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Whyalla
Whyalla to Port Augusta
Port Augusta
Peterborough
Port Pirie
Iron Triangle
Coober Pedy
Jamestown/Burra
  The Big Battery
Snowtown
Crystal Book
Pockets of negativity
List of projects
Conclusions
Related pages

Northern South Australia's Renewable Energy

The northern part of the state of South Australia is showing the way to a clean, sustainable future for the remainder of the nation. The region's, and the state's, last coal-fired power station was shut down in May 2016.

The northern Spencer Gulf cities of Port Augusta and Whyalla have long been strong supporters of renewable power projects, but until very recently, while the will was there, action was slow in coming. The problem has been the minimal support of renewable energy from Australian federal governments, particularly Coalition governments. Smaller northern towns such as Jamestown, Burra, Snowtown, Coober Pedy and Crystal Brook have been, and continue to be, centres for exciting developments.

I've written elsewhere about Mid North South Australia leading the nation in renewables, this page shows that areas further north and west are joining the trend.

This page was written 2017/07/29, edited 2020/03/27
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke) – ©
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Whyalla

 
Whyalla Solar farm
Solar farm
2017/09/10
The first big renewable energy project for Whyalla is shown in the photo on the right. It is the first 6 MW stage of a proposed 150 MW Surpass Sun Electric (SSE) Australia solar PV farm. SSE is a Chinese company. (The solar farm was officially opened by Premier Weatherill on 2018/01/23.)

Adani, a company better known for its coal mining has proposed another solar PV farm. It seems that even Adani can see that the world is moving away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy. Adani's Internet site states that they have lodged a Development Approval application. I believe they are working toward a $250 million 160 MW solar power station.

And Sanjeev Gupta, who heads GFG Alliance the company that has taken over the Whyalla steelworks and has bought a controlling interest in Zen Energy, plans a renewable energy development involving solar power and pumped hydro energy storage.

Nyngan Solar Farm was the biggest in Australia at the time of writing, but the proposed solar farm at Whyalla will be bigger, and Bungala solar farm (now completed) at Port Augusta, is bigger again, at 275 MW DC, 220 MW AC.



Between Whyalla and Port Augusta

 
A hydro-power station that incorporates pumped-hydro energy storage.
This one is Tumut 3 hydro power station in the Snowy Mountains, not Northern SA.
Talbingo
Energy Australia has proposed a 100 MW pumped hydro system using seawater. It is expected that it will be able to supply power for six to eight hours and be about a third the cost of a battery having the same capacity. ARENA (Australian Renewable ENergy Agency) have supported a feasibility study on this.

Ross Garnaut and Zen Energy have proposed a similar development in the same area.

A group in the Australian National University, headed by Professor Andrew Blakers, is also looking into the potential for pumped hydro energy storage in Australia.

Pictured at the right is one of a very few hydro-power stations combined with pumped-hydro energy storage currently in Australia (it is in NSW, not South Australia).

When electricity is plentiful and cheap it is used to pump water from the lower to the upper storage, in effect storing the energy from the electricity in the water. When demand increases or generation declines, the water is allowed back down through the turbines to generate more electricity.

Some 97% of the world's energy storage in 2017 is in the form of pumped hydro. The main advantage that batteries have over pumped storage is that a big battery bank can be built in six months, while a pumped storage system will take something like three years. In a nation like Australia, with no effective energy policies coming from the federal governments, the long-term planning needed for new pumped hydro projects has been sadly lacking.

 
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Prime Minister Turnbull instigated a feasibility study for adding up to 2000 MW of pumped hydro to the Snowy Mountain Scheme.

 
Updated 2019/12/02

Port Augusta

 
Sundrop Farms – the 40 MW solar thermal power installation
Sundrop Farms solar
Photo taken with my drone 2016/03/14


Bungala solar farm, completed
Bungala
Photo taken by my Mavic Mini drone, 2020/03/26. Click on image to view full size, 'back' to return


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Peterborough

 
This section added 2018/04/28
Renew Power Group built a 4.9 MW solar PV farm in Peterborough, north-east of Jamestown. It was completed in April 2018. While 4.9 MW is not on the scale of the Bungala solar farm being built at Port Augusta at the time (see above and on another page), it is still about a thousand times the size of a typical modern household solar power system. It is expected to generate an average of 10 GWh of electricity annually.

Renew Power was intending to start construction of a further 90 MW of solar PV in SA and NSW in the same year, 2018.

Peterborough Solar Farm
Peterborough Solar Farm
Photo taken with my drone, 2018/05/12

Peterborough Solar Farm
Photo taken from ground level, 2018/05/10



Port Pirie

 
This section added 2018/05/09
Renew Power Group has received planning permission from the Pirie Regional Council for an approximately 5 MW solar PV farm on Abattoirs Road, south of the city. The project is expected to have a capital cost of around ten million dollars. At the time of writing this section the only information I had came from the local newspapers, particularly an article written by Greg Mayfield in The Recorder dated 2018/05/07.

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It is to cover 15 ha and is expected to generate "more than 10,000 MWh" annually. Construction was expected to start by June 2018 and take 16 weeks. Renew Power Group director, Kevin Heydt, was reported as saying that "We are confident it will be up and running this year".

It is expected to cost $10 million and it is possible that the power generated will be sold to the Nyrstar smelter in Port Pirie.



Iron Triangle
(Northern Spencer Gulf; the Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla triangle)

Pumped Hydro

Giles Parkinson wrote in Renew Economy, 2018/02/08, about announced government subsidisation of four proposed pumped hydro developments in what is known as the Iron Triangle.

They are:

  • In the depleted Iron Duchess mine in the Middleback Ranges South of Whyalla;
  • A sea-water scheme proposed for the Tent Hills near Cultana, between Whyalla and Port Augusta;
  • At Goat Hill, 12 kilometres west of Port Augusta (it was reported in early May 2018 that the Goat Hill project had received government approval);
  • At the Baroota Reservoir (which has not been used as a water supply for a number of years), north of Port Pirie.
One or more of these projects are mentioned in the above discussion of pumped hydro developments.


Coober Pedy

 
Construction of Coober Pedy Wind Farm, February 2017
Turbine construction
Image credit Coober Pedy Regional Times
This famous opal mining town in the outback hundreds of kilometres from any city and from grid power, recently built two wind turbines, each rated at two megawatts, and two megawatts of solar power. It is expected that the system will provide Coober Pedy with 70% renewable energy over the 20 year life of the project.

ARENA (Australian Renewable ENergy Agency) has partly funded this project.
 
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Jamestown/Burra

 
Sunrise on Brown Hill Range
Sunrise on Brown Hill Range
The Hallett wind farms totalling 350 MW were built east of Jamestown and north-east of Burra a few years ago and the big Hornsdale wind farm north of Jamestown (another 309 MW) were completed around the time of writing.
 
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The Big Battery, more accurately The Hornsdale Power Reserve

 
The Hornsdale Tesla big battery
Big battery
The "Tesla Big Battery" at the Hornsdale Wind Farm had huge media coverage when it was proposed in mid 2017; and was at the time of its building it was the biggest in the world at 100 MW maximum power and energy storage of 129 MWh. Tesla's CEO Elon Musk famously promised to build it in less than 100 days or provide if free. It was first proposed in mid 2017 and built before the end of the year; well under the 100 days being needed for its construction.

As there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the Big Battery, it is worth stating that it is not aimed at storing enough energy to supply the state if other electricity supplies fail. As explained in The Conversation by Ariel Liebman and Kaveh Rijab Khalilpour, 2017/07/11, it is designed to support grid stability.

It has been a huge success in both providing "grid ancillary services" and profitability. A number of others have since been either proposed or are under development.

In an article written by Sophie Vorrath and Giles Parkinson in RenewEconomy titled The stunning numbers behind success of Tesla big battery and published on 2018/05/11 it was reported that:

"The Tesla big battery in South Australia has already taken a 55 per cent share in the state’s frequency and ancillary services market, and lowered prices in that market by 90 per cent, new data has shown."


 

(Federal Liberal) Treasurer Scott Morrison (later to become Prime Minister) makes a fool of himself

When the Tesla battery was first proposed Federal (Liberal) Treasurer Scott Morrison was reported in The Daily Telegraph as having said that Mr Musk’s bid to build the world’s largest lithium ion battery wouldn’t solve any energy problems because its capacity is so small. He said:
“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.”

What he demonstrated with this statement was his shameful and criminal devotion to the fossil fuel industry and his contempt for the truth and ethical standards.

Hornsdale Power Reserve expansion, November 2019

Nick Toscano wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 2019/11/19 about Neoen's proposed 50 per cent expansion of the Hornsdale Power Reserve battery.

Toscano wrote:

South Australian Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the battery was continuing to "break new ground".

"As South Australia continues to increase its share of renewable energy generation, large-scale storage solutions such as grid-scale batteries will help address some of the key challenges impacting South Australia’s power system, such as energy reliability and inertia," he said.
The 'big battery' has been a huge financial and energy success and is appreciated as such by the (Liberal) South Australian government.

August 2017

Work started on yet another wind farm between Jamestown and Burra, Willogoleche Wind Farm; another 32 state-of-the-art turbines.

The project was completed by April 2019, see Nexif Energy.



Snowtown

 
Turbine and fog
Fog streaming between turbines at Snowtown Wind Farm
2008/05/05
 
Updated 2018/05/12
Tilt Renewables operate the highly successful 371 MW Snowtown Wind Farm, the most energy-productive of any in Australia. (As of May 2018. The Macarthur Wind Farm in Victoria has a bigger installed capacity, 420 MW, but a much lower capacity factor, 26% in 2016 against Snowtown at around 40%. Macarthur generates an average of around 960 GWh per year against 1300 GWh for Snowtown.)

Tilt Renewables has announced a $100 million 50 MW solar farm to be built close to the wind farm.

Tilt representatives state that wind tends to decline during the middle of the day, causing wind power generation also to fall off. They have calculated that the output of the solar farm, which will reach its maximum in the middle of the day, will keep generation up right through the day.
 
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Crystal Book

 
One of the Clements Gap turbines
Clements Gap turbine
Clements Gap WF is about 15km south of Crystal Brook
Clements Gap Wind Farm was built about 15km south of Crystal Brook in 2009. There was very little opposition, and the wind farm has been a great asset to the community, not least for the $50,000 or more that the operators, Pacific Hydro, have donated for community projects each year.

French company Neoen has proposed the Crystal Brook Energy Park that will combine 34 wind turbines (with a total capacity of up to 136 MW) with a solar farm of 50-100 MW and a big battery with a power capacity of 30-100 MW. One of the many positives of this project is the $80,000 per year that Neoen have promised for community projects.

A 50 MW energy to hydrogen electrolyser is also proposed. It is expected to produce 20-25 tonnes of hydrogen each day.

 
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In August 2019 the Crystal Brook Energy Park received government approval. Following this the Flinders News, based in nearby Port Pirie, carried a very biased and negative article suggesting that the great majority of local people were opposed to the project. The article, by Piper Denholm, rather backfired; it included a poll that indicated more than 3/4 of people approved of the energy park. More than a year earlier Ms Denholm had run a similar pole in the same newspaper indicating 83% support for the energy park.



Two small pockets of negativity

 
Edited 2018/05/09
The three upper Spencer Gulf cities, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla, have competed for development for many years. However, while Whyalla and Port Augusta have welcomed huge and innovative renewable energy developments the Port Pirie Regional Council has tried to obstruct the visionary Crystal Brook Energy Park which aims to combine wind, solar PV, battery and hydrogen production.

 
Site of some of the Crystal Brook Energy Park wind turbines as originally proposed
Turbine site
Perhaps the only pockets of negativity in the northern region of SA are the anti-environment Port Pirie Regional Councillors (who were responsible for destruction of roadside vegetation in contravention of their own development plan) and a few people in the vicinity of the proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park (CBEP). While the local objectors say that "renewable energy is important" they don't want it close to them.

I authored a leaflet in support of the Energy Park that a friend, my wife and I distributed in Crystal Brook in late July 2017 (I have a house in the town). Interestingly all of the feedback from that leaflet was positive.

 

Objectors are in a small minority.

In a piece published in The Conversation; 2018/05/02; 1,700 people living near 250 wind farms across 34 US states were asked how they felt about being close to turbines. The majority of people within 5 miles (8 km) and even within half a mile (800 m) of a wind turbine were positive about it; only 8% within five miles and 25% within half a mile were negative.

Few had ever heard the turbines

It is common for objectors to a proposed wind farm to complain about the noise they will have to put up with. The above research found that of the people who live within 5 miles (8 km) only 16% had ever heard the turbines make any noise.
The opponents of CBEP have a Facebook page titled Flinders Ranges – Windfarm Free. I was blocked from that page very early on, apparently because whoever controlled it wanted to preserve the ignorance of the opponents, the level of which is quite breathtaking. They seem to be unaware, or choose to ignore the facts that:

  • Water bombing aircraft can and have flown near and between wind turbines in SA (wind turbines and fires);
  • Wind farms have negligible adverse impact on land values;
  • There will be many benefits to the local community, including a fund of $80,000 a year for community projects, employment, work for local contractors, etc.
  • Few trees will be cut down;
  • About 500,000 tonnes of CO2 per year will be abated; that amount has global significance;
  • Wind turbines produce negligible infrasound and less noise than motor vehicles.
Surely anyone who opposes a major and very progressive and innovative renewable energy project at least has a responsibility to be reasonably well informed.

The opponents seem not to care about climate change, ocean acidification and the huge number of deaths and illnesses due to the air pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

Largely as a consequence of my being blocked from the opposition page I started the Northern SA – Leading Australia Facebook Page. I have also written about why I personally support the Energy Park.

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Lists of the major renewable energy projects in northern SA

 
As of 2019/12/03
All in alphabetical order

Operating

NameRegionTypeMWComments
BungalaPt AugustaSolar PV275Biggest in Australia as of late 2019
Clements GapMid North, Crystal BrookWind57A small wind farm providing a generous
level of community funding
Coober PedyFar NorthWind and solar PV4MW wind, 2MW solar PVOff grid remote area power supply
Hallett groupMid North, Jamestown/BurraWind351Several wind farms in one area
HornsdaleMid North, Jamestown/BurraWind with big battery315Battery capacity 100MW/129MWh
Lincoln GapPort AugustaWind with battery212Proposed 10MW/?MWh battery
SnowtownMid NorthWind – soon to include solar PV371The most productive wind farm in Australia
Sundrop FarmsPort AugustaSolar thermal?Powering a huge greenhouse project
WaterlooMid North, ClareWind129Interesting history in regard to fires and wind turbines
Whyalla Solar FarmWhyallaSolar PVFirst 6 of 150The first 6MW stage is operating
WillogolecheMid North, Jamestown/BurraWind119Fifth wind farm of the Hallett group


Proposed

NameRegionTypeMegawattsComments
1414 DegreesPt AugustaPV with storage?Solar PV with heat storage in molten silicon
Barn HillMid NorthWindUp to 200Between Clements Gap and Snowtown WFs
Chaff Mill Solar FarmMid NorthSolar PVUp to 125Mintaro solar PV
Crystal Brook Energy ParkMid NorthWind, solar, battery, hydrogen125 wind, up to 150 solar PV. Battery up to 130MW, 400MWh. 20-25 tonnes hydrogen per dayPerhaps the most innovative project in Australia as of early 2018. Planning approval applied for
Goyder Renewables ZoneBurraWind and solarUp to 3,000To be built in several stages
Port AugustaPort AugustaWindUp to 177?Proposed
Port PirieMid NorthSolar PVAbout 5Renew Power Group
SnowtownMid NorthSolar PV with batteryUp to 50; up to 25MW batteryAn addition to the existing wind farm. Planning approval applied for
Whyalla steelworksNE Eyre PeninsulaSolar PV, battery, pumped hydro200MW solar, 120MW pumped hydro, 100MW battery, 1GW total dispatchableWhyalla, Port Augusta
Sanjeev Gupta, GFG Alliance, Zen Energy
Other
Pumped hydroNorthern SAEnergy storageUndecidedAt least three projects under consideration
 
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Conclusions

Blind Freddy could see that renewable energy is the way of the future; it must be if we are to combat climate change and ocean acidification and reduce the huge number of deaths and illnesses due to the air pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. It is reasuring that most of the people who live in the northern parts of South Australia must also be able to see that because they are overwhelmingly accepting of the developments and proposed developments.

Obviously, renewable energy developments have brought, and continues to bring, a lot of much-needed economic activity and employment to the northern parts of South Australia; the people of most of the region appreciate this.

It is fortunate that the decision about the Crystal Brook Energy Park is up to state government and not the stick-in-the-mud Port Pirie councillors or those few selfish local people who seem unable to appreciate anything beyond their own visual preferences.





Related pages

On this site

How should Australia generate its electricity?
Base load power: the facts
Hydrogen and energy; the advantages, implications and challenges
Impressive renewable energy developments in Australia
Mid-North South Australia, leading the nation in renewable energy
Necessary change: embrace it or resist it?
Pumped hydro energy storage
SA's successful adoption of renewables
Toward 100% renewable energy
Wind power in Australia
Climate change
Climate change, natural disasters and what we should be doing
Major threatened disasters compared
Greatest crime in history
The end of coal
The Turnbull Australian Government
Why I support the local wind farm

On the Internet

Jay Weatherill talks about South Australia's journey to a renewable-energy future; Robert McLean's Podcast. Jay's speech corresponded very well with my memory of developments; it entirely lacked the lies heard from the likes of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Life after coal: the South Australian city leading the way; The Guardian, Adam Morton, 2018/07/20

United 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.

AGL's statement on the Liddell closure

Origin Energy boss rejects coal





Index

Big Battery
Bungala solar farm, Port Augusta
Conclusions
Coober Pedy
Crystal Book
Hornsdale Power Reserve
Iron Triangle
Jamestown/Burra
List of projects
Morrison makes a fool of himself
Negativity
Peterborough
Port Augusta
  Bungala solar farm, Port Augusta
Port Pirie
Related pages
Snowtown
Sundrop Farms
Whyalla
Whyalla to Port Augusta


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