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Extraordinary powers triggered: Blackout threat from rooftop solar panels in Western Australia

Posted By Jo Nova On May 21, 2018 @ 5:26 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Solar Panels, Rooftops, Perth.

Panels are going in everywhere in Perth.

In Western Australia the uptake of solar panels has rocketed as electricity prices leaped — there’s a slow motion solar train-wreck underway. Solar PV panels are now on more than one in four houses and growing at a phenomenal rate.

The South West Grid is small, with around one million customers and a daily peak of around 2 – 3,000 MW. But the solar generation now totals as much as 1,000MW, and is growing at blistering 180MW a year. Already, there are times solar can be the largest “single” source on this grid, and the AEMO has no control over it, which is why emergency notices are being issued more and more. The AEMO suggests the answer is more batteries, but we are still subsiding the installation of these unnecessary panels making the problem worse, and electricity prices are forecast to rise another 7% this year. As readers TomOMason and TonyfromOz say, so much for cheap solar — watch out: “Batteries Not Included”. The hidden costs get you every time, and the cost of the impact on the rest of the grid is only becoming known as we do this live experiment.

Solar panels are becoming an emergency in WA, equivalent to a bushfire

The growth of panels is so disruptive the AEMO sometimes has to invoke the “hisk risk state” and force the baseload coal and gas generators off the grid for fear of an overload. This is supposed to be something triggered only in exceptional circumstances. The rapid change to the grid generation will create a regular state of emergency in WA in a few years unless something changes.

Rooftop solar poses blackout threat to WA’s main power grid

Daniel Mercer in The West Australian

Extraordinary powers designed for emergencies such major power plant failures or bushfires are being triggered to protect WA’s main grid from soaring output generated by rooftop solar panels.

In comments to a Parliamentary inquiry, the body that runs the south-west electricity system has warned the market can no longer cope with the solar power being pumped out during certain conditions.

Experts have warned a looming crunch may lead to increased risks of blackouts and higher power costs for consumers.

There is now almost 1000MW of solar powered generation across the south west interconnected system — the biggest single source on the grid — with about 200,000 installations on households.

Solar spells “disastrous” trends for conventional power stations

From a January news report: Solar may overwhelm the WA Grid

Daniel Mercer in The West Australian, Jan 8th, 2018

It is believed solar power could displace 100 per cent of traditional generation such as coal- and gas-fired plants for short intervals within as few as five years based on current trends.

While this would happen initially only during specific weather conditions, such as mild, sunny days when demand for electricity was low but production from solar panels was high, the trend could be disastrous for conventional power stations.

This is one of the hidden costs of solar power.

The uptake of solar panels here has accelerated due to painful electricity prices and an ongoing subsidy. Here in the sunny state they work well but not well enough to make them worth installing without the subsidy. If they aren’t economic in most of WA, they won’t be economic anywhere other than remote off-grid locations.

In the even smaller North-West grid of Western Australia, the powers-that-be have limited the uptake of solar subsidies in Broome to 10% of the towns power for fear of grid fluctuations. (Thanks to RickWill for reminding me).

The SWIS grid is not connected to the whole NEM in Australia. The market rules are different, so is the structure. It’s largely government controlled. Therefore I’m very interested in hearing from anyone with insight into our system. Please, if you can help, get in touch through comments below or email joanne at this site domain.

h/t to Vic, Pat

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