The spectre of windless nights

There is a spectre haunting the power grid in SE Australia. The spectre of the windless night when no amount of Wind and Solar capacity makes a scrap of difference. At 4% of demand from W&S we were close to that point this morning.

A man from Alinta Energy was on the wireless last night, he acknowledged the AEMO position that we have a one in ten chance of grid failure come summer. He noted that this is an intolerable situation but it will be relieved by more capacity coming on line. More capacity of unreliable energy that is not there when the sun and wind go out.

On the same program on 2GB in the early evening with Ross Greenwood there was talk about electric cars. That might clear the air but it will also increase the demand for electricity. Given the critical state of reliable supply any increase in demand is potentially disastrous. Just imagine if we fired up another Aluminium smelter:)

Tony from Oz has almost certainly got statistics on the incidence or prevalence of windless nights. Thanks to a heads up reminder from one of our Cats. I will post more about his work later. Those numbers call for more publicity.

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15 Responses to The spectre of windless nights

  1. Those numbers call for more publicity.

    It does, but who is going to publicise it?

  2. Louis Hissink

    One factor which the climate clowns and government don’t realise is that we need reliable baseline power to keep all the electronic system operational. Mobile phones are totally dependent on computers and databases. CCTV cameras need electricity 24/365. The banking system is now totally electronic.

    Go down the sustainable route and reliability of the electronic system will disappear. No bank transfers, no EFT, no surveillance, no traffic lights, etc etc etc.

    And if we have the misfortune of colliding with a solar coronal mass ejection, like the Carrington event of 1859, then even the energy grid might collapse.

    The climate changers really have not thought things through, because of one fact. They don’t think because they cant.

  3. Rafe Champion

    On publicity, the climate issue has simply bored the punters, if they even noticed it.

    It makes no connection with their daily concerns.

    The cost of power literally hits us where we live.

    Similarly the risk of grid failure can be explained without resorting to rocket science.

    Of course it can be spun by the usual suspects (as occurred re SA) but at least the punters can see that it matters to them in a very immediate and powerful way.

  4. Atoms for Peace.

    The power outages will be ” cruel to be kind ” instructional moment.

  5. Rafe Champion

    Thanks Tezza, that is the information required but not the analysis that matters. He could say more about this.

    For instance, we can find 29 days in which output was below 10% of capacity, and 127 days below 20% capacity.

    The fleet was never totally becalmed, but the lowest recorded day in the year saw output of just 2.7%.

    He is not drawing the dire implications from these observations. The issue of maintaining baseload is invisible in the analysis.

    How far does the 10% of capacity get towards the 16 or 18GW of minimum baseload required, not to mention the 18 to 28GW required during the day?

  6. RobK

    A good link, thanks. My personal experience is with single wind sites in WA. There are similarities and some differences with the large AEMO/NEM data. It was a good read. I had seen some of the earlier useful essays.
    You might be able to find some data with various ag dept research sites. I got very comprehensive wind rose data from a ag dept research station only 15km from my farm, back in the mid 90s. Possibly they havent digitized it but current data might be available.
    Also, there are similarities with calculations for sizing traditional (water pumping) agricultural windmills, storage requirements and stock water demand. Farmers have to put up with wind droughts of a week or more etc.

    Seperately, Tessa’s link mentions the high “ramping”(up and down) of wind energy fed to the grid and shows a useful graph. This ramping is due to wind energy being a cubed function of wind speed (so, double the wind speed causes eight times the power fed to the grid and so on). This is why i have said in the past that wind power will cause very erratic surges around the grid on a wide range of time scales. This type of transmission is difficult and expensive to control in a reliable fashion.

  7. RobK

    His analysis is ok, he is assuming gas will prop up demand so it is a fully redundant system, not fully thought through, especially since the redundent gas is a transition to fully firmed (god a hate that word) storage. Storage is not only expensive its a risk/probabilty estimate of a future weather and demand pattern.
    The guys analysis is to argue for wind rather than solar and to limit wind to 33% (nameplate)(and increasingly backed by gas) until “storage lag” is overcome……he’ll be waiting a while but that is where we are at, at the moment. The next stage costs will ramp up even more.

  8. RobK

    All the while, these RE assets are non competive but toxic to baseload and subsidised by consumers. Its a bonanza of unnecessary development at a hideous cost solely forced by zealot regulation.

  9. DD

    Their zealots are in a war to save mankind from himself and his selfish desire to improve his standard of living. Their zealots will deplete all the treasuries and sacrifice all OUR material wealth to achieve this end. No cost to us is too high a price to pay.

    When all else fails bring back the temple sacrifice of virgins – that will surely work.

  10. Here’s an interesting unintended consequence of lack of electricity:

    Bodies at a morgue in the Venezuelan state of Zulia have begun exploding from rot due to lack of electricity

  11. Rafe Champion

    What is the case for gas ahead of coal apart from agility that is irrelevant without the subsidies and favoured treatment for unreliable power?

  12. RobK

    What is the case for gas ahead of coal 
    It has a higher Hydrogen to Carbon ratio. It also conveniently falls just outside the carbon intensity to trigger the RET, or if it does, only just.
    Open circuit gas is basically a jet engine, reduction gearbox and genset. Low capex. Often modular and off-the-shelf, or nearly so. Combined circuit gas is a jet engine with a steam turbine salvaging the exhaust heat. They are more efficient but costly and more complex, still, they can chase load a bit better than very large coal plants.
    I think that’s about it.

  13. RobK

    Without the subsidies coal is cheaper to run than gas but has higher capex.

  14. RobK

    Coal stockpiles are a store of energy only matched by nukes and the larger hydros.

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