Windwatch: Great wind but no good news for RE

The wind measured by the fleet of windmills had been strong across most the country lately, rising from a low point at 20% of capacity at 9am yesterday to reach 50% at 9 in the evening, peaked near 57% at midnight and stayed over 50% to the present time (12 noon Monday). The stability of the aggregate covers wild fluctuations at many of the windmills, notably Musselroe in NE Tasmania. There are only four windfarms in Tasmania so it is easy to find.

In terms of feeding the grid, the wind provided 22% of the power required at midnight as the demand fell to 20 GW from a peak of 26GW at dinnertime to a low of 18 GW at 4am.  That looks exciting for wind fanciers because 22 is a lot compared with zero a decade or so ago, but wait! At midnight while the wind tipped in 4.4GW, coal supplied almost 14 (70% of demand) plus gas 1.1 and Hydro 1.8.

What is more to the point, coal, gas and hydro can all be ramped up on demand, for example when the wind stops, not that it matters if the wind stops at present because we can do without the wind and the solar power as well.

Even more to the point, the chain in the supply of intermittent energy is only as strong as the weakest link – that is the choke point aka the lowest point of supply. Obviously the sun chokes every evening and so the wind has to be there in adequate supply 24 hours a day for 365 days a year (not to mention leap years). Clearly this is not the case if wind is supposed to replace 20GW of coal-fired power but the more immediate test of the wind supply will come with the closure of Liddell that will take the best part of 2GW out of the system. This means that we can build a lot more windmills but the old energy will still be required until we go nuclear.

Mike O’Ceirin has provided a list of the episodes when the wind supply fell to 10% or less of the installed capacity and the duration of those episodes for some recent years (he can do it for every year since 2011). I will report on this in due course but people who have been paying attention will not be surprised to find that the results are not good news for all the taxpayers and power consumers who  generously contribute to the wind industry.


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10 Responses to Windwatch: Great wind but no good news for RE

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    So the entire bird mashing fleet of these repulsive contraptions on a good wind day equaled the output of two coal-fired power stations.

    Good luck getting 100% renewable Green peoples. Bad luck for all the poor birds when you succeed.

  2. stackja

    Reaping the whirlwind?

  3. RobK

    The random and large rates of change in energy flows due to RE play merry hell with the grid and are the cause of increased costs and decreased reliability. It is a National experiment with unproven technology.

  4. Terry

    Renewable Energy Certificates for grid-scale wind and solar should attract a negative subsidy (a charge to hold them) to reflect their value to the national grid.

    The cost of “hosting” these “assets” should be borne by those that inflicted them upon the grid. And if it bankrupts, good.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    The random and large rates of change in energy flows due to RE play merry hell with the grid and are the cause of increased costs and decreased reliability.

    Yup, and the poor business peoples are noticing this.

    “We need an Intervention”: Desperate Aussie Manufacturers Demand Cheaper Energy (31 May)

    I watched an interview tonight with Stephen Bell of Qenos, the situation is very simple; Aussie manufacturers compete with overseas companies who pay $4-6 / gigajoule of gas. Aussie companies currently pay $20 / gigajoule.

    This unsustainable price difference gives overseas manufacturers the freedom to offer their product at prices energy intensive Aussie manufacturers cannot match. This disaster is largely the fault of Aussie state politicians who have imposed gas fracking moratoriums and other anti-business policies.

    Aussie manufacturers are clinging on in the hope that someone will listen. But time is running out. If nobody listens, Australia will lose what is left of its energy intensive manufacturing industry.

    Although the focus of the story is on gas prices the two are linked, since that the only baseload generation capacity built in Austrlia for decades has been gas turbine based. Funny how if you increase the demand for gas, and don’t increase supply, the price goes up.

  6. Terry

    ‘It is a National experiment with unproven technology.’

    FIFY. The proven technology they are using is fit for purpose (subsidy farming) and entirely unfit for its stated purpose: grid-scale energy production.

    An ‘experiment’ with only one outcome; akin to playing Russian Roulette with all of the revolver’s chambers loaded. (also proven technology with predictable results).

  7. RobK

    What the World Bank says:

    Compensation Devices to Support Grid Integration of Variable Renewable Energy
    From exec summary:

    The modern electricity industry is undergoing a major restructuring featuring a significant increase in the market penetration of variable renewable energy (VRE) sources. The deregulation of electricity markets has given consumers highly reliable options both for purchasing energy options and for selling it on the open market in a deregulated power system.
    Driving this shift is a vision of the transmission grid as flexible, reliable, and open to all exchanges, no matter where the suppliers and consumers of energy are located.
    However, the same trends are also contributing to transmission congestion and forced outages. Grid modernization requires an increase in the power quality, system stability, and increased transfer capacity of the transmission. The employed technologies range from passive reinforcements to electrical industry innovations such as super-conducting equipment, energy storage, and large-scale devices for routing grid power flow. Passive reinforcement, which generally involves the addition of new transmission lines, is often a challenging solution due to environmental and other considerations. Therefore, new approaches to power system operation and control are gaining development momentum for overload relief and efficient and reliable operation. High-voltage direct-current (HVDC) and flexible alternating-current transmissions system (FACTS) technologies appear especially effective in improving grid operations and management.
    This objective of this guidance note is to discuss available FACTS technologies with the underlying concept of independent control of active and reactive power flows, the essential differences and benefits of FACTS devices, and industry applications.
    The applications of FACTS devices are associated with four essential technical enhancements:
    1) System capacity, i.e., a significant improvement in the operational efficiency of existing transmission lines and other equipment, and the elimination of transmission bottlenecks;
    2) System reliability, i.e., greater voltage stability and power flow control, which improves system reliability and performance while reducing loop flows and increasing transient grid stability;
    3) Power quality, i.e., a decrease in harmonics and voltage flicker and a reduced risk of potential subsynchronous resonance problems, which is important for industries that are sensitive to power quality; and
    4) System controllability, i.e., the ability to instantaneously respond to disturbances and redirect power flows through “intelligence” built into the grid.
    The average installation time of FACTS devices is 12 to 18 months, and capital investments for each installation usually involve tens of millions of U.S. dollars. However, FACTS implementation usually implies environmental benefits by deferring the construction of expensive transmission lines and better utilizing existing system assets.

    The costs continue to rise as commitment increases.

  8. Terry

    ‘The deregulation of electricity markets has given consumers highly reliable options both for purchasing energy options…’

    So, I can choose not to purchase “renewables”? Yeah, didn’t think so.

    System controllability: the end-game. Not so much where they can send power to, but where they can keep it from.

    The biggest “environmental” benefit, as they see it, comes from their very favourite zero-emissions technology: “demand management”. No emissions when you have no power – no soup for you!

  9. Chris M

    Rafe you need to paste in “Greening the land” cartoon which illustrates this point.

  10. Mike-SMO

    The wind is always blowing. Somewhere else.

    I have seen (but haven’t saved links for) maps of the typical large scale weather patterns for the United States (CONUS, “Lower 48”, etc) that make it clear that widely dispersed, redundant “wind farms” would be necessary to provide reliable wind power to any population centers. Wind farm projects have been proposed for Wyoming; one to feed parts of the Pacific Coast and another to feed the NYC area of the East Coast. That is lots of hardware and an extensive distribution grid to keep the lights on.

    Is there an equivalent data set for Aussie Island?

    There is no way to implement pumped hydro or chemical batteries that are big enough to maintain significant population clusters. Distributed wind harvesting is not going to be affordable, since power distrribution isn’t cheap, even if you ignore the necessary redundant wind farms with their short service lives.

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