David Bidstrup guest post. Fools Gold

The Friday Australian has an article announcing a $610 million loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to facilitate the construction of a combined solar/pumped hydro scheme in north Queensland – “Power of gold to help run energy”.

Apparently the NAIF is “investing in this project because of the importance of affordable and reliable power in developing the north”. One might ask why the government is not doing something about the problems further south. The coming summer will see a repeat of high prices and the grid on the edge of collapse.

The scheme involves using an abandoned gold mining operation in the middle of nowhere to develop a pumped hydro scheme. There are 2 mine pits separated by sufficient height, and of sufficient capacity, to operate a 250 MW hydro station for 8 hours and generate 2,000 MWh.

The power to pump the water will come from a 320 MW solar array adjacent to the mine pits.

Using the numbers spruiked by the proponents the solar farm will produce 928,000 MWh per year. The hydro pumping/generating cycle has an efficiency of 80% so each 2,000 MWh generated needs 2,500 MWh of pumping power to get the required water into the upper storage.

Dividing the solar output by the pumping power gives a possible 371 cycles per year, just over 1 per day, so the hydro output is 742,000 MWh per year. When this is “annualized” by dividing by 8,760 hours per year the “equivalent” rated capacity becomes 85 MW.

A continuous generator rated at 250 MW will produce 2,190,000 MWh per year so the capacity factor of the hydro scheme is 34% which is just above what a wind farm can manage.

The site is at 18 degrees south latitude so is in a good spot for solar compared to southerly climes. There will be times of the year when the sun is directly overhead and even in the south as we get into the summer solstice for the southern hemisphere. On the down side, the tropics are liable to be clouded over for quite a bit of the time and this will curtail solar production.

In previous posts I have analysed solar farms on a daily basis to show the seasonal decline and the chaotic nature when the sky gets cloudy. I cannot find a weather station with the data needed except for Cairns which is some distance away and frankly the analysis is a bit tedious.

If the hydro station can run for 8 hours at full capacity it is reasonable to expect that the refilling would take at least as long – probably longer as the pump efficiency will likely be less than the generator efficiency. Either way, the refilling must take about as long as the sun shines enough to generate solar power so it would seem the scheme is limited to one cycle of generating per day and this must be in the dark hours because generating needs to be finished before the sun rises.

The project is being sold with the usual hyperbole about “storing and dispatching electricity at full design capacity for 8 hours” and “being available on demand” as well as “lowering prices and increasing electricity network security and stability” but I wonder if reality will agree with theory here.

When the numbers are done we have a situation where there is a scheme with a “rated capacity” of 570 MW, (320 of solar and 250 of hydro), that ends up the equivalent of a reliable generator rated at 85 MW. If the 570 MW is “annualized” then the overall capacity factor of the scheme is a paltry 15%. Also, it can only produce electricity for 8 hours every day so I wonder where “the north” will get the other 16 hours’ worth.

The question to ask is, is this a good use of $610 million of taxpayers’ dollars? Yes, I know it is a “loan” but as they say “if you owe the bank a million dollars and you can’t pay the bank has a problem”.

Interestingly the proponents have some production and revenue figures on their website for 3 quarters, (Dec 2017, Mar 2018 and June 2018), for the 50 MW solar array that is already in operation and the average revenue per MWh is $146 so it is unlikely that lower prices will result.

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50 Responses to David Bidstrup guest post. Fools Gold

  1. TFX

    Some numbers and further information for your consideration.

    There are currently 3 operational pumped hydro stations in Australia, Wivenhoe, Tumut 3 and Shoalhaven that I am aware of.

    Wivenhoe has a capacity of 5000 MWh at 500 MW for 10 hours. The refill rate is estimated at 4 to 1 which is the rate for Tumut 3. 40 hours of refill to generate 10 hours.

    Tumut 3 used to be the most profitable power station in the NEM as they would buy power at off-peak periods and on many nights the price would actually be negative because the coal-fired base loaders could not shut down and they would then sell at peak periods. In many cases they operated as superpeakers, only selling at the highest prices.

    80% energy return is in the ballpark for Australia and internationally for pumped hydro.

    Snowy 2.0 was actually designed in the early 1980s and would have been highly profitable. The new Snowy 2.0 has a much higher CAPEX than the original proposal as the new project is all tunnelling and the previous one relied a lot on cut and fill. This would require access roads for bulldozers and excavators in the National Park which was not a problem in the past but is now. Not sure if it would pass profitability benchmarks now.

  2. John Constantine

    Once they rewild the water from the Snowy which is currently being transferred cross catchment to produce power and irrigate the Murray Darling basin, a closed loop recycling method for hydro water will be needed.

    Snowy 2,0 isn’t just about electricity, it is about dumping the water of the Snowy unused out into the Pacific and doing rewilding to save the river, without the bad optics of dynamiting the iconic Snowy Mountains Scheme.

  3. cohenite


    #3105743, posted on July 12, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    Some numbers and further information for your consideration.

    yep, and not one of those existing pump hydro facilities have ever been used to the best of my knowledge.

    The people behind this should be stripped naked and tossed into the middle of the Simpson desert.

  4. RobK

    Solar exposure is available from BoM. Stokes hill near Darwin is http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/ncc/cdio/weatherData/av?p_display_type=dataDGraph&p_stn_num=014167&p_nccObsCode=193&p_month=13&p_startYear=2018.
    If the solar panels have single axis tracking, they will get more than 8hrs for some of the year, but you can see from the bom graph that much of summer is overcast. A lot of information is needed to form a judgement because these ventures are very site specific. Transmission costs and storage volume degradation would also be issues to consider.

  5. Jannie

    It’s only a loan? Any collateral? One or two other questions about governance. It doesn’t sound like a sensible investment unless……it’s other people’s money spent on other people.

  6. Mark M


    “The single biggest driver of consumer prices in the past few years has been infrastructure spending on generation, poles and wires.

    The power system, once made up of a small number of large, centrally located generators, is now made up of a large number of smaller, more dispersed generators.

    Such significant change to the shape of the power system means the way transmission and generation are planned and paid for must also change.”

    Stakeholders share views on putting transmission and generation on the same page


  7. Herodotus

    Why won’t it be pumped mud instead of water, sloshing from one old mine to another?

  8. 1735099

    The fear expressed here is that it just might work.
    Can’t have that…..it stuffs up the “market”.
    (The nation that energy production is tied to a “market” so that prices vary is total insanity).

  9. alan sivkoff

    no fear “numbers”, just cold. logical calculations based on the information available & provided. The issue really is, do any of the numpties @ NAIF have any mathematical skills what so ever?

  10. RobK

    Some quotes from MarkMs link, under the embedded link”slides”:

    Need for access reform
    There is currently a significant amount of generation capacity that is seeking to gain access to the network. Private sector investors are planning generation where the transmission network has limited or no capacity to accommodate it. The scale of investment in the sector also means that projected revenues from a particular project can change rapidly as investment patterns vary and new generators connect to the grid. This uncertainty and lack of coordination is increasing costs in the sector and affecting investment decisions.4
    Under the current framework, transmission businesses have obligations to meet jurisdictionally-set reliability standards for their networks. As a result, they are focussed on making transmission investments to reliably supply consumers. While more generation can help to reduce costs in the wholesale market, it can also increase system costs if the generator is located in a congested part of the network. Under the current framework, transmission businesses do not plan their networks to provide a particular generator with a specific amount of transmission capacity.

    And in a later part:

    Disorderly bidding and storage
    Nature of the issue
    The absence of intra-regional price signals can give rise to disorderly bidding. Disorderly bidding results when generators know that the offers they make will, in all likelihood, not affect the settlement price they receive as a result of congestion between them and the rest of the market. Disorderly bidding can involve a generator behind a constraint bidding at the market floor price to maximise its dispatch quantity. This can result in inefficient dispatch through higher cost generation resources being dispatched instead of lower cost resources.
    Disorderly bidding may become particularly prevalent and result in inefficiencies if grid scale storage devices become commonplace in the NEM. Storage devices behind a constraint have an incentive to disorderly bid (as a seller of electricity) in order to receive the region wide market price. Not only might this be more inefficient than were the storage not there (when the storage device has a higher resource cost than a generator which it displaces in dispatch), it is even more inefficient compared to a scenario where the storage device was charging instead of dispatching. By charging, the storage device would alleviate the constraint. Local, cheaper generation behind the constraint would be dispatched to meet local load. In turn, disorderly bidding of storage has an impact on the locational decisions of storage devices connecting to the transmission network.

    These comments are about the NEM, not the NT example of the post but they highlight the added complexity of a distributed grid generally. There are marketing complexity issues and technical complexity issues common to all “distributed networks “. I note that in the papers referenced at Mark’s link, no mention is made of FCAS (frequency control and ancillary services), whilst Marginal(transmission) Loss Factors were discussed. Not directly acknowledged is the fact that renewables generally make poor use of transmission infrastructure due to their intermittency. Sometimes storage helps this problem, sometimes it aggravates it as outlined above.

  11. 1735099

    The issue really is, do any of the numpties @ NAIF have any mathematical skills what so ever?

    Try applying the immutable laws of mathematics to “the market”.

  12. RobK

    Note: FCAS is a relatively new service cost due to renewables.

  13. RobK

    The electricity market is not a free market. The subsidies and price controls (minimum and maximum), along with a mass of regulatory imposts means that bureaucracy and technocracy call the shots. The price signal from the market is not the price signal from the consumer. It’s not so much a market failure, it isn’t a “market” at all, because price signals are predominantly a response to imposition on the market by forces other than consumer demand.

  14. yarpos

    “One might ask why the government is not doing something about the problems further south.”

    Is there any evidence they are not doing something? They may be able to do more than one thing at a time.

    “Also, it can only produce electricity for 8 hours every day so I wonder where “the north” will get the other 16 hours’ worth.”

    You would imagine that they would get it from where they get their power today. Nothing in the article says that this is being sold as the 100% solution rather than a complement to existing generation.

    I am not a renewables fan, but this sort of argument doesnt help the discussion. It just makes us look like the flip side of alarmist hype.

  15. RobK

    I forgot to mention the guaranteed return on investment in “poles and wires” by the regulator . Last i heard it was around 10%. This is Easily a distortion of electricity market forces and an incentive to spend excessively to prop up renewables.

  16. Tel

    I’m happy for people to experiment with alternative generation systems … as long as they are spending their own money. Government is far enough in debt already.

    The electricity market is not a free market.

    Very true, can’t be said often enough. RET is what makes power expensive. We could have cheap power tomorrow by scrapping RET.

  17. Entropy

    Quite so the phrase “market based instruments” is a euphemism for “centralised control” or “distortion of the market for non market outcomes”.

  18. Pete of Perth

    Do solar panels behave like frisbees to in a cyclone?

  19. Tim Neilson

    Thanks David,
    Two questions:
    Are they planning on selling any solar directly into the grid (i.e. when the top dam is full but the sun’s still shining)? If so,wouldn’t that in theory improve the overall productivity (albeit, as with all renewables, not in a reliable way)?
    And you say that the scheme is limited to one cycle of generating per day and this must be in the dark hours because generating needs to be finished before the sun rises. Is that because of some specific engineering issue with the plant? Looked at purely abstractly they could release water at the front of the top dam while putting it in at the back.
    No doubt neither of those things would turn a turkey into a worthwhile venture, but is the catastrophic waste less bad than it seems?

  20. Roger

    One might ask why the government is not doing something about the problems further south. The coming summer will see a repeat of high prices and the grid on the edge of collapse.

    Because they are captive to “experts” who will never be held accountable for their advice.

  21. 1735099

    The electricity market is not a free market.

    The “free market” is one of the most notorious oxymorons out there.
    It sits with “self-regulation” and “militant pacifist”.

  22. RobK

    Looked at purely abstractly they could release water at the front of the top dam while putting it in at the back.

    That made me smile. Yes, they will also supply direct to the grid. Pumped hydro often has several turbines, some reversible, some not, so often they can empty more quickly than fill-up. The mass of water cannot quickly change direction so at times they may in fact do as you suggest for a short period. The dilemma with pumped storage and renewables is that it is not on a predictable shallow cycle, as is the case with baseload and pumped storage. It is difficult to determine when to buy and when to sell because the cycle can span days or weeks. I don’t know enough details of this particular case but I expect that there would be a case for a portion of the solar to be directly sold to the grid by inverters as this would increase the maximum power, subsidies and flexibility of the scheme.

  23. RobK

    Please explain how “free”and “market “ are oxymoronic .
    A minimum amount of regulation is needed for safety and standards.

  24. 1735099

    Please explain how “free”and “market “ are oxymoronic .

    Human nature (and Australian industrial history) ensures that when any “free” market is set up, it doesn’t take very long for somebody (usually in the fullness of time successfully), to control it.
    Check the retail supermarkets, the oil companies, and the airlines.
    Woolworths and Qantas are good examples.
    Duopolies and monopolies are birds of a feather.

  25. RobK

    Duopolies and monopolies are birds of a feather.
    Duopoly and monopoly are not a result of market forces but rather from regulation ring-fencing and often selective application of the law and/or cronyism or corruption. You are not referring to market forces but mafia forces.

  26. Rafe Champion

    Given the intermittent supply of sun and wind it is pretty obvious that all the large-scale RE investments would be stranded assets without subsidies and state mandates.
    Nonsense in the absence of efficient large scale storage. Please don’t mention batteries or pumped hydro.
    Not even reducing CO2 emission in Germany.

  27. Entropy

    Kidston mine is a long way from anywhere. That said, it is a very sunny spot. So plenty of solar if you could afford the number of panels, but on the negative side evaporation I would expect to be in the 1.8m per year range, leaving aside transportation loss.
    I would think this would only be for peak times with high prices to reduce the scale of solar needed (no reason it doesn’t have to take days to fill, but distance to southern markets would negate the benefit. An interesting exercise in cost benefit even with the vast amount of government cheap loans, market rigging and handouts helping hands.

    In fact I would have thought Kidston would be the place for a nuke to continuously power all of North Queensland myself. In fact why not mine the large local uranium supplies, process it at Kidston or nearby Georgetown, and export the extra out of Karumba? That would be a vastly more interesting cost benefit, and actually result in development of the Gulf Country.

  28. Entropy

    You could also build the green hills dam at Georgetown for industrial water.

  29. Tim Neilson

    #3106033, posted on July 13, 2019 at 11:03 am


  30. stackja

    Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology

    Severe Weather Warning
    For people in Metropolitan, Illawarra, Snowy Mountains and parts of Mid North Coast, Hunter, South Coast, Central Tablelands, Southern Tablelands and Australian Capital Territory Forecast Districts.

    Issued at 10:48 am Saturday, 13 July 2019.

    And the wind turbines are generating what?

  31. Tel

    Check the retail supermarkets, the oil companies, and the airlines.

    Supermarkets in Australia are more competitive than ever … try getting out more, open up the eyes a bit.

    Airlines for a long, long time were heavily government regulated and only in the past few decades have we seen the rise of a mix of budget airlines (Virgin, Tiger, Jetstar etc) and luxury airlines (Singapore Air, Qantas, Emirates, etc). Are you seriously so dopey you can’t remember how the airlines used to be in Australia?

    As for the oil companies … in Australia the biggest cause by far of high petrol price is tax (roughly one third of the bower price is tax, when you include GST), and the second biggest problem is Australia is so severely deindustrialized that we can’t even run a refinery anymore. Go on and explain how dose dastardwy oil companies shut down all the Australian refineries. I’d love to hear this yarn.

  32. Entropy

    It’s the same with telecommunications. You still have idiots who claim they should be nationalised and that the NBN would have us all in comfortable VR retirement by now if the LNP had not destroyed it ( I wish).

    It’s as if the real world examples of the the glacial PMG and Telecom never happened for comparison to the diversity of mobile suppliers we have now, price/coverage/speed alternatives all covered.

  33. Ben

    The bureaucracy in charge of our electricity system keeps talking about THE TRANSITION.

    The concept of a transition implies a new end state. Try and find a definition of what this new end date looks like and you find this in the 2018 AEMO ISP page 33:

    28 GW solar
    17.7 GW wind
    17 GW storage

    To replace 14 GW of coal…

  34. Ben

    2018 AEMO ISP

    By 2040 under the Neutral scenario, the energy production from retired coal-fired generation is projected to be replaced with about 28 GW of large-scale solar generation and nearly 10.5 GW of wind generation (in addition to the 4.5 GW already installed), complemented by over 17 GW of new and existing storage capacity. Due to resource availability of these generation technologies, this represents a significant increase in installed capacity (as shown in Figure 6 below) for a similar level of generation output.
    Typically, these variable renewable generation technologies require a greater land and network footprint than conventional coal-fired generation, and tend to be less variable in aggregate if geographically dispersed. This increases the future value of transmission which facilitates the sharing of surplus low-cost resources across regions, and maximises the value of geographic weather diversity.

    Note this is all designed to achieve emissions reduction targets.

    The various scenarios were constrained in modelling to achieve the emission reductions set out in the input assumptions (Section 2.3). In the short term, the relevant emissions reductions are delivered, consistent with the National Energy Guarantee. In the longer term, emissions are reduced as new renewable generation replaces energy previously supplied by retiring coal-fired generation, along with the development of increasingly coordinated DER.

  35. RobK

    Good comments Ben. The following quote shows the desperation:

    Typically, these variable renewable generation technologies require a greater land and network footprint than conventional coal-fired generation, and tend to be less variable in aggregate if geographically dispersed. This increases the future value of transmission which facilitates the sharing of surplus low-cost resources across regions, and maximises the value of geographic weather diversity.

    There have been numerous papers written on this. It’s true the RE footprint is bigger in land and networks. It is not very true at all that there is a valuable contribution for geographical spread. Often large portions of the grid experience similar conditions. Where there is a difference, losses become excessive. Of course we could upgrade to DC or ultraHV AC as China has been doing (not without major headaches).https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/10376-Sparks-fly-over-ultra-high-voltage-power-lines

    Big plans

    Chinese grid companies have pursued UHV projects to solve a logistical dilemma: coal, hydro, wind, and solar resources are concentrated in the interior, but the heaviest energy demand is along the urbanised east coast.

    In normal high voltage lines, a lot of the power is lost as it’s moved across China’s enormous terrain. The benefit of UHV lines is that they have dramatically reduced losses.

    China has deployed two types of UHV line. Direct current (UHVDC) lines suit transmission from A to B over distances of more than 1,000 kilometres; whereas alternating current (UHVAC) lines work better over slightly shorter distances but permit branching links along the way.

    Grid companies have been keen adopters, with State Grid, which covers 88% of China’s territory, especially interested. Its 2013-2020 construction plan envisioned six AC and 13 DC lines by 2013, and 10 AC and 27 DC lines by 2020. In Inner Mongolia alone, company officials spoke of 11 lines running from the province’s coal and renewable hotspots by 2020.

    But rollouts have slowed, and few analysts expect State Grid will deliver on its 2020 target. In fact, its national UHV backbone scheme, which is the centrepiece of its UHVAC ambitions, looks unlikely to happen anytime soon.

    Sparks fly

    State Grid’s UHV plans suggested remarkable ambition, but did not always align with those of central and provincial policymakers.

    Central officials have clashed with State Grid planners on its backbone scheme, which envisions a lattice of six UHVAC lines to synchronise grids that are currently in State Grid’s territory. But officials worry about nationwide blackouts cascading across these interconnected grids. Analysts suggest that State Grid has shelved the backbone plan for now and is focusing on UHVAC lines within individual grids instead.

    No doubt we can do it better than the Germans and the Chinese because we don’t have the population nor the economic heft that they have. It’s frightening.

  36. Tezza

    Good post and some very informative comments.
    Another layer of doubt about these schemes arises because ‘kWhours ain’t kWhours’ on a daily charge/discharge cycle. Electricity generated from solar on a sunny day in the middle of nowhere with no nearby demand may not be worth much, and can therefore be used to charge pumped hydro storage. But then electricity generated at night from discharging the pumped storage in the middle of nowhere with no nearby demand is not worth much either, if anything. So the $ numbers would be very interesting to examine.
    Perhaps the ultimate scheme has solar pumping hydro to generate the electricity to charge batteries, to sell the kWhours when prices are high, at peak demand on a cloudy day ! If only capital were free …….
    All in all, another clear example of why Australian multifactor productivity growth is stuffed and real per capita income growth is so weak.

  37. Rafe Champion

    28 GW solar
    17.7 GW wind
    17 GW storage

    To replace 14 GW of coal…

    At night that translates into zero from solar.
    On low wind days, say 5% of plated capacity 18 GW is less than 1GW. At 60% like now, which is as good as it gets, it translates into 10 GW.
    What does 17 GW of storage mean? surely not batteries or pumped hydro.

    Even with wind doing well and contributing 10GW (in years to come) how do we get to 29 GW, the demand at the evening peak half an hour ago?

    And when the wind is not doing well?
    Hydro and the various forms of gas can ramp up, but how far and for how long?

  38. Sydney Boy

    On the down side, the tropics are liable to be clouded over for quite a bit of the time and this will curtail solar production.

    Not out at Kidston station. Very little humidity or cloud. And almost zero chance of cyclones that far inland. While no fan of the renewables boondoggle, this is possibly the best you can get for your money.

  39. Ben

    RobK and Rafe – re ‘the transition’ end state

    Apologies for the long post below but some of this stuff needs to be made more obvious. Read on!

    AEMO ISP (transmission investment business case)
    This capacity is forecast to be complemented by additional transmission capacity to share resources between Queensland and Victoria to New South Wales, which (with some capacity being provided through renewable resources) is expected to provide for peak load conditions. More work however is needed to ensure that the reliability standard can be achieved with this mix of generation [35].

    [35] The ISP is not a capacity adequacy assessment, and is not equivalent to the detailed assessments required to project the achievement or not of the Reliability Standard. The Electricity Statement of Opportunities (ESOO) fulfils this role.

    The recently released ISP reviews by Aurora (available on the same AEMO site as the ISP) have the following recommendations for transmission investment:

    • Group 1: immediate investment in transmission to be undertaken, with completion as soon as practicable.:
    o Increase Victorian transfer capacity to New South Wales by 170MW (2020)
    o Increase Queensland transfer capacity to New South Wales by 190MW (2020)
    o Increase New South Wales transfer capacity to Queensland by 460MW (2020)
    • Group 2: action to be taken now, for implementation by the mid-2020s:
    o Establish new transfer capacity between New South Wales and South Australia of 750MW (2022-25)
    o Increase transfer capacity from Queensland to New South Wales by a further 378MW (2023)
    • Group 3: – in the longer term, to the mid-2030s and beyond, the capability of the grid should be enhanced:
    o Increase Victoria transfer capacity to New South Wales by 1930 MW (2035)
    o Increase New South Wales transfer capacity to Victoria by 1800 MW (2035)

    This group has calculated a 2040 NPV for all this transmission of $1.2b.

    AEMO’s ESOO on peak demand:

    In 2018, AEMO’s ESOO modelling continues to show a heightened risk of unserved energy [blackouts] over the next 10 years, confirming again that additional investment will be required in a portfolio of resources to replace retiring capacity, and that, for peak summer periods, targeted actions to provide additional firming capability [gas, coal or hydro] are necessary to reduce risks of supply interruptions [blackouts].

    Changes in the make-up and operating complexity of the NEM, including a growing proportion of variable renewable energy generation, both behind-the-meter and on the grid, are contributing to a growing difference in the statistically expected level of USE [probability of blackouts used for planning] and exposure to potential supply shortfalls at times of peak demand [actual blackouts].

    With increasing growth in variable renewable energy resources, both demand and supply are now exposed to the vagaries of weather, such as wind and solar availability, impacting the ability of the system to meet demand on extreme peak days [blackouts more likely because of weather dependent generation].

    In this report, AEMO does not comment on the ongoing appropriateness of the reliability standard in its current form. However, the changing dynamics of the power system require a full review of the continued appropriateness of the standard as a mechanism to avoid the imposition of higher risk of load shedding than is acceptable or in the public interest [passing the buck?].

    The 2018 ESOO, continuing a theme from the 2017 ESOO and other recent forecasts, highlights that without additional investment and as generation reaches end of technical life and retires, there is a forecast emerging reliability gap [blackouts] across Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia.

    …although Victoria is forecast to meet the reliability standard in 2018-19, there is a high projected likelihood (about 30% chance) of some instances of load shedding [blackouts].

    …while additional variable renewable energy in Victoria is projected to help reduce the annual volume and severity of USE [blackouts], the forecast probability of some USE [blackouts] occurring is still quite high.

    And so on and so on.

  40. DaveR

    Just got back from the weekend and read this post.

    Let me see if I got this right:

    The NAIF is lending $610m to build a combined solar/pumped hydro scheme in north Queensland. The reason they have helped fund this project is “because of the importance of affordable and reliable power in developing the north”.

    Affordable? Fail

    Reliable? Fail


  41. Rafe Champion

    Thanks Ben, it is nice to see they have discovered that increasing the input of unreliable energy creates some problems. They seem to be a bit vague about solutions.

    Interesting bit of information in a detailed piece that rubbishes the possibility of the transition.

    A comment on storage and what is happening with diesel backup in the US.

    After a total system outage in South Australia in 2018, Tesla, with much media fanfare, installed the world’s single largest lithium battery “farm” on that grid. For context, to keep South Australia lit for one half-day of no wind would require 80 such “world’s biggest” Tesla battery farms, and that’s on a grid that serves just 2.5 million people.

    Engineers have other ways to achieve reliability; using old-fashioned giant diesel-engine generators as backup (engines essentially the same as those that propel cruise ships or that are used to back up data centers). Without fanfare, because of rising use of wind, U.S. utilities have been installing grid-scale engines at a furious pace. The grid now has over $4 billion in utility-scale, engine driven generators (enough for about 100 cruise ships), with lots more to come. Most burn natural gas, though a lot of them are oil-fired. Three times as many such big reciprocating engines have been added to America’s
    grid over the past two decades as over the half-century prior to that.

  42. Rafe Champion

    Another para from the same source.

    The increased use of wind/solar imposes a variety of hidden, physics-based costs that are rarely acknowledged in utility or government accounting. For example, when large quantities of power are rapidly, repeatedly, and unpredictably cycled up and down, the challenge and costs associated with “balancing” a grid (i.e., keeping it from failing) are greatly increased. OECD analysts estimate that at least some of those “invisible” costs imposed on the grid add 20%–50% to the cost of grid kilowatt-hours. (This reference source was dated 2013) As I suspected, a lot of this stuff has been around for yonks.

  43. RobK

    Thanks for that link Rafe, a good read, well referenced.
    I liked the bit:

    If photovoltaics scaled by Moore’s Law, a single post- age-stamp-size solar array would power the Empire State Building. If batteries scaled by Moore’s Law, a battery the size of a book, costing three cents, could power an A380 to Asia.

  44. Rayvic

    Given the low efficiency of the Snowy 2 proposal costing some $12 billion after purchase of the NSW and Victorian government shareholdings in the Snowy scheme, and now ” Fools Gold”, it is clear that the government is not interested in making best use of resources. Instead, four HELE plants should have been funded, thereby producing lower cost, reliable power.

  45. Ben

    Some days I think the world is waking up to the reality, other days I worry that momentum is too great to turn

  46. Rafe Champion

    Yes Ben, the only hope is that it is still adults who vote, not that I think of people between 18 and 20 as adults these days, we would have had less ALP governments if Whitlam had not lowered the voting age.

    Still the parents need to get a grip and we need to get to the Ministers of Education to get the teachers under control.

  47. Rafe Champion

    A heads up for a good book on the climate by a local lad, Howard Thomas Brady in the ACT.He gave a talk to the Five Dock Climate Realists and described trip to the Antarctic with a US science team, he ticked two boxes to get the gig, he was the RC padre and he is a geoscientist with a special line in fossils to chart past climates.

    Mirrors and Mazes.

    Some features of the book:
    – the overlay of the trend in CO2 over 150 years on top of other things like temperature and storms to show the zero correlation.
    – a chapter on the IPCC with example of dud claims and a long list of top scientists who resigned from committees to protect their scientific reputations.
    – studies of Australian coastlines to refute the rising tides alarm .

  48. Kneel

    Is there any evidence they are not doing something? They may be able to do more than one thing at a time.

    I politician that can walk and chew gun at the same time?
    Kind of like a talking dog, innit – plenty of novelty, but not much use…

  49. Helen

    So if it needs a fair amount of each day to recharge, it follows it must bedischarged before it begins to recharge. The best solar availablity where I am (tropics) with a fixed array is between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm per day. Before and after this the sun is so low as to put bugger all in. OTOH, a tilting array can begin charging at daybreak and finish at sundown, but I am not sure of the economics of them for energy produced per capital investment and maintenance (higher?) vs fixed array. My electrician swears fixed array is superior but I suspect he might not want the install headache. Our old sytem was tilting array and it was brilliant for all day power. Much better in my opinion than the fixed we have now – I digress.

    If that is the charge time then the release must be finished before 10.00 am.

    The other alternative is to recharge before 3.00 pm and release in the late afternoon / early evening. Then leave it empty til next morning 10.00 am. This would be the logical input time, to co-incide with peak demand.

    That is, if you thought that the whole concept was efficient in the first place.

    And the cost of cleaning. Mine are very dirty at present but I cant afford to lime them up with bore water, so will have to try to sweep or air clean, but it needs to happen or you loose again.

  50. Tim Neilson

    I am not sure of the economics of them for energy produced per capital investment and maintenance (higher?) vs fixed array

    It’s only taxpayers’ money.

    There’s always more where that came from.

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