Just another day with a grid on the edge
It was only 200,000 “customers”, only for an hour or so in the middle of the night. But yet again the Great Green Experiment that is SA ran out of electricity. Olympic Dam (the largest uranium deposit in the world and fourth largest copper deposit) was not operating properly for four hours. A fault at the Victorian interconnector meant 220MW of load had to “shed” — a fancy term for throwing the switch so the whole system didn’t break. SA was “islanded” — cut off from the rest of the national grid for about 3 hours, and clearly it can’t make it on its own. Total power lost was about a fifth of the SA grid.
Remember, this has absolutely, definitely nothing to do with the last blackout or renewables says the SA Energy Minister:
Mr Koutsantonis said there was no way renewable energy generation in SA could be blamed for the loss of power.
Andrew Dillon from AusNet said the overnight outage had no link to factors that caused a recent state-wide blackout in SA, and this time was hindered by the timing of the maintenance work.
“There were some assets out of service for maintenance at that stage so unfortunately the fault couldn’t have come at a worse time,” he said.
If the interconnector had only broken during a windy, sunny day, it would have been fine, right? Just bad luck.
90% of SA windfarms were producing no electricity when the state needed it
TonyFromOz points out that wind farms were only generating at 6% of their rated capacity when the fault hit.
Wind power in South Australia was delivering 100MW of its (almost) 1600MW Nameplate, around 6.25% of total Capacity*. So, one turbine in every sixteen with it’s blades actually moving. Total Demand for South Australia at that time, even with almost everyone tucked up in bed asleep was 1150MW. Lucky this outage from Victoria (South Australia’s main electricity supplier) happened when it did, and not during the day with Total Demand up around 1500MW.
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the problems were on the Victorian side of the border and “South Australia’s grid operated effectively as an island and load began to be restored within half an hour”.
He said BHP built back-up power at its mines across the world.
“Why they haven’t done so at Olympic Dam is a matter for them,” he said.
The SA Government’s message to investors is pretty clear: don’t expect SA to provide reliable electricity.
BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie issued an urgent warning to policy-makers after the latest incident, which comes two months after the statewide blackout led to about two weeks of lost production at Olympic Dam.
“Olympic Dam’s latest outage shows Australia’s investability and jobs are placed in peril by the failure of policy to both reduce emissions and secure affordable, dispatchable and uninterrupted power,” he said in a statement.
“The challenge to reduce emissions and grow the economy cannot fall to renewables alone.
“This is a wake-up call ahead of the COAG meeting and power supply and security must be top of the agenda and urgently addressed.”
The incident also cut power to a Victorian smelter for about three hours.
If BHP wanted to make a coal fired ultra super critical plant nearby, it could probably sell electricity to South Australians at half what they currently pay, still make a profit, cut emissions (not that that matters) and have its own guaranteed supply. But the SA government won’t let it do that. If SA Customers want to buy that cheap electricity, the SA government won’t let them.
The only thing standing in the way of cheap, reliable electricity is the SA Government.
A South Australian glassblowing business says this will cost him about $10,000 to replace equipment broken by the blackout:
“Back in September we had 14 hours of outage. It did a lot of damage to my equipment,” Mr Vereker said.
“Now I had the same thing again last night and while we were back on in a few hours, that few hours of downtime does irreplaceable damage to our furnaces and to our production. Mr Vereker said it was the busiest time of year but he had to send three of his six staff home. He was concerned there might be more damaging blackouts during summer.
“I’d be out of business in six months time…”
We are so “looking forward” to when Victoria shuts the Hazelwood coal plant next April:
“Victoria’s outage put the Alcoa smelter near Portland offline for just over three hours, authorities said.”
Did that spot price hit $13,533 MW/hr from 1.30 – 2am last night? Apparently so. Source AEMO site.
The SA partial blackout happened at 1.16am AEDT (which means at 12:45am in SA).
h/t David B, redress, TonyfromOz.
* UPDATE: I had doubts about the 6% figure but Tony was right. The wind power across the whole eastern grid was working at 10-12% at the time. In SA it was a pathetic 6%.