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Hazelwood Countdown: 53 years old and making more electricity than Australia’s entire wind industry

Posted By Jo Nova On March 21, 2017 @ 4:21 pm In Cost,Electricity,Global Warming,Grids | Comments Disabled

Three days to go: The Hazelwood shut down begins

The situation in Australia right now:

Total wind power, NEM, Australian electricity market, graph, total fossil fuel output, March 2017

The total fossil fuel output compared to total wind power generation, NEM, Australian electricity market, 21 March 2017

One old coal plant makes more electricity than all the wind farms

Guest Post by TonyfromOZ and Jo Nova

I’ve been watching the output of all eight generators at Hazelwood closely all month and comparing it to the total wind farm generation across the National Electricity Market (NEM). The old warhorse is a remarkable engineering and economic success.

I’ve kept a total of the power output each day from midnight to midnight and a running cumulative total. So far, the running total output from Hazelwood has always stayed ahead of the total from wind farms.  So this 53 year old coal fired plant that is being shut down next week has produced more energy than the 43 wind plants on the National Energy Market. Even if we could store the energy from the wind farms, it still doesn’t add up to the same as one very ancient coal plant. The shut down starts in three days time on Friday March 24th.

Over the first 18 days of this month the old coal workhorse still made 7% more power than all the windfarms in the National Energy Market (which is everywhere bar WA and the NT). Hazelwood has delivered 561GWH over these 18 days and wind, 521GWH. The extra 40GWH of energy means an extra 2,211,111KWH per day, and if the average home consumes 17.5KW per day, then that means the extra delivered by Hazelwood is enough to supply 126,350 homes, and for the full 24 hours of those 18 days.

In the Australian NEM grid, there are 43 wind plants, and around 2400 turbines on poles, and for 14 years they’ve been building them. Despite that, they’re still not delivering enough power to replace a 53 year old tired worn out coal fired plant that can still manage to get all its generators working. See my post for all the details as I track the closure of this large piece of infrastructure: Hazelwood Power Plant Closing 31st March – Currently Delivering More Power Than Every Wind Plant In Australia.

Renewables can’t even keep a small state running

South Australia only consumes 6% of Australia’s total power consumption, the second lowest in Australia, only marginally higher than Tasmania’s 4.5%.  If they cannot make renewables work on such a tiny scale, what does that say for Victoria, Queensland and NSW, and Australia as a whole? The wind industry began around the year 2000 in Australia. So, here we are, now 17 years later, and they still don’t generate enough power to replace one ancient power plant slated for closure. You tell me how good wind power is now.

I’ve been watching the output of the old coal generators closely. Here’s a typical example — at 3:20PM today.


Bayswater – all four units running – 2494MW – 30 years old

Liddell – three of four units running – 750MW – 46 years old

Eraring – all four units running – 2340MW – 35 years old

Vales Point – both units running – 11130MW – 40 years old

In Victoria:

Loy Yang – five of six units running – 2580MW – 32 years old

Yallourn – two of two units running – 680MW – 44 years old

Wind energy output

Total in the NEM in Australia varied from 200MW up to 2000MW this month. (Total nameplate capacity: 3900MW)

Most of the wind farms operate on a 30% capacity factor, even though they are a lot newer. Hazelwood is 53 years old, and is not generating its original Nameplate of 1600MW, but it can still make 86% of that total, which is pretty astonishing after 53 years. One of the oldest wind farms runs on just a 16% capacity factor. Challicum Hills in Victoria opened in 2003 with 35 turbines and a Nameplate of 52.5MW. Even on the best of windy days, the maximum power generation is only 40MW, so that’s 10.5MW short of the maximum, or 7 turbines possibly not even working at all.

When Hazelwood was new it ran at around a 90% Capacity Factor, and even now, after 53 years that has only dropped to around 60%, so effectively over its whole life it has managed (typical for large scale coal fired power) a capacity factor of around 70% lifetime. So, after 53 years, Hazelwood has generated 520.4 TWH of power, and I only expressed it that way because in MWH it’s a very long number: 520,349,760MWH

It has been delivering that power for around $30/MWH give or take, that’s 3c per KWhr and those prices are in today’s dollars.

So, from the sale of electricity alone, that comes in at  $15.6 billion  worth of electricity which is around $295 Million a year.

Here’s a graph comparing wind power across the entire NEM with the 1360MW provided by Hazelwood alone. Most of the time Hazelwood is outdoing all 43 wind farms. Only during peaks (yellow) does production climb above the total of this old power station.

Wind farm outout, March 2017, graph, National Electricity Market, NEM, Australia.

Wind farm outout, March 2017, graph, National Electricity Market, NEM, Australia.

This is what old coal reliability looks like:

Hazelwood Coal fired Generator, output, graph.

The output of the eight generating turbines at Hazelwood today March 21, 2017.

Are the engineers at Hazelwood defiantly showing off?

There appears to be some defiance going on from the people who work there, wanting to thumb their noses at the people who clamor for its closure. They’ve fixed one turbine this month and brought it back to speed when they didn’t need too.

One of the Units (Unit 8) was taken off line eight days back now. As I have explained, there are a lot of processes in the chain of power generation, and any one of them could be at fault. However, if the plant is scheduled to close at the end of the month, then there’s no real need to fix the problem. Just concentrate on the other units. However, yesterday at around 8AM, Unit 8 started to come back on line. It took 4 hours to reach full power delivery, but now it’s just humming along, just like the other seven units.

Probably, the people working there want to show the world that this ancient old plant (now four levels of technology lower than new tech coal fired power, and soon to be five) can still deliver the power. It’s astonishing to see all those 8 Units running, now constantly, 24 hours a day for almost three weeks, and when was the last time you saw 8 EH Holdens when you went out onto the roads. It’s not delivering its original rated 200MW per unit, but it is still at 86% of that.


h/t to David B for alerting me to a comment I might have missed.

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