Guest Post from David Bidstrup. Will Tasmania save us from a dark future?

Todays “Australian” has an article by Guy Barnett, Minister for Primary Industries and Water in the Tasmanian parliament titled “Tasmania the “battery” to power the mainland”.

In the late 80s I did time in Queenstown – (still not sure what I did to deserve it) – so I have an appreciation of the Hydro resources in Tasmania. Mr Barnett says that with a bit of jiggling and another Bass-link cable the apple isle will keep our lights on and we can get rid of coal and feel really good.

It is true that Tasmania has some very good hydro resources which were developed in the time when each state took responsibility for its own power supply and competed for industry with other states. The Bell Bay smelter which is about to close was established because of the cheap power the Tasmanian hydro system could produce, even though the construction of schemes got out of control and nearly bankrupted the state.

These hydro schemes are not immediately suitable for storage. They have machinery that only generates and does not pump and in most cases the water used simply flows away down the river. This is not to say that some could not be converted but the costs would be significant as would be the time scale and the green backlash when plans were made to build “lower storage” dams downstream – think of the Gordon below Franklin fiasco of the 80s. It is also worth remembering that Bass-link has failed before, putting Tasmania in it up to the neck and negating any transfer to “the mainland”.

There seems to be a fantasyland idea that we have “excess renewable energy” sitting around just waiting to be “stored” for a windless day of sunless night. All we have to do is spend heaps and everything will be fine. In reality, electricity is an instantaneous “commodity”. Generation must meet demand second by second, which is why the “renewables” are so useless. There is no “excess electricity” in the system, only “excess generating capacity” which will be underutilised in the event that the renewables can muster more than the demand at the particular moment.

Also, Mr Barnett seems unfamiliar with the difference between power and energy. The article mentions that “AEMO forecasts the nation needs 17 gigawatts of storage by 2040 to stabilise energy production”. We consume gigawatt hours so the storage requirement has a time dimension. The typical “big batteries” that are being approved here in SA have a capacity of about 100 megawatt hours or 0.1 gigawatt hours.

Whether the storage is by pumped hydro or batteries there is a loss incurred where only about 80% of the energy used to “charge it up” is recovered for use, so they are energy users not energy producers.

At present the grid has a minimum demand of around 17 GW and a maximum somewhere between 28 and 32 GW depending on the time of year. If we used our existing resources of coal, gas and hydro intelligently this demand could be met at all times and the supply would be reliable.

Some time ago I posted an article titled “Where were the renewables when we needed them” which analysed the two days of highest consumption in 2018. On the 18 January 2018 wind and solar provided 2% of the total consumption, the rest was from coal, (76%), gas, (12%) and Hydro (10%).

On that day the “non-renewables” provided 580,000 MWh out of a total for the day of 596,000. To replace that with “storage” using 100 MWh batteries needs 5,960 batteries at about $100 million each. The next day was about the same so there would be no “excess” to re-charge the batteries, and so it goes – an exercise in tail chasing. Using “pumped hydro” has the same disadvantages where the capacity needed for storage and the excess generating capacity to keep it charged becomes a self-defeating proposition.

I do not see that Tasmania will keep the nations lights on anytime soon and wonder why we keep on with national self-harm for nothing.

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25 Responses to Guest Post from David Bidstrup. Will Tasmania save us from a dark future?

  1. Herodotus

    Once again we have an alarmist report from the EU saying the weather is the hottest evah.
    Nothing short of more coal or nuclear will save us from these dangerous idiots some of whom have money in the game. Rowan Dean on Credlin last night drew a link between a number of rich investors in renewables and the political pushing and shoving that keeps the juggernaut rolling – at taxpayer expense.

  2. RobK

    It’s a curious thing; proponents of RE extol the virtues of a distributed grid,(which is a complex, expensive exercise) then seek to back it up with a very centralised hydro battery. It really is a scheme to harness the worst features of each philosophy.

  3. egg_

    Minister for Primary Industries and Water in the Tasmanian parliament

    Sounds like a double-header.

  4. egg_

    Rowan Dean on Credlin last night drew a link between a number of rich investors in renewables and the political pushing and shoving that keeps the juggernaut rolling

    Aren’t some of our own schilling for ruinables – “but da Science, I tells ya”!
    /Trumbles

  5. Rohan

    So Taswegia has a spare 3 GW capacity up its slieve with or without pumped hydro?

  6. Mundi

    Notice like typical lefties they go for the biggest grid.
    There are many pockets of australia not even on NEM where they could start and prove a gen grid utopia, but of course they don’t.

    At the moment green generators are still in scam mode where they can just steel demand during times when they feel like it.

  7. egg_

    At the moment green generators are still in scam mode where they can just steel demand during times when they feel like it.

    Totally oblivious to the numpties on Insiders promoting ruinables as a panacea.

  8. a happy little debunker

    FFS GUY BARNETT – keep Tassies cheap power where you can use it as your competitive advantage – rather than exporting that advantage for a very limited economic gain.

    If you cannot find a way to use this cheap energy to stimulate the local economy – where wages are 10% less than the national average – then you are a numpty that needs t0 resign.

  9. yarpos

    The “battery of the nation” meme is pure BS. Sitting at the end of a not totally reliable 500-600MW (max) interconnector it delivers a fly speck in terms of total demand. A bit of load balancing for southern Victoria is about it. The interconnector was out for months and the world kept spinning.

  10. Tasmanian pollies must turn cartwheels with joy whenever ScoMo turns up pockets stuffed with hard earned taxpayer dollars and needing a good headline. Just check AEMO prices and you will see after a while that Tas prices are not relatively cheap – why is that?
    I read somewhere that Basslink has overall been a flop.
    So how could a 2nd cable pay?
    Battery of the Nation is just a PR scheme to capture Fed $’s and with a wing n a prayer they hope to alleviate their debt problem.
    The AEMO dashboard shows that yesterday after 1pm Tas 5min price hit +$12,000 per MWh – why is this in their renewables paradise. Were the price manipulator staffers off to a long lunch?

  11. I_am_not_a_robot

    “Tasmania the “battery” to power the mainland” …

    The idea is utterly absurd and that ought to be intuitively obvious, Guy Barnett and his like have no concept of scale.

  12. egg_

    “battery of the nation”

    Only to dim bulbs.

  13. a happy little debunker

    that Tas prices are not relatively cheap – why is that

    Tassie prices were the cheapest in the nation during the September shutdown of Basslink.

  14. NuThink

    I_am_not_a_robot
    #3202824, posted on November 6, 2019 at 8:27 am
    “Tasmania the “battery” to power the mainland” …

    The idea is utterly absurd and that ought to be intuitively obvious, Guy Barnett and his like have no concept of scale.

    Just doing a rough calculation, the SA Hornsdale battery farms (chicken feed) is 100MW/129MWh battery. So it can in theory supply 100MW for 1.29 hours. So if as Rafe mentions the country needs 30,000 MW at its peak, that there would be need of 300 batteries to run for 1.29 hours or 1 hour and 17 minutes. So 4 hours backup would need 900 batteries for a total cost of 54 billion AUD (give or take an extra billion or ten for the troughs). Then the batteries still need to be charged. Please check my calculations as I grew up using an analogue slide rule.

    https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/7-things-to-know-about-the-worlds-first-floating-nuclear-reactor/articleshow/71593482.cms?from=mdr

    The first thing to know about the Akademik Lomonosov is that it is NOT the first floating nuclear power plant.

    https://inhomelandsecurity.com/floating-nuclear-power-plants-solution-or-nightmare
    19/07/2019 · The concept of floating nuclear power plants is not new. In the late 1960s, the U.S. Army placed a modified World War II Liberty Ship, the Sturgis, in the Panama Canal that provided electricity for both military and civilian use. The Sturgis, with its 10,000-kilowatt pressurized water steam plant, was the first floating nuclear power plant.

    So much for the fake economic news.

  15. cohenite

    This should be stamped on the pinheads of every pollie:

    There seems to be a fantasyland idea that we have “excess renewable energy” sitting around just waiting to be “stored” for a windless day of sunless night. All we have to do is spend heaps and everything will be fine. In reality, electricity is an instantaneous “commodity”. Generation must meet demand second by second, which is why the “renewables” are so useless. There is no “excess electricity” in the system, only “excess generating capacity” which will be underutilised in the event that the renewables can muster more than the demand at the particular moment.

  16. I_am_not_a_robot

    How soon we forget, not only did Basslink fail in 2015 – 16, but Tasmania almost ran out of water.

  17. Roger

    Rowan Dean on Credlin last night drew a link between a number of rich investors in renewables and the political pushing and shoving that keeps the juggernaut rolling

    The Greta phenomenon is a prime example.

  18. I_am_not_a_robot

    Guy Barnett is a lawyer by training and profession and ought to have a capacity for critical thinking.
    Something has happened in minds of outwardly rational people the past 30 – 40 years, it’s a puzzle.
    This quote is from the Manhattan Institute Institute:

    The annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory, could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. It would require 1,000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand. Meanwhile, 50–100 pounds of materials are mined, moved, and processed for every pound of battery produced.

  19. a happy little debunker

    How soon we forget

    How soon we forget that Labor/Green appointed numpties in Hydro Tas were busy selling Tassie’s power security for Federal Labor carbon tax dollars.
    Meanwhile here is the Liberal Party promising Tasmania’s future power security for a quick dollar (but only for about a dollar).

  20. old bloke

    a happy little debunker
    #3202869, posted on November 6, 2019 at 9:00 am

    that Tas prices are not relatively cheap – why is that

    Tassie prices were the cheapest in the nation during the September shutdown of Basslink.

    Was that when Tassie was running on diesel generators?

  21. Botswana O'Hooligan

    As a ten year old kid in 1950 living in the bush sans electricity and all the bits that went with it like fridges and radio, I read about a tidal power station in France and so when transferred to France later on in life I tracked it down to find it abandoned, so much for that one. Our electricity bill in France in 1990 was about 350% higher than it was in Sydney, so much for nuclear powered electricity generation. In Japan they pump some water back into storage at night time when the power stations are idling along to keep the boilers “flashed up” and that’s wonderful stuff and we should emulate them but the trouble is that we don’t have the water and we don’t have excess electricity and we are not all that flash with an excess of mountains either, so much for that one too. We do however have coal up the gazoo but then we have politicians as well.

  22. Kneel

    “battery of the nation”

    Heh.
    a single AAA battery to run your aluminium smelter all day – hows that working out for ya?

    “… have no concept of scale.”
    None what so ever. Almost no-one not involved does.
    Have you seen an electric arc where the circuit is carrying >100MW? That piddly little substation that takes up 2 or 3 building blocks in your street is just several 100kW – peanuts to the grid, but 20 x 5kW solar installs (but only when it’s 12 noon on a clear day, otherwise you get very much less from it)
    Make them WALK through a 2.4GW power station – make them watch how much coal gets crushed to feed it, make them watch how much cooling water goes through it, etc etc.
    Then show them a 2.4MW windmill. Remind them that even if we had 1,000 of them, they do nothing when there’s no wind blowing – worse than nothing, they usually have a parasitic load to keep them slowly turning, or the bearings will fail.
    Make them generate 1kW/h on a stationary pushbike so they know how much energy that is, then remind them that one power station puts out 2.4 million times as much, and we need at least 20 of these to “keep the lights on”.
    Show them how much Germany spent on green energy, and remind them that this did NOT reduce Germany’s CO2 output by a single gram – those emissions grew while this “revolution” was in progress, and got considerably higher when they decided that nuclear is “too risky” and shut it down.
    Remind them that their car engine produces several kW just “cruising”, so electric cars will increase the load significantly – just 1 million “e-cars” charging on 50kW chargers is 50GW, and I believe we have many more than a million vehicles on the road in Aus every day and they WILL need to be recharged, sometimes more than once a day.

    And after all that, how about this: If you think I should trust climate scientists because they are expert in their field, why don’t you ask the people who have run the electricity generation systems for the last 5+ decades what THEY think is needed to: a) keep the grid stable; b) keep prices low; c) how can we do this with “renewables” and how much that will cost (ballpark).

    Only then can you make an informed choice on the energy policies you should have.

  23. RobK

    Make them WALK through a 2.4GW power station
    I often try to explain wattage in terms of horsepower so people can get a feel for the power involved.
    2.4GW is approximately 3,000,000 horsepower.
    Sometimes when a sub station has a catastrophic failure, transformers are literally ripped of their mountings. This is energy available on demand, anytime.

  24. Rayvic

    “The AEMO dashboard shows that yesterday after 1pm Tas 5min price hit +$12,000 per MWh – why is this in their renewables paradise. Were the price manipulator staffers off to a long lunch?”

    ‘Manipulation’ is the name of the game played very skilfully by the big renewables generators. Firstly, they manipulate to get the government to support the installation of more renewables at the expense of coal-fired. Once in production, they manipulate to get priority over coal-fired to service demand. The ultimate goal is price paradise – when they can manipulate supply to fall short of demand and thereby charge the highest possible per-MWh price within the allowable maximum.

  25. classical_hero

    Maths is not the renewable energy proponents biggest clue. They seem to think that money grows on trees and have no grasp on the basics.

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