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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AEMO Report blames renewables: SA Blackout due to lack of “synchronous inertia”

The Final AEMO Report on the big-SA Blackout deals up some hard truths, and contradicts its earlier claim that the “energy mix” didn’t matter. The key theme here is about the system inertia. The Blackout on Sept 28 last year was an accident waiting to happen, and it wasn’t storm damage to lines that caused it.  The blackout would not have happened if wind power had not been so dominant.

The transition to a 35% wind powered system left the SA grid very vulnerable. On Sept 28 last year, the safety settings on wind turbines were overly sensitive and when voltages “bumped” the turbines shut off suddenly, but those shutoffs hit the system too fast, and that caused the interconnector to shut off too, sacrificing SA to protect the rest of the national grid. The settings themselves are not the main issue — because they can be changed to prevent a repeat. It is a fixable problem — what is harder to fix, is the lack of inertia, and the sheer complexity. These are the biggest challenges of any renewables grid. We can fix even those problems, but at what cost in order to change the weather 100 years [...]

SA Blackout: a grid crippled by complexity

South Australia suffered it’s fifth blackout in five months last week. The AEMO report on that incident came out today. There are lots of faults, errors and small problems, and one overriding theme — it’s too complex:

AEMO (Grid market managers) thought they’d have more wind power. It fell to only 2% of “total output.” There was a computer glitch which “load shed” more people than necessary. Oops. SA Power Network apologized today. Demand was higher than expected.  The gas plant generators at Port Lincoln were ““not available due to a communications system problem”. (Whatever that means.) That was 73MW out of action. One turbine at Torrens Gas plant was out for maintenance (120MW gone). Another was running 50MW low because of the heat. (Seriously, these machines operate at hundreds of degrees and work at 35C but not so well at 42C? (Or whatever it was). Color me skeptical. Perhaps some grid engineers can comment and tell us if this is normal?

So in a modern renewable grid we have variations in supply and demand that are of the order of the average grid load and at the whim of The Wind. What could possibly go wrong?

Finally the SA [...]

It’s that bad — talk of “declaring emergencies” and nationalizing South Australian electricity

Smell the desperation

Here in Oz, political lives are in turmoil. Suddenly “load shedding” is the topic de jour, and there are hit lists of suburbs in the firing line. It’s a long list.  Welcome to your green future.

The language is ramping up.  The SA state government is talking of a “dramatic intervention in the electricity market”.

The plans are “advanced” but they apparently don’t know what that intervention is. It could be a script for “Yes Minister”:

 Premier Jay Weatherill said the plans were well advanced, and all options remained on the table.

“One option is to completely nationalise the system,” Mr Weatherill said.

“That’s an extraordinary option. It would involve breaking contracts and exposing us to sovereign risk and the South Australian taxpayers to extraordinary sums of money. “It’s not a preferred option but we’re ruling nothing out at this point.”

Even if there were no more blackouts in SA, how much stress is added by not knowing if the electricity will be cut off without warning? How many people are preemptively running air conditioners early or all day?

The situation has changed so much that even Malcolm Turnbull, the man [...]

South Australian electricity is coming your way

Yesterday 90,000 customers lost power in SA (making it Blackout Round 5 since the big one last September).

This time it was due to load shedding.

SA power woes to spread nation-wide, starting with Victoria, Australian Energy Council warns

The Federal Government needs to take urgent action to improve its energy policies before the rest of Australia falls victim to the type of large-scale blackouts experienced in South Australia, the Australian Energy Council has warned.

It’s not just that renewables muck up the electricity supply (with frequency and instability issues), they also drive a pike through the energy market. These are two separate disruptors. We’ve seen inexplicable spikes in power prices in SA in seasons when it shouldn’t happen, but this might be a new form of volatility. Wind power produced 900MW earlier in the day, but that fell to below 100MW within 6 hours (which is not that usual, see the post yesterday for the graph). The problem, apparently, was that no one thought it was worth turning on their generators?

SA has enough generation (if only it was running), but when the crunch came, the market failed:

It asked for more power generators to [...]

Rolling blackouts ordered in SA in 40C heat

South Australia, with 40% renewables, is lucky this has been a mild summer.*

Welcome to your load-shedding future:

Rolling blackouts ordered in Adelaide as city swelters

Widespread power blackouts were imposed across Adelaide and parts of South Australia with heatwave conditions forcing authorities to impose load shedding.

About 40,000 properties were without electricity supplies for about 30 minutes because of what SA Power Networks said was a direction by the Australian Energy Market Regulator.  — The Australian

Premier Jay Weatherill blamed the AEMO for not ordering a gas power station to come online.

Electricity prices spiked to $13,440 MWh. Total demand was about 3,000MW. Things are expected to be the same tomorrow.

At 6pm tonight wind power was producing less than 100MW (about 7% of its rated capacity):

Look at the price spike and the forecast for tomorrow:

AEMO, Electricity Prices, Feb 8, 2016

Perhaps with better planning and more money they can reduce the need for planned blackouts — but why bother?I guess they’ll have those gas powered stations running tomorrow.

It has been smack on average at Adelaide Airport at 28.1C for January 2017.

*The Wind power graph was supplied in WA time, so [...]

More bad luck for South Australia, yet another blackout, 300 powerlines down, 125,000 homes cut off

A fifth of South Australia lost power yesterday due to a nasty storm.

You would think with all the climate models predicting more of every kind of extreme weather that South Australia, of all places, which is spending millions to prevent this sort of weather, would have upgraded their transmission lines to cope with it? Then again, maybe the models didn’t exactly predict these, not-so-extreme 120km/hr gusts.

Still Adelaide has a good desal plant to help them cope with climate change.

That wasn’t the case back in 1948 when a cyclone went through.

Roofs were blown off, flash floods occurred and a frigate washed ashore in 1948. (Click to read it all).

For the poor people of the west coast of SA, this may be their fourth blackout in four months. Some had another blackout last week due to lightning and a wind gust of “up to 111km/hr”.  It doesn’t look like this has anything to do with renewables, it appears to be inadequate infrastructure and probably the return of a natural weather cycle (Adelaide was hit by a cyclone in 1948, widespread damage in 1954, much damage in 1927, and in 1910 and 1916):

Almost one-fifth [...]

If only “free energy” was free. UK Govt spending £319bn on quest to change future weather

(More at the Daily Mail)

UPDATE: Full GWPF report (PDF) A bargain at half the price

The geniuses in the UK government decided to take £10,800 from every UK household to cool the world by a figure which, rounded to the nearest tenth of a degree, is 0.0 degrees C a century from now.

The Daily Mail:

Hot air: Bombshell report shows green levies backed by government will cost the economy £319bn by 2030 The radical shift to green, renewable energy will have cost £319bn by 2030 The huge sum is three times the annual NHS budget for England The policy will be adding an average burden of £584 a year to every household by 2020 and £875 by 2030 Shocking report takes its calculations from official figures issued by government

The real cost to poorer families paying vastly higher electricity bills might be measured in terms of people choosing second best health options, putting off treatments, foregone holidays, going cold, and for some on the brink, perhaps divorce or worse. (It’s hard to imagine how forcing people to do £10k of pointless work will improve mental health stats).  If the UK government came knocking at doors asking for [...]

South Australia: blackout costs $367m, normal electricity twice the price, reserve shortfalls coming in January

Comforting to know that hundreds of millions were saved because the SA blackout hit at 4pm:

Today in SA: blackout cost $367m but could have been worse

The results of a comprehensive survey of Business SA members of the impact of the September 28 blackout released today also found many did not have business interruption insurance and, of those who did, more than half were not covered for losses resulting from the outage.

The overall financial impact on South Australia was a loss of $367m but, in occurring late in the trading day, the effect of the blackout was lower than it would have been if it had happened first thing in the morning.

“Considering 70 per cent of respondents had power restored within 24 hours we are looking at a cost of close to $120,000 per minute for business in the state,” the report found. –The Australian

Only 12% of businesses surveyed had backup generators.

Who wants electricity at twice the price? Judith Sloan:

The Australian Energy Market Operator says average electricity prices in South Australia next year will be 1.7 times higher than in NSW and 2.4 times higher than [...]

Apocalypse On. Trump appoints climate denier in charge of EPA. “Threatens planet!” like Nazi, ISIS, arsonist.

It’s an eco-Worriers nightmare. Donald Trump appointed the man who’s been suing the EPA as its new chief. Scott Pruitt   The Oklahoma Attorney General has been a leading figure in working to stop Obama’s EPA’s Clean Power Plan, an executive order that tried to circumvent Congress.

Trump heard Al Gore’s best arguments on Monday and acted accordingly.

Pruitt obviously knows the worst flaws of the EPA and in detail. He might even be able to get the EPA to tackle real environmental problems instead of fake ones. Who could be better? (Marc Morano, Nigel Farage? Hard to say).

Donald Trump will name Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, an ardent opponent of President Barack Obama’s measures to curb climate change, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a Trump transition team official said on Wednesday, a choice that enraged green activists and cheered the oil industry.

Trump’s choice of Pruitt fits neatly with the Republican president-elect’s promise to cut back the EPA and free up drilling and coal mining, and signals the likely rollback of much of Obama’s environmental agenda.

Since becoming the top prosecutor for the major oil- and gas-producing state in 2011, Pruitt, [...]

More blackout damage — Alcoa smelter to run at just 27% capacity for up to six months

The fallout from the small blackout last week will cost jobs and reduce production for months to come. In Victoria, the Alcoa smelter in Portland was hit at the same time as 200,000 customers in South Australia. But the short power outage meant that hot metal turned solid at the smelter, damaging equipment. One potline is totally shut down, the other hobbles along.

Manager of Portland Aluminium, Peter Chellis, said crews had been working tirelessly to stabilise the plant since it was taken offline.

“Obviously a long power interruption freezes the metal, and when you bring the power back on that creates what we call ‘burn offs’,” he said. “So we’ve been taking the pots that can’t be fixed out of circuit, and at this point in time line two is looking quite stable.”

He said the smelter was operating at just 27 per cent of its capacity. “At the moment we haven’t started to work on any scenario other than stabilising the plant,” he said. “But I think in three to six months we can turn around lines one and two.”

 – Source: Alcoa smelter to run at 27% [...]