JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Forget Megawatts, ABC invents new unit of power — “size of Tasmania”

Outback couple build solar farm to prove fringe-of-grid power generation needs

Solar Panels, resting on a river of subsidies. Photo.Building a $14 million solar farm is an expensive way to send a message about electricity prices, but Doug and Lyn Scouller said they were left with few options.

In Normanton, 500 kilometres north of Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, the Scoullers built a solar farm big enough to power an area almost twice the size of Tasmania, in a move to prove to stakeholders the benefit of positioning power generation sites at the end of the grid.

In old fashioned terms, the “farm” produces five-megawatts. But yesterday, Tasmania didn’t use 5MW it used 1,072 MegaWatts. So this solar farm would have supplied 0.2% of the houses and businesses on an area “twice the size of Tasmania”. The only Tasmania-sized-areas that would be functioning on 5MW are in the empty desert or the Great Southern Ocean.

And we wonder why some Australians think solar power is a no brainer. If this little farm can supply 120,000 km2, we just need another 60 like it, and we could do the whole continent!

ABC journalists are not good with numbers. If only they had a billion dollars a year perhaps they could afford a specialized science team that understood that units of electricity are not reported in square kilometers. Oh wait…

By the way, the farm cost $14m dollars (plus another million to connect to the grid). To actually power Tasmania this way would cost $3 billion dollars ( and that’s if we pretend that there are no losses in cables from far north Queensland and batteries are free).

That’s a serious subsidy:

In 2016, the Normanton Solar Farm received an $8.5 million grant from The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (AREA), and is now being used as a test case to generate data about fringe-of-grid energy investment.

The Scoullers expect it will take “eight years to secure a return”. The Australian Taxpayer, on the other hand, expects nothing…

At least one engineer thinks that having a remote generator may increase the losses:

Greg Elkins, the Ergon Energy engineer who led the commissioning, said his preliminary research showed that end-of-line power generation might increase the transmission loss.

“The requirement of very long transmission lines means that there are a lot of losses in just having the line turned on,” Mr Elkins said.

“Putting energy at the remote end can actually cause that amount of [required] power flow to have the line online … to increase.

H/t David B.

 

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122 comments to Forget Megawatts, ABC invents new unit of power — “size of Tasmania”

  • #
    Ted O’Brien.

    Has that got anything to do with block chains and bit coins, and/or Emperor’s new clothes?

    170

    • #
      Ted O’Brien.

      And the rise, rise, rise of the gambling industry, which can only end badly?

      Jo, your headline gets ever more frustrating. A perfectly good civilization going to waste!

      181

      • #
        Robert Rosicka

        Note to self never upset the host because the sarc be strong in this one !

        51

      • #
        Greg Cavanagh

        That always gets me too. It’s so true, yet there is nothing I can do to scream this from the rooftop. Nobody is listening.

        One can imagine how the Roman’s felt watching the slow collapse of their once great empire, to become a shambles of an ungoverned Italy tearing itself apart with in-fighting and power struggles.

        40

  • #
    Yonniestone

    So is the issue with having power generation at the end of the line because its a solar plant or is it just not a good idea engineering wise?

    70

    • #
      Ted O’Brien.

      The issue should be, “what’s the cost of the line?” However, in this crazy new world, the issue is, “Who is paying?”

      170

    • #

      star comment

      “Putting energy at the remote end can actually cause that amount of [required] power flow to have the line online … to increase.

      Yonniestone. All to do with phasing me thinks. The theoretical advantage is that power created out near the end of the line and used out nearer to the end of the line has traveled a shorter distance and therefore gone through less resistance. Loss = current squared times resistance. This all works great for DC but it is not DC nor would any of the devices like transformers etc work with DC. More complex calculations need to work with impedance instead of and as well as resistance. Electrical types start thinking of terms like power factor at this point while us radio types start thinking about standing waves. Either way of looking at it the losses go up because energy gets stored on the transmission line and the load and but these two storages can end up out of phase with each other. Remember the voltage swaps sign 50 times a second. So the grid ends up with higher losses because it ends up working against itself by adding newly arriving power of one sign to capacitor or inductance stored power that still has the old sign. This is even a problem in buildings with too many fluro tubes with ballasts. So either each fluro needs its own capacitor to counteract the ballast or the building needs a big one. Now add the problem of distance vs time on a very long line with a changing load and because the electricity travels down the line at something like 0.7 times the speed of light the wavelength of 50Hz begins to provide another source of storage delay in the line itself and the load is changing which means the power factor or standing waves are changing.
      All that happens with just one source on one end of the line. Now add an AC source on the other end of a long line and the very stupid situation that the AC phase from each end as it arrives in the middle will not agree is possible. That means the two sources are actually working against each other and the timing of it all changes as the load (demand and type of demand)changes. Now make it worse by making one of those sources fluctuate with the sun and clouds etc.
      Once a problem gets this complicated the best thing to do is walk away but the poor electrical engineers can’t. I feel sorry for them.

      ——————
      [To clarify exactly what Siliggy means here see the ongoing discussion below and also at #2.2.6 and #23 to help everyone. — Jo

      501

      • #
        David Maddison

        Well said Siliggy. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if this solar subsidy farm was a lifetime net power drain on the grid. Are the network engineers ever likely to measure this parasitic load?

        352

        • #

          “Are the network engineers ever likely to measure this parasitic load?” It is fairly easy to measure because only the metered amount gets paid for and when it gets bad things go up in loud arcing flames with a boom and toxic smoke. Working out what to do about it is far harder. Having worked in the industry I found while asking the exact question to the types who worked in that department that the less experienced ones think the question is wrong and it does not happen but the ones who have had to deal with it causing things to go bang are relieved even excited to find someone outside the circle who seems to understand. They then go on to explain that it is even worse and give examples like three long lines in a triangle.

          271

      • #
        Geoff

        A battery at the end of the line would have made more sense. It could switch in if there was a blackout. However, a generator is the simplest thing to do. They are designed to cut in when a blackout happens. Trouble would have been they could not get a grant from ARENA for a genny. So they would have had to pay for it instead of living off the taxpayer.

        232

        • #

          I think the engineers have come up with some clever but expensive ideas like devices that effectively break the long lines onto shorter ones. Like converting to DC and back to AC again or fast reacting power factor correction devices. All with complications like these things need to be bi-directional and having their own inefficiencies.

          150

      • #
        Hanrahan

        Wasn’t it fun getting your head around UHF transmission lines, wave guides and qtr-wave insulating stubs? Charging an artificial transmission line to fire a magnetron is real white-man’s magic. :)

        I understand phase shifting in electronics but have never been able to apply this to the grid, although I do know of the problem with fluros. I bow to real electrical engineers.

        140

        • #
          Graeme#4

          Yep, especially when working with radio aircraft navigation beacons that had phased aerial arrays to create radio beams. Coax cable lengths were calculated to the end of the connector pin, and you couldn’t re-terminate as that would alter the coax length by a couple of mm. Of course, radar waveguides were even more dicey.

          30

          • #

            “Coax cable lengths were calculated to the end of the connector pin, and you couldn’t re-terminate as that would alter the coax length by a couple of mm.” Then if the coax you replaced it with was made by a different manufacturer with a slightly different velocity factor it would not work either. Thanks Graeme#4 that is nearly the exact problem. Working with microwave frequencies you meet these length vs timing vs impedance problems every time. For the electrical engineers the scale of a quaterwave 90 degree shift is so long they get used to ignoring it and using the simplified math. Politicians and green zealots often have no idea at all. To give you guys an idea quickly, 299 792 458 (speed of light)/ 50Hz = 5995 Kilometers. Assuming a poor transmission line velocity factor because of transformers and other delays of 0.5 then a quaterwave is 750kM. The distance from Normanton to Townsville is 630kM but the transmission line would not take a direct straight line so could be 750kM. This would mean any power that leaves Townsville headed to Normanton but reflects back unwanted would arrive back exactly 180 degrees out of phase.

            20

            • #

              And the motel operator said that they had done all the required ‘stuff’ with regards to his solar farm plant. I’ll bet that when he reads what Silligy wrote above his response was ….. “Hey look, isn’t that Britney Spears!”

              This whole sage indicates one thing only.

              The crying need for a new large scale power plant somewhere North of Townsville, preferably closer to Cairns, something to give reliable power to ALL of North Queensland, not toys like this damned solar thing.

              Tony.

              90

        • #
          Graeme#4

          Still remember how to use Smith charts?

          50

      • #
        Hanrahan

        [snip repeat]

        10

      • #
        Yonniestone

        Thank you very much Siliggy for that description, I’m saving it for reference, I actually did a search on power transmission and got either false leads or highly technical jargon, one interesting thing done by grid operators is Loop Flows which I thought is probably necessary with intermittent electrical generation (renewables).

        50

        • #

          I did ask one of them why they used loops and from memory it is just a fail safe strategy. If a straight line breaks then all customers past the break are without power. If a loop breaks then a section of line either side of the break is switched off to isolate the damaged part and power goes to nearly all the customers except that part via the two connections at each end of the loop. These loops are usually far shorter than the long long lines this article is about so the errors are absorbed by many little loads. It is also too short for full blown standing waves because 50Hz has a very long wavelength. On long loops like the triangle i mentioned above they may only switch on at one end at a time etc but they have headaches when they need to switch on before off etc. Time for someone that knows more about it than me to jump in. Here is a fun video. Imagine it is the load changing not the frequency like he does and you can see how there may be points along a line that work well for years then suddenly fail when combinations of complexities produce random high Voltages at points that vary like a south Australian storm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gr7KmTOrx0

          80

          • #

            Siliggy — thankyou. That’s just the explanation I was hoping for when I cut that quote in from the Engineer. If they put a large high-inertia turbine at the end of a long transmission line, does that have the same problem?

            31

            • #
              bobl

              It depends Jo, if I were injecting generation this way then i’d set it up as a current source which can avoid these problems.

              There are more basic problems, rural networks are set up to carry less current the further away from the generation point they are, the skiniest lines with the highest loss construction and lowest capacity and reliability are at the network fringe. Since loss = I^2R and R is highest at the fringe supplying the line with the high current point exactly where the highest loss lines are makes little engineering sense. The right place to put this power plant is before the end of line at the point where the load after it is 5MW

              However there is an even more basic problem with this demonstrator, that is the spending of 14 Million dollars on intermittent generation to replace a Gas turbine which can be had for US $280K (http://cfaspower.com/Gas_Turbine_CTG_5MW_10MW.html#GELM1500) on the used plant market. $13.72 Million dollars pays for a lot of diesel!

              60

              • #

                Jo if you had a large high inertia turbine at Normanton then you would either use it or the long line but not both. However if you did use both (after careful syncronisation), for some reason then the power would be going one way or the other and not meeting at random times, phases and distances in the middle. Either way the computer control systems and operators are back in charge so the Russian roulette appearance of rouge wave smoke is less likely.
                Bobl “i’d set it up as a current source which can avoid these problems.” The theory being that current remains constant right the way any series circuit inductance or capacitance. There is however along the transmission line an effective repeating parallel capacitance with series inductance. So I wonder what happens when a constant current source meets the Ferranti effect (speaking electrical) or the open stub (speaking radio).

                20

              • #
                sophocles

                Sliggy:
                At a frequency of 50hz, with a propagation velocity of 74%C, a quarter wavelength is c. 1,100 kms, which is Not Very Long at all.

                The grid is called a transmission line because it is one in both engineering senses of the word, and supply engineers are (or should darned well be) well versed in the properties of stubs, especially those of impedance inversion. Branch line lengths can be and are, used to advantage (see rk’s comment).

                This is the main reason why the grid’s frequency has to be so tightly controlled. More than 1 Hz difference either way can throw out the impedance matching/correcting significantly (+/- 2%, +/- 2Hz is 4% and losses start becoming financially measurable and therefore noticeable).
                Power Factor Correction capacitors are used in electric motors and fluorescent lights and anything else which presents an inductive load.

                The reason reactive loads are not liked is at the metering end. The more reactive the load, the less accurate the metering, one way and less power appears to be being consumed and that costs the supplier, and the other way, that costs the consumer. Neither likes disputes.

                Failure anywhere else can cause lines to arc across, an SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) other then 1:1 causes repetitive voltage peaks along the line. At 50hz. They are usually so far apart it’s not a problem and can be used to advantage (transformers etc). But a sufficiently out of kilter SWR can cause flash-over between lines. It’s spectacular when it happens, but destructive. I’ve seen a 10KV urban distribution line do it in windless conditions. It was very interesting, very pretty and boy, did it get the local power supplier moving—really fast!

                10

              • #

                Sophocles
                That propagation velocity 74% (Velocity factor 0.74)is typical of what may happen with a transmission line like coax but what time would it take on grid lines with multiple connections to and through all sorts of other delays?

                Oh yes frequency changes a lot of things. Aircraft use frequencies like 400Hz to reduce the sise of tranformers etc but the problem is not frequency. Long line length is no problem for them.

                The power factor correction devices are to keep the phase angle near zero not to adjust the frequency. I know you did not say this but your comment gives that impression. You may remember that current in resistance like lines is the I squared R loss. So Voltage knocked out of phase by an inductive load increases losses for the same effective power because VA is higher than VA x power factor. The reactance directly causes loss but this loss occurs on the grid wher the resistance is. This is the metering problem. Customers cause power to be used on the wrong side of the meter.

                Standing wave ratio that is not 1:1 while being caused by mismatch also causes a power factor error not a frequency problem. With this power factor error comes the increased loss for the same reason which is increased current flowing through the resistancee of the lines.

                Modern meters are not fooled by phase angle any more. They calculate it and charge for the line loss so are not the reason. The real reason remains the same however and that is to reduce the waste. Waste in conductor and equipment sises as well as power.

                You say

                “an SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) other then 1:1 causes repetitive voltage peaks along the line”

                Yes and phase angle errors that are a problem at much shorter than 1/4 wave. You cannot have 1:1 with a variable load without changing the supply to match it. The load change dictates the ratio until the supply adjusts to match it by regulating the Voltage EG changing transformer taps. What happens when the load at the end of a long line can change all the way from being a phase lagging heavy load to being a phase leading supply at the rate the sun can come out from a cloud?

                00

            • #
              Geoff

              No doubt they will need they world’s largest battery supplied by the next grant cycle.

              Last time I looked this experiment is currently being conducted in South Australia.

              How many gas turbines have they bought?

              No doubt if you have a spare $100M the 5MW solar unit can be synch’d to the grid.

              30

              • #
                Ve2

                This may help.

                SOUTH Australian households are tipped to save $150 on their power bills in the coming year and prices are expected to drop a further $150 the following year.
                But consumers are being warned the relief may be short-lived because they are “riding the power-price rollercoaster”.
                Expert modelling shows the price drop in SA — 7.3 per cent over the next two years — was among the biggest savings in Australia driven by new wind and solar generation.
                It brings the state’s average annual household bill down to $1600, about the price paid last year prior to huge bill increases in July of up to 20 per cent.
                But South Australians would still be paying much more for power than NSW and Victoria, where typical household bills would be about $1100.

                http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/south-australian-electricity-bills-tipped-to-drop-by-300-over-two-years-but-could-spike-again/news-story/646081176ce27d050ec58c0aebfd51ba

                Remarkable how after 5 straight years of massive increases the price of electricity is going to fall in an election year.

                60

          • #
            Graeme#4

            That’s a great demo of standing waves! Have had plenty of practice with SWR (Standing Wave Ratiio) meters when tuning transmitters.

            20

          • #
            Dean

            For one awful moment I thought that was Michael Mann…….

            10

      • #
        rk

        Siliggy,
        I think you should read a reply by Steve Richards at comment 23, 11.50 PM which I agree with, because some of what you are saying is incorrect, especially the statement that 50 hz waves meet in the middle. Energy doesn’t get ” stored on the transmission line ” or come back and meet in the ” middle “. Electro magnetic energy (voltage) travels along OUTSIDE the wire at varying speeds below the speed of light depending on certain variables, in the one direction. All grid power has to be kept to very close tolerances as regards to frequency, voltage and phase differences. It is certainly true that the further power is transmitted the more losses can occur but this can be countered by transformers and the provision of reactive power to keep the voltage up. Reactive power is needed for field excitation in transformers and when the wave form between voltage and current get out of sync. This happens when large electric motors and other power machines start up or cause excessive loads or shortages occur
        .
        I suspect that one of the big problems with this solar farm connecting to the grid at that distance from the big generators on the coast would be the constant change in power from cloud coverage, weather and temperature and the inability to provide significant reactive power to the grid at that point. There may be issues with connecting to the 22,000 volt transmission line as well. A final point, there are three AC phases, not one, A B & C and they cannot be connected even individually unless each phase is in parallel, that is, the wave form of both generators is in alignment at the time of connection.

        20

        • #

          rk

          “Energy doesn’t get ” stored on the transmission line ””

          The basic transmission line is three long wires. Each wire has a capacitance to the others and to ground. Capacitors are a storage device. They store energy and are even sold in supermarkets like ALDI now as car starters.
          https://www.khanacademy.org/science/physics/circuits-topic/circuits-with-capacitors/v/energy-capacitor

          The basic transmission line being three long wires also makes it three long inductors. An inductor is also a storage device. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqQ3-d0V4D0

          Storage for a very short time is all that is needed for extra losses to occur between the stored energy and the supply ACROSS the resistance of the lines.

          Electro magnetic energy (voltage).

          Voltage is not energy. Energy is measured in Joules. A Joule is a Watt for a second. Never forget the time part. A Watt is current times Voltage only if they are in phase.

          travels

          While the “energy” travels between point A and point B it is effectively stored on the line. Just as water is stored in a pipe. it has speed and direction. Just like water hammer if it gets to the end of a line and has no place to go it will bounce back and meet itself.

          “or come back and meet in the ” middle “”

          We do not even need two supplies at each end for this to happen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozeYaikI11g

          00

        • #

          rk

          “travels along OUTSIDE the wire”

          With waveguide it can travel in both directions at multiple frequencies all at the same time so far outside the centre wire there isnt one. Just an earth.
          http://www.wiredirect.net/surplus-andrew-ew63-elliptical-waveguide/

          “at varying speeds below the speed of light depending on certain variables,”

          Yes this speed is the velocity factor i mentioned above times the speed of light. If you know a more accurate approximate speed you could recalculate the reflection phase as per comment #2.2.3.1.1 Adding syncronised solar to the Townsville power would be just like a reflection only stronger.

          “in the one direction.”

          As per Graem#4 post at comment #2.2.5.1.2 I too “Have had plenty of practice with SWR (Standing Wave Ratiio) meters ”
          These are able to measure the difference between the wave traveling from left to right and the wave traveling from right to left if they are at the same frequency. You should have a play with one. What they tell us is how much power was sent to an antenna and due to impedance mismatch, how much was reflected back.

          “All grid power has to be kept to very close tolerances as regards to frequency, voltage and phase differences.”

          Yes that is the problem. The rapid changes from phase leading when there is sun to lagging when cloudy and sunny leading again would appear as a frequency change.

          “It is certainly true that the further power is transmitted the more losses can occur but this can be countered by transformers and the provision of reactive power to keep the voltage up.”

          A lightly loaded line can have too much reactive power on it’s own so the Voltage will go up when it is not wanted. This is even more likely with a supply at both ends. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferranti_effect

          “Reactive power is needed for field excitation in transformers”

          Yes maximum power transfer and best efficiency occurs when the incoming impedance matches the transformers input impedance and it is very inductive. The same thing happens with a long transmission line. It is mismatch that causes the reflection. A source at both ends is a very good way to make mismatch happen. If a match happens then the Townsville power would head on into the solar farm with great efficiency.

          “and when the wave form between voltage and current get out of sync. This happens when large electric motors and other power machines start up or cause excessive loads or shortages occur”

          The solar farm coming on line may be gradual and controlled but a cloud blocking it would happen suddenly. Down the line after just a some delay in both directions it would be a similar situation but with excessive supply until things adjust to cope

          10

  • #
    graphicconception

    size of Tasmania

    As a POM, I feel the need to point out that the official Imperial measure for area is, in fact, the “Size of Wales”. To convert from Tasmanias to Waleses you need to multiply by 3.298818423. (3.3 is good enough for government work.)

    https://goo.gl/kd6BE8

    270

    • #
      Graham Richards

      Now we know why you left Pomeland!

      80

    • #
      Graeme No.3

      Greens alway get emotional when its a case of Save the Wales!

      170

      • #

        They get even more emotional if you change that to save the whales from the polar bears.

        100

      • #
        John of Cloverdale WA

        The Wallabies killed a team of Wales. But then the Wallabies got walloped by a bunch of red roses and thistles.

        40

      • #
        bobl

        I don’t think you got the memo, nobody is the green blob is really interested in saving whales any more because they are only threatened by cold hard steel formed into harpoons. What’s a harpoon and one whale when you can “save the entire world” by just virtue signalling your way into greenie heaven over twitter.

        I used to be an “environmentalist” until the commies took over the greens. Now I call myself a conservationist, at least that tallies better with conserving, which oddly is what conservatives do.
        Not that I would call myself conservative, more like libertarian, Individualist, I want a tiny government that looks after common use infrastructure and doesn’t interfere with my life or my society.

        70

    • #

      I could give you the area in WACAs…but you might not like.

      30

  • #
    manalive

    … a solar farm big enough to power an area almost twice the size of Tasmania …

    What a weird comparison to draw, there is absolutely no possible rational relationship or analogy to draw between units of power and an area of land.

    260

    • #
      Extreme Hiatus

      Its actually pretty convenient. Try to prove it wrong. As Jo noted, it could be correct if they were talking about that area of empty desert or, say, Antarctica. 97% would agree.

      190

      • #
        Ted O'Brien.

        Half of Antarctica’s wind power crashed the other week. I forwarded the news to our local crane company as a job opportunity.

        50

    • #
      jorgekafkazar

      What a weird comparison to draw…

      You say ‘weird;’ I say ‘barmy in the crumpet.’ These people have lost their minds.

      130

      • #
        Lionell Griffith

        Are you sure they once had a mind to lose? The evidence suggests they came into this world with literally nothing to lose.

        100

        • #
          Ted O'Brien.

          They are trained and qualified journalists.

          40

          • #
            jorgekafkazar

            They are trained and qualified journalists.

            I rest my case.

            60

          • #
            Manfred

            With respect Ted, the word journalists should lie within inverted commas. They are the very bedrock upon which the NWO is built.
            Were they to falter, have a change of heart, see the light, the West would literally be won in weeks.

            30

          • #
            bobl

            I might add that the entry score for Journalism is around the 40th percentile and for Environmental science is the 55th percentile meaning Journalists are way smarter than climate scientists.

            Given how dumb Journalists can be, it doesn’t say much for your average climate scientist err… activist.

            50

            • #
              Manfred

              The trouble is that if you cube instead of square root something stupid, then that’s a problem orders of magnitude greater.

              10

            • #
              sophocles

              Given how dumb Journalists can be, it doesn’t say much for your average climate scientist

              …which could be why the climate scientists I’ve never heard of are all flocking to France in answer to Macron’s offer.

              He’s welcome to ‘em.

              10

    • #
      Graeme No.3

      Perhaps a better comparison would “an area the size of the Simpson Desert”.

      The electricity used there should match that supplied by this subsidy farm.

      10

  • #
    ROM

    My suggestion is do not try to confuse ABC reporters.

    With the World hanging onto every word of a breathless ABC’s reporter’s version of the newest item of doom laden hyperbole that is currently in circulation, the ABC reporters and newsroom really don’t have any time left over to check and report the actual facts behind of their pronouncements or to educate themselves about what they are so earnestly reporting on.

    It is a matter of principle with the ABC that if the hyperbole it pronounces isn’t doom laden before it began then it will be by the time the ABC newsroom has finished with it.

    Facts never enter into the equation for the newsworthiness of an item with the ABC.

    191

    • #
      Extreme Hiatus

      Yes, when facing such an impending emergency they’re bound to make a few mistakes. But the main thing is that the planet gets saved.

      160

    • #
      Mall

      The ABC is now a joke. I have given up watching their programs especially the news, due to its left wing bias and factual innacuracies

      181

  • #
    Dennis

    The creator was a motel proprietor before entering the solar farm business at taxpayer’s expense.

    201

    • #
      Ted O'Brien.

      Following the dollar! Were we mugs to believe it couldn’t last? A lot of people have made a lot of money doing it.

      60

  • #
    David Maddison

    It’s never a good business model to rely on government subsidies or other policies and laws to restrict market forces.

    If sanity ever prevails all such subsidies and regulations should be removed without compensation to the beneficiaries.

    152

    • #
      Ted O'Brien.

      David, that was once so. These days the government guarantees such schemes/scams with long term contracts.

      Never forget that the long run objective of the ALP and Greens is to destroy the capitalist system. To abolish private ownership/management of industry and private ownership of land. Locking in public debt is their chief operator in this campaign.

      90

  • #
    Robert Rosicka

    I’d like a fact check because I believe it only covers an area half the size of Tasmania .
    And further more electricity generation needs to have a better measure like Olympic swimming pools .

    151

    • #
      David Maddison

      Since solar panels only have a capacity factor of no more than 25% I think it would be only a quarter the size of Tasmaniastan.

      122

    • #
      Hartog

      Half the size of tasmania would be the size of The Netherlands. How many Megawatts?

      50

    • #
      Greg Cavanagh

      If we want to make area measurement international, perhaps Tennis Courts should be used.

      20

      • #
        sophocles

        If we want to make area measurement international, perhaps Tennis Courts should be used.

        That might get President Macron’s attention.

        10

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    David Maddison

    Is someone able to do a calculation illustrating what the economics of this subsidy farm are from the owner’s perspective. E.g. Include the direct subsidy, the REC, sale price of the power produced etc.?

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    Robert Rosicka

    Such an important story it’s even on the ABC news 24 getting prime coverage.

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    Pauly

    “The Australian Taxpayer, on the other hand, expects nothing…”

    Sadly, these words appear truer today. Federal government debt now exceeds $600B (http://www.australiandebtclock.com.au/clocks) and despite being in power now for 4 years, the current government has forecast that the Federal budget will not return to surplus until FY20/21. While politicians are happy to waste taxpayer revenue on boondoggles that have no prospect of being a useful alternative to fossil fuel power stations, the financial tragedy is that the taxpayer will continue to pay for these boondoggles, because the increased national debt is being paid for by greater amounts of interest payments, which come out of future tax revenues.

    We understand that politicians have almost no comprehension of the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and so are incapable of working out for themselves that consensus climate science lacks much evidence to support any of its catastrophic predictions. However, some of us had assumed that some Australian politicians had some inkling of economics, especially those in charge of monitoring Australia’s economy.

    Perhaps we should have learned a lesson from the 2008 GFC. Only 12 economists in the world accurately predicted the GFC. That suggests to me that a consensus of economists must be similar to a consensus of climate scientists. Which probably explains the attractiveness of “free” energy schemes to politicians.

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    Rosco

    While perusing the ABC site I saw an article about the Tesla Powerwall. The people who installed it must be nuts as they will never recoup their installation costs.

    Their “savings” require 24 years of maximum efficiency generation – 2.4 times the 10 warranty. Over time the panels and the battery will become less efficient and the 24 year recoup time will really be doubled to over 40 factoring in overcast periods.

    And what happens to your home if one of these bursts into flames as laptop batteries were known to do ?

    Would your insurance policy pay ? They won’t pay out if you breach the laws for storage of flammable liquids whether or not the fuel contributed to a fire – will they pay for a foreseeable fire threat in your garage or wherever ?

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      Manfred

      When its ‘efficiency’ declines to beyond junk bond status, who will pay to dissemble, remove and process it? And will there be adequate power and technical ability available then to accomplish this?

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    • #
      yarpos

      They are saving the planet you see, and they have the cache of being able to drop Tesla battery into conversation. Priceless.

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      Graeme#4

      Do you have a link the that article Rosco? Did a quick Google but couldn’t see any recent articles.

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  • #
    Macspee

    Someone once made the rough analogy with piping water supply over long distances and made a few points that might be relevant to this wondrous project in Q’land.
    1 if you want to put water from your rainwater tank into the mains you had better find a way of overcoming the pressure from the mains or you will only get very wet trying.
    2 if you want to have a long pipeline and lots of customers along the way wanting to take varying quantities you had better start with a very big dam and high pressure otherwise it won’t get to the people at the end of the line.

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    TedM

    ” built a solar farm big enough to power an area almost twice the size of Tasmania,” Enough to power an area? I would have thought that that the quantity of power required would be dependent on the number and power consumers and their power consumption. But what would I know? My background is not in journalism, simply in Telecommunications (Telecom Australia) and electronics (ADF).

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    NB

    ‘a solar farm big enough to power an area almost twice the size of Tasmania’

    …during the day…on a good day…during the sunniest periods of the day…

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    • #
      Dennis

      But definitely not on a typical very hot Gulf Country summer day.

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      • #
        GreatAuntJanet

        Even if it isn’t cloudy, don’t solar panels get less efficient the hotter it is? I think?

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        • #
          bobl

          Yes, decidedly so. Also, Surface Insolation depends on the air not being filled with condensed water, the typical humidity haze in tropical areas can reduce insolation by 15% even though it is hot and sunny.

          I remember flying into Jakarta and the Humidity haze plus even a small amount of smog made it visibly darker on the ground.

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    • #
      ivan

      I assume the 5MW output is the theoretical maximum. When you consider dust on the panels, clouds etc. they might produce 2MW for a few hours a day on good days – even less on bad days.

      Why don’t they call it what it actually is – a subsidy farm and be truthful about it.

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      • #
        Manfred

        Tasmania is in true ABC style, is a grandiose over statement.

        I imagine the 5MW output will be a nameplate capacity. The solar heuristic capacity factor is 15%. $14 million of other peoples money remains an ideological bargain.

        Q. What is 15% of Tasmania? (68,401 km²)
        A. 10,260.15km²

        Q. What countries best approximate this value?
        A. Qatar: 11,610.00 km² & Lebanon: 10,450.00 km²

        Perhaps the cultural marxists at the ABC when considering using these countries as their measure would have backed off on the grounds that their obvious diminutive status might have been regarded as ‘hate speech’.

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    Chad

    And yet again a solar “project” with no mention of storage (or cost for such) for those hours the sun is not shining.
    This is the real life manifestation of the ABCs TV series ” Eutopia” amd their episode “Northern Regeon Development Fund” ..where they have to spend capital before a deadline so that the Minister has something to announce.
    So funny on TV, ….but not in real life !

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    rk

    It is interesting to read the comments on the ABC article. Most people have no knowledge of electrical power and the difference in AC and DC power. I have been to Normanton many times and this project is sure to fail. Look at the failed solar projects at Cloncurry and Windorah as an example and the money wasted. Apart from not receiving sunlight at night, Normanton gets the monsoon conditions most years in summer so cloud cover can be significant. The biggest danger would be severe thunderstorms with high winds, lightning and large hail and the heat generated up in that region in summer certainly can produce big storms. I have seen reports that the Hawaiian grid is close to collapse because of near 40% renewables. The continuous voltage change with wind and solar can cause power fluctuations which causes the lines to over heat. Thermal stress of the conductors and transformers is the result.

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    • #
      pat

      rk -

      I also read the comments…they love it unquestioningly.

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      • #
        rk

        Pat,

        I don’t think a single one of them could describe electro magnetic theory. For those interested, here is a link to Bill Beaty, a Retired Professor of Eelctrical Engineer from the University of Washington who describes many aspects of electrical energy and of the misinformation even in it’s teaching amasci.com/ele-edu.html

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    • #
      Ve2

      Windorah was a beauty, 5 massive solar collectors for a population of 125 and they still needed a desiel backup.

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  • #

    Need to be a bit more scientific. How many football fields = two Tasmanias?

    Just ball park.

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    • #
      Extreme Hiatus

      According to ABC reports, that would be about 3.7583 tonnes of football fields.

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      • #
        bobl

        And of course everyone knows a Ton is 100 of something… well in cricket anyway, and that’s all that counts

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    • #
      Hanrahan

      Was it Harry Butler, a naturalist on the ABC, used to talk about river flow in Syd Harbs? He went over to the dark side and worked for a gas mob on Barrow Is.
      The Burdekin Falls Dam wall is 1 KM long and can run 3 mtrs over. I think that could safely be measured in Syd Harbs.

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    • #
      ghl

      It is just as true to say it can power an area the size of the moon with 5MW left over.
      Based on a current offer for an installation of 5kW for 4k$ in NSW he is making maybe 4M$ before he powers up.

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    yarpos

    Do ABC journalists just lie and/or propogate lies if the statement supports the preferred narrative? Or are they just stupid or ill equipped to deal with the content of the stories they cover? Does journalism just mean you arrange words on the page and never really think about the content?

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    ROM

    I think that the ABC’s using a power production measure such as “the size of Tasmania ” to indicate the power the Normanton Solar Farm will produce doesn’t really provide the public with any real concept of the “Earth saving” qualities that the production of power from such a Solar Farm way up in the Gulf Country will actually achieve.

    It would have been far better and I am sure , a more easily understood concept of the power and Earth saving qualities of the output of the Normanton Solar Farm energy if the ABC would have used Skeptical Science’s universal measure of energy output / input by quoting the Solar Farm’s energy output as Hiroshima Bombs per sec, per day, per year or per decade or per century, or whatever!.

    I am quite surprised that the ever alert , synonymous , word crafting for maximum effect, ABC, never took yet another chance to use Skeptical Science’s and John Cook’s own personal universal measure of energy output, ie; so many “Hiroshima Atomic bombs per second”, to provide a high impact effect to the public’s perceptions of the planet saving qualities of this remote Solar Farm.

    Which before the announcement of the solar farm it appears that the geographical area where the Solar Farm is located was entirely unknown and never envisaged by the Inner Sydney Goat cheese circle dwelling ABC newshound. green’s yapping lapdogs who seem awed by the immensity of the country to be found outside of ABC’s Taj Mahal Sydney headquarters.

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    ScotsmanInUtah

    ABC journalists are not good with numbers :o

    ….units of electricity are not reported in square kilometers.

    The ignorance of pro AGW Journalists, is frightening

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  • #
    Ve2

    Wouldn’t be the shire of Burke by any chance. 41,000 sq km and a population of less than 1,900 half of which live on cattle stations and have their own power.

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  • #
    Steve Richards

    Re Siliggy December 17, 2017 at 7:27 am

    I think there is a bit of confusion here.

    Generators synchronize to the frequency/phase/voltage at the grid connection point connected to the generator output terminals. They have no knowledge of the frequency/phase/voltage of the ‘master’ generator located 100m or 1000km away, it would be very undesirable if they did!

    Yes, voltage reduces along long wires ‘I squared R’ etc.

    Yes, you could connect a 5MW generator at the current end of a long distance transmission power line, but it would have to be sized in current terms for worst case operation, which would be zero power from the original power source and 5MW from the new source, so potentially, you local end of the line may need to be upgraded which is not cheap.

    The concept of 50Hz waves ‘meeting’ part way down the line is a bit daft, if you do not mind me saying so.

    An incoming generator is synchronized to the frequency/phase/voltage at the local generator busbars. It has no knowledge of anything else.

    The phase change along a long powerline is an interesting fact but not relevant to anything in terms of delivering power to customers along the line.

    Three phase power has some unusual concepts but it boils do to very practical engineering design and use.

    I suspect it is never worth it to add PV sourced power to a grid distribution system, little benefit, high cost and additional control and stability issues.

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    • #

      “Generators synchronize to the frequency/phase/voltage at the grid connection point connected to the generator output terminals.”

      In the case of imtermittent supply at Normanton this means the generator is sometimes at one end of the long line and sometimes at the other. When working one way around there is a phase delay in one direction. When working the other way around the delay swaps directions.
      This means that sometimes Normanton leads in phase by the total delay time and sometimes it lags by the total delay time. The difference between the total lag time and total lead time as I have explained to the radio guys above gets close to 180 degrees under a worst case guesstimation.

      “The concept of 50Hz waves ‘meeting’ part way down the line is a bit daft, if you do not mind me saying so.”

      This is why i linked to the video. So that people who have never thrown two rocks into a pond and seen the waves meet may think about it.

      “An incoming generator is synchronized to the frequency/phase/voltage at the local generator busbars. It has no knowledge of anything else.”

      Correct it cannot predict the phase change caused by the supply to load lead lag direction changing as the sun goes in and out. So it cannot predict if it will be leading or lagging next. All it can do is hope for stability. You are pointing at the problem not the solution.

      “The phase change along a long powerline is an interesting fact but not relevant to anything in terms of delivering power to customers along the line.”

      This would be true if dynamic direction change did not happen. The problem is that the phase change “fact” will swap directions at a minimum and or create standing wave peaks and nulls. A small passing cloud is all it will take for a full swap from leading phase to lagging phase and back again in a short time.

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    Roy Hogue

    ABC journalists are not good with numbers. If only they had a billion dollars a year perhaps they could afford a specialized science team that understood that units of electricity are not reported in square kilometers.

    That doesn’t seem to be any worse than the general public’s failure to understand a volt or an amp, much less a watt or watt-hour. Then there’s the general tendency to equate power and energy but at least one is related to the other.

    Unless someone has a burning interest in finding out how it actually works, explanations seem to bounce right off instead of sinking in.

    What an electricity supplier is selling is power. Apparently they now sell it by the square kilometer. Maybe dumptruck loads will be next? ;-)

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    • #

      No excuses Roy! The average person in the general public is not being paid to explain the situation in a way that is meaningful, and which billions of dollars depend on. Why subsidize the ABC?

      Real journalists would have contacted skeptics and we would have saved them from looking so stupid.

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      • #
        Roy Hogue

        No excuses Roy! The average person in the general public is not being paid to explain the situation in a way that is meaningful, and which billions of dollars depend on.

        Forgive me for being stubborn but that guy in the general public is, in a very real sense, being paid to get his life right. But they get it wrong and it’s not just a volt or an amp they don’t understand, it’s knowledge and how it works to empower you. Maybe there is a difference of degree but a difference in kind, I can’t see it. Whether the ignorance is willful or accidental, it hurts someone eventually.

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    BoyfromTottenham

    Did anyone notice the cleverness of the ABC here? They used classic misdirection (aka the thimble and pea trick) to make the reader think that ‘powering an area as big as Tasmania’ meant ‘powering the number of electricity users in Tasmania’, thereby planting the totally false impression in the minds of the listeners that a small ‘renewable’ generator could power a whole state. This is one of the worst examples of disinformation from the ABC that I have seen, but no doubt if questioned it will be put down to ‘poor use of analogy’ or the like by ABC management. Wake up, Australia, we are being taken for a ride!

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    • #
      Graeme No.3

      BoyfromTottenham:

      Perhaps my suggestion (Comment 4.3) might be deflation.

      “Perhaps a better comparison would “an area the size of the Simpson Desert”.
      The electricity used there should match that supplied by this subsidy farm.

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    • #

      False advertising is the phrase that sprang to my mind.

      No wonder the punters are confused.

      Jo

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  • #

    Just saw THIS and am …. like… pffffff…….

    One wonders at what point do Aussie electricity users simply rebel?

    I mean… really rebel – these people are seriously poo-ing on you.

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    Robert Rosicka

    There building another solar (subsidy) farm near me and this one will have the capacity to power 15 planets the size of mars .

    20

  • #
    Ari Okkonen

    When incandescent lamps were about to be forbidden in Europe, I heard an EU politician, a doctor of technology, rationalizing the ban with a correct power unit: “energy consumption of Bulgaria”.

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  • #
    SimonJ

    The Register has a very useful conversion website in which the standard area is wales , milli-wales, nano-wales etc. Check out the other units, they are really rather fun!
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html

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  • #
    Steve Richards

    @Siliggy:

    In the case of intermittent supply at Normanton this means the generator is sometimes at one end of the long line and sometimes at the other. When working one way around there is a phase delay in one direction. When working the other way around the delay swaps directions.
    This means that sometimes Normanton leads in phase by the total delay time and sometimes it lags by the total delay time. The difference between the total lag time and total lead time as I have explained to the radio guys above gets close to 180 degrees under a worst case guesstimation.

    No.

    A disconnected generator, rotating or PV inverter, will only reconnect to the grid when it is ‘in phase’. It can not be any other way.

    It matters not which end of the line ‘it’ is at, ‘it’ does not know, it only ‘knows’ the phase on the local grid connection.

    It is always in phase with the grid at the point of connection. It can not be any other way.

    If you took a birds eye view from 100 miles above, yes the two generators separated by 100′s miles of cable will be slightly out of phase with respect to you, 100 miles above, but, for each generator separated by the cable, they are in phase, and happy as Larry.

    Each generator will be in phase with its grid connection point, always. It can not be any other way.

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    • #

      Steve Richards
      Nothing you have typed there contradicts with the text from me that you quoted. Infact you have halfway shown it to be correct. Yes a connection must occur when the two are at the same frequency, phase and it is desirable that they are at the same RMS Voltage and the exact moment would be at a zero crossing. There would be no initial current flow until something changes. Think about what this change must be. There are three possibilities. Either the Voltage of the newly connected supply must increase, the grid Voltage must decrease or the phase relationship over the distance between (but not any point)must change.
      You have said “If you took a birds eye view from 100 miles above, yes the two generators separated by 100′s miles of cable will be slightly out of phase” If you just consider what causes this very normal situation to occur you should see what may cause it to rapidly change. Also why under heavy load conditions it matters far less than under light load conditions. This is the essence of the problem not at all proof that the problem does not exist.

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    Steve Richards

    Siliggy, sorry to go on about this, but we may as well get it correct as possible.

    Prior to synchronisation, the incoming generator is running slightly faster than the grid. Always.

    This is because, at the instant of breaker closure the incoming generator take some load and starts to provide power to the grid. If the incoming generator was running slightly slower that the grid, then at the instant of breaker closure, the incoming generator would start to take power from the grid (we call it motoring) and reverse power trips would kick in and open the breaker. Otherwise you can have catastrophic damage.

    Whilst the generator is connected to the grid, it remains ‘in sync’, so we can disregard sync changing.

    The voltage ‘trying’ to come out of the generator onto the grid can change (but is under the control of an AVR (automatic voltage regulator)) but this would just change power factor etc. This is under automatic control and is not an issue.

    I can see nothing that could cause a normally running generator, at the end of a long transmission grid, to have a phase issue as it is always in sync.

    Your penultimate sentence could pose an operational issue to a naive operator:

    If you run a generator, connected to the grid, at low power, say less than 10% output, then your reverse power trip will disconnect the generator from the grid, to prevent any chance of reverse power operation or motoring.

    Obviously you do not want generators disconnecting randomly.

    Operators of synchronised generators are taught this, a generator providing little power to a grid is wasteful and dangerous, take it off load and shut it down.

    Synchronisation is not an issue, phase is not an issue. It been in use for decades.

    It could be that electrical operators are forced to take power from individual wind generators etc and not aggregate the power from a complete wind farm into a sizable chunk of power which the operator could do something safely with.

    Even so, generator connection operations, whilst noisy (large ‘bangs’ etc), are tried and tested.

    00