renewable energy. The Abbott and Turnbull governments were notably obsessed with supporting the dying coal industry and demonising renewables.
If the Marshall government fails to continue with SA's huge success with the adoption of renewable energy it will be very much to their shame.
They provide yet more evidence that South Australia's adoption of renewable energy has been a huge success.
The first graph, renewables share, shows that SA, which had practically no renewable energy 14 years earlier, had a very substantial proportion in September 2017.
South Australia has moved far more in reducing its emissions, in a world in which reducing emissions is becoming almost daily more obviously needed, than any other Australian state.
Other states, and Australia as a whole, should be using SA as an outstanding example of what could be done and what should be done in this world that is increasingly being damaged by climate change.
The graphs have been made available, and self-funded, by Ben Elliston. Thank you Ben.
There was a state-wide blackout in SA in September 2016. It was caused by exceptional storm-force winds, and had nothing at all to do with the intermittency of wind and solar power. Three of the state's four major power transmission lines to the north of Adelaide were downed by the winds. The section flattened shown in the photo on the right was within a few kilometres of my place at Armagh. Yet the opponents of renewable energy blamed the blackout on renewable energy.
There were further storm-caused blackouts in December 2016. This time the major transmission lines were not damaged, but over 300 power distribution lines were damaged, largely by falling trees. I am over seventy years old and don't recall ever seeing so many trees knocked down by one storm. In twenty years no Callitris tree on my property had been blown down by storm winds; in this storm alone four were flattened in three different areas. Again, renewable energy opponents blamed the blackouts on South Australia's wind and solar power.
The truth is that while there are certainly challenges in adopting high percentages of renewable energy, South Australia has had no serious problems that could be ascribed to the intermittency of wind or solar power and, with the exception of blackouts that were caused by storms, has had a very smooth transition from near zero to 50% renewables.
Of course climate change has been shown by scientists to make storms more violent than they would otherwise be, so if anyone should be blamed for SA's power blackouts it should be those who oppose taking serious action to reduce climate change.
In August 2017 Prime Minister Turnbull accused the South Australian government of "ideology and idiocy" for their support for renewable energy. Since the state government's support for renewable energy is no more than any reasonable person would believe is justified and the state's adoption of renewable energy has been a great success, I accuse PM Turnbull of ideology, idiocy and criminal behaviour in his support of coal and opposition to renewable energy to the detriment of the planet and all future generations.
“By all means, have the world’s biggest battery, have the world’s biggest banana, have the world’s biggest prawn like we have on the roadside around the country, but that is not solving the problem,”Morrison said Tesla boss Mr Musk was clearly very good at promotion. “I think he saw [South Australian Labor Premier] Jay Weatherill coming.”
Time has shown the Hornsdale Power Reserve, like South Australia's wind power developments, to be a great success.
For a Federal Treasurer to be so greatly in error, or willingly dishonest, in an important financial matter is quite shocking.
|USA Department of Energy graph|
Much of it was built to allow power grids dominated by inflexible nuclear power to respond to variations in demand.
There has been a huge amount of talk (and quite a bit of action) on batteries as a means of storing electricity in Australia, but as the graph above shows the vast majority of the world's energy storage is in pumped-hydro.
Pumped hydro is simply a cheaper way of storing large amounts of energy than batteries.
I won't explain what pumped hydro is here, I have done that
elsewhere on this site.
If Australia is to replace substantial proportions of its fossil-fuelled power stations with renewables we must greatly increase our amount of energy storage; pumped hydro will have to provide a large part of this.
There is little pumped hydro energy storage in Australia, only three operating installations so far as I know. PM Turnbull has proposed a huge pumped hydro scheme in the Snowy Mountains, but that will at least take years if it ever comes to anything.
South Australia is looking like taking the lead here too, with the government announcing investments in four projects in February 2018. For more information see Energy Source and Distribution News, 2018/02/09.
South Australia could soon be in the forefront of a technology that has the potential to replace liquid fossil fuelsHydrogen is the most common element in the Universe. Most of the hydrogen on the Earth has combined with oxygen to form water.
The world must dump its fossil fuel addiction, but liquid fossil fuels (petrol, kerosine, diesel) are very convenient ways of storing enough energy to power motor vehicles, including ships, planes, trains, cars and trucks. What is there that can replace fossil fuels for propelling our machines?
At the time of writing, in early 2018, an obvious contender is electricity stored in batteries. The limitation here is the cost of batteries; at present an electric car in Australia comes with a price about twice that of a similar sized ICE- (internal combustion engine) powered car. Also, batteries are not suitable as a means of transporting large amounts of energy from one place to another.
An alternative to batteries for energy storage and transportation is hydrogen, which weight-for-weight stores more energy than traditional liquid fuels. To the present there have been (at least) two major technical problems with hydrogen:
The ABC's Nick Harmsen wrote about a Hydrogen-fuelled power plant planned for Port Lincoln in South Australia on 2018/02/11. Meanwhile, the CSIRO have developed a method for collecting the hydrogen following the dissociation of ammonia. See Renewable hydrogen could fuel Australia's next export boom after CSIRO breakthrough ABC, Rebecca Turner, 2017/05/12.
A second renewables-to-gas hydrogen plant was announced in February 2018, this one in Tonsley, an Adelaide suburb; see the article by Sophie Vorrath in Renewable Energy.
Following the power outages of late 2016 the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) became understandably cautious; they ruled that a minimum amount of gas generation should be on-line at all times.
Since that time it seems that the maximum amount of renewable energy in the South Australian generation mix has been about 80%, the remainder being gas.
The graph below, recorded on 2016/08/20, a month or so before the power outages, shows 90% renewable energy in SA's generation. I don't think that this was very uncommon, in fact, renewable generation in SA occasionally reached 120% of consumption, as recorded in the Electranet document mentioned below under synchronous condensers. (The excess generation would have been exported to the eastern states.)
After this time when wind power generated more power than was needed to get to the 80% some of the wind farms had to be 'curtailed'; that is, had to reduce the amount of power they put into the grid. This, of course, reduced the economic viability of the wind farms as well as meaning that more fossil fuels were being burned than necessary.proposed installing synchronous condensers in three places in South Australia.
Quoting from Electranet's page:
"A secure power system needs adequate levels of both system strength and inertia, which to date have been provided by synchronous power generation. System strength relates to the ability of a power system to manage fluctuations in supply or demand while maintaining stable voltage levels. Inertia relates to the ability of a power system to manage fluctuations in supply or demand while maintaining stable system frequency.
Electranet's page defines synchronous condensers as:
"A synchronous condenser operates in a similar way to large electric motors and generators. It contains a synchronous motor whose shaft is not directly connected to anything, but spins freely and is able to adjust technical conditions on the power system. Synchronous condensers are an important source of system strength and other services such as inertia."So the synchronous condensers should be able to provide at least some of the system strength and inertia currently provided by gas-fired generators.
With the synchronous condensers in place we might hope that renewable energy will be able again to produce substantially more than 80% of the state's electricity when there is sufficient wind.
EnergyBase load power: the facts
Mid-North South Australia, leading the nation in renewable energy
Northern SA's renewables
How should Australia generate its electricity?
Impressive renewable energy developments in Australia
Power prices in Australia
Wind power in South Australia
Wind power in Australia
Pumped hydro energy storage
Glossary of technical terms relating to wind power
Environment, climate change, ethicsClimate change
Climate change, natural disasters and what we should be doing
Major threatened disasters compared
Greatest crime in history
Opposition to wind power and to the coal industry
The end of coal
The Turnbull Australian Government
On the InternetUnited Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction report: The human cost of weather-related disasters 1995-2015.
Renew Economy; AGL ridicules Coalition request to keep Liddell [coal-fired power station] open extra 5 years.
The Conversation; Why coal-fired power stations need to shut on health grounds, David Shearman, 2016/11/28.
The Uninhabitable Earth, Annotated Edition, by David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine.
The big three Australian power generators see no future in coalAGL's statement on the Liddell closure.
Energy Australia boss says there are much better options than keeping the old Liddell coal-fired power station running for a few more years.
Origin Energy boss rejects coal
Another SA energy first|
Lies of the detractors
High level of renewables – low emissions
Lower power price rises
Pumped hydro developments
SA leading the nation
SA power prices have risen less than in coal-powered states
Treasurer Morrison ignorant or dishonest