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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Report on Aug 25 blackouts shows how fragile our grid is (and the real cost of cheap solar panels).

 When cheap solar is expensive Badly installed solar PV makes Australia’s grid fragile

On August 25 last year there was nearly a system blackout when, improbably, three states of Australia were islanded by one lightning strike. Within seconds, trips were switching, two smelters were load shed to save the grid from collapse, and across the Eastern Seaboard of Australia frequency and voltages surged or fell everywhere. In Sydney 45,000 homes lost power for a couple of hours. Shops had to close. Trains were stopped. Passengers were stranded. Traffic signals were not working on major roads. There was chaos. Industrial users shut down in a mass of 725MW of load shedding.

The AEMO final report on that day has just come out and shows us just how fragile our grid is. This was not so much a freak accident, as an accident waiting to happen.

It turns out that another cost of cheap rushed solar panels is that many drop out with voltage spikes, suddenly going offline and leaving another hole to fill. The numbers are amazing — of panels installed in the last 2 years as many as one-third in South Australia dropped out when we needed them and about 1 [...]

Fireman warns solar powered batteries may cause ferocious fires

Channel Seven News.

Unintended consequences: When your insurance to stop the planet burning burns down your house instead.

Storing all that energy in a small box at home. What could possibly go wrong?

Fire crews are warning that solar powered batteries may cause fires that move fast and burn with “ferocity”.

Solar home battery warning after Brisbane house fire

Brisbane Times, Toby Crockford

The homeowner told reporters they had solar panels connected to lithium-ion batteries and suspected the fire started nearby, a view shared by firefighter Malcolm Muscat.

“[There were] approximately three battery banks so lithium-ion, lead-acid batteries, they burn with a ferocity that moves through the house quickly,” Mr Muscat said.

Remember: When the future of the planet is at stake, there’s no such thing as too much insurance.

We just hope the owners had plenty.

Friends and family can be consoled that the house has been sacrificed for a good fashionable cause.

Note this is the “suspected” cause in this fire, but solar panels have been linked to many other house fires.

Does your home need a “fire bunker”? ‘Years to understand’ fire risk of solar power systems

From July 12th, [...]

New Report: Renewables indirectly make electricity MORE expensive, so ABC tells Australia the opposite

One big government agency quietly admits renewables make electricity more expensive, and another big gov media agency hides it.

The new AMEC report tells us renewables will make electricity prices go down a tiny 2% in the short run but make electricity more expensive in the long run due to forcing out cheap baseload players. What matters most to Australians — that we can expect our electricity costs to be 2% less than “obscene” for the next couple of years, or that the artificial transition we are forcing on the grid will indirectly make electricity more expensive?

Which message does the ABC headline? Say hello to Trivia!

Renewables set to drive down power prices, new AEMC analysis shows The ABC is essentially a taxpayer funded advertising machine for the renewables industry.

A flood of new renewable energy projects is likely to drive down household electricity bills, according to new analysis by government policy adviser the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC).

On a national basis, household bills are set to fall by 2.1 per cent — but price falls in the eastern states and South Australia are offset by increases in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and [...]

Sydney Hail Storm: Just how hailproof are those solar panels?

Here’s a problem coal fired plants don’t need to worry about.

Sydney’s ‘catastrophic’ hailstorm happened on Thursday, the damage bill said  to top $125 million. How much of that damage is to rooftop Solar PV? The last massive hail storm in Sydney was in 1999 — but there were hardly any solar panels then.

From SBS News

There are wild scenes and images everywhere.

Worst Sydney hailstorm in 20 years declared catastrophic

Jessica Cortis and Sascha O’Sullivan, The Australian

 At least 50,000 homes remain without power in northern Sydney and more than 1000 calls for help are waiting to be responded to by State Emergency Services after Sydney and the NSW central coast were yesterday rocked by the worst hailstorms in almost 20 years.

Before anyone yells “Climate Change”, Reader, Pat, found stories about hail the size of Eggs in Sydney in November 1929. Hail the size of Tennis Balls fell on Reids Creek near Brisbane in 1934 and hail the size of Tea Cups fell on Brookville in 1902. Paddington had “ice inches deep” on Nov 1, 1931. There are scores more Hail-the-size-of… Maybe building 2 million solar panels on a continent with hail [...]

Deadly: a quarter of all solar panels pose high or severe risk

Got Solar PV? Don’t let the kids play on the roof

Would you like a 240Volt shock with that?

In Australia, shonky fly-by-night installers are botching the wiring and not screwing the panels on properly. As many as a quarter of solar panels pose a high or severe “electrical safety” risk. Since there are two million households with solar panels, that’s half a million homes sitting under a live problem.

By mismanagement and delusional climate-changing schemes the government has entirely and artificially created the solar bubble. Hopefully people won’t die like they did in the Pink Batts Bubble. Back then, to stop droughts and storms and save the nation from the Global Financial Crisis, the government decided to rush out home insulation. The artificial bubble brought in poorly trained workers and four people died. Kevin Rudd (former PM) now says he wouldn’t have done it if he’d known the risks. But heck, way back in 2010 no one could have realized that artificial government industry bubbles wouldn’t mix well with 240 Volts.  Sure.

Australia’s big advance seems to be to stop unnecessary deaths under roofs, and start doing them on top.

Warning of deaths over solar panel installations Simon [...]

White elephant solar panels: “force-feeding” high voltage, raising costs, breaking things, shutting themselves down

Some days I wonder if I should spread stories that make us sound like a recidivist third-world backwater struggling to maintain our voltage. But the ABC is already smashing away.

Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be another drawback to solar panels, lo! Solar Panels are pushing up the voltage at midday often as high as 253 Volts when it supposed to be more like 230 to 240V. This means appliances are using more electricity, that makes bills even higher. It may also be breaking appliances (making other bills go higher too). We’re not really sure about that, but when that study is done, it’ll already be 1.8 million panels too late.

Non-solar users are paying for this surge (and the appliances) — for every 1% increase in voltage, the costs go up 0.7%. Then, to ice that gravy-cake, the inverters on solar panels are also shutting off at 253V, meaning that poor home owners who paid thousands are not generating power for the grid. All up, solar is bad for you, bad for them, bad for our light-globes.

The warning comes from groups running the electricity networks in Australia.

Spot the key word missing from the ABC headline [...]

Solar boom to bust in China: worlds largest solar PV projects drop 43% as subsidies cut

The advantage of communist autocrats is that they can create government havoc so much more efficiently.

The Chinese solar boom was so big it became the world’s largest solar market. It was so big it pushed up global “clean energy” investment to a record high. China became the veritable show pony of the solar spruikers: “leading the world in clean energy investment”. Mashable tells us it was so big “the solar boom could be seen from space“.

But the star advertisement for renewable glory was all based on subsidies:

The Chinese solar boom was “pretty significant”

A couple of months ago the Chinese government admitted they were cutting the subsidies to make electricity cheaper again for consumers. That hit the stock market. Now projects are being cancelled and orders are drying up for the hapless manufacturers.

The free market might be telling us something China’s solar industry is at a crossroads

“Without subsidies there’s no return on investment for over a decade, so investors and property owners aren’t interested in distributed solar. With subsidies it only takes seven years to recoup the investment,” he adds.

China’s solar manufacturers are unhappy with recent government policy changes [...]

Turn off all wind and solar at 6pm peak time — makes no difference

All those billions we spent and yet at 6pm, many days coal, gas and hydro provide 98% of the power Australia needs. Wind and solar are our spare bikes, the third ski, the Banana-Slicers of the National Grid (read those reviews). Just what would we do if wind and solar were all we had? — Jo

At peak time intermittent renewables often make less than 2% of total Australian electricity

Guest Post by Anton Lang (TonyFromOz)

h/t to Rafe Campion at Catalaxy

When power is required the most, wind and solar are missing almost entirely. This isn’t cherry picking of one time — peak time is the most important time on the grid, when the most power is required.  The almost non-existent contribution from renewables is so common it has occurred now for seven days out of the last 14 days.

I’ve been doing a series on the Australian generation and demand curves on a daily basis for seven weeks, the totals are settling down, so that now the percentage changes are only in tenths of a percent, and consider that when it comes to total power and coal fired power, a tenth of one percent is 600MegaWattHours, so at [...]

Ten years late the ACCC says rooftop solar deals must stop

The ACCC is a powerful body created to protect consumers in Australia. Now, after ten years of poor people being forced to pay for middle and upper class solar panels in a kind of semi-secret subsidy-tax, NOW, it says maybe it is time to stop?

Go ACCC.

Competition watchdog calls for solar subsidies to be axed

Ben Packham, Sam Buckingham-Jones, The Australian

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s electricity affordability report reveals the huge cost of environmental schemes across the National Energy Market, including the large-scale renewable energy target, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.

The schemes add a combined $170 to household energy bills in South Australia, $155 in Tasmania, $109 in NSW, $93 in Victoria and $76 in Queensland.

 The ACCC waffles some reasons:

The ACCC said the costs associated with the LRET were expected to fall significantly after 2020, and did not recommend any action to wind up the scheme before its 2030 end date. But it said the SRES, which cost $130 million in 2016-17, should be wound down and abolished by 2021, almost a decade ahead of schedule, to reduce costs for consumers.

When [...]

Junk generators: 2 million expensive solar panels cut Australian total CO2 emissions by 1%

Solar panels across Australia reduce our emissions by almost nothing.

The ABC is whipping Gorgon for not getting carbon sequestration to work, claiming that this is a crisis that will wipe out the entire “gain” from installing two million solar panels across Australia. What the ABC don’t say is that the entire infrastructure of solar panels (on 20% of Australian homes) is only reducing our CO2 emissions by one pointless percent. So the Gorgon delay in achieving the impossible is likewise irrelevant. Australian emissions are rising at 1.5% pa now anyhow.

In terms of our national emissions, the real question is if we shut every solar panel in the nation would anyone notice?

Despite the $1.1b budget, the ABC could have got this bigger and more useful perspective for free from any number of skeptics, none of whom it tried to interview.

With minimal training in arithmetic ABC staff could even have figured it out for themselves. Instead, as per usual, the ABC provides free advertorials for green-industry hacks, with no hard questions and little research.

Can someone please explain to ABC investigative journalists the difference between a megaton and a ton? All they had to do was graph [...]

Energy Crisis: NSW can’t keep coal plants, or aluminium smelters running, prices hit $14,000MW/hr

It’s not even summer.

NSW has been hit by clouds and a lack of reliable coal power. Prices are soaring.  In NSW the Tomago Aluminium Smelter consumes about 10% of the state’s electricity. It has been forced to switch off three times in the last week because there was not enough reserve power on the grid.

The boss of Tomago, Mr Howell, said Australia is “at a crisis point with our energy system”. 

“This is not summer with extreme demand. This is the likely future of our energy grid as once reliable baseload generators exit the [NEM] and are mostly replaced with intermittent wind and solar projects with no practical storage to speak of,” Mr Howell said. “Our energy debate should not advocate either renewables or conventional thermal,” he said.

– SMH, Peter Hannam,

Aluminum pot lines can only sit idle for a few hours before they cool too far and the damage becomes permanent and wildly expensive as the aluminum becomes solid.

Renewables-fans blame the emergency on the unreliability of coal

See @TheAustraliaInstitute. Suddenly Australia is the only western nation on Earth with coal resources that can’t [...]

Solar overload — “Costs a fortune” as the super Duck Curve flood of electricity hits Australia

Ladies and Gentlemen, Australia is now romping in as Star-Crash-Test-Dummy in the renewables stake.

Proportionally, we have more uncontrolled solar roof top generators than any other nation. We’re in uncharted territory: about 20% of houses in Hawaii and California have Solar PV, but in Western Australia, it’s 25%. In Queensland it’s 30% and throughout Australia we are adding 100MW a month and it’s like a whole new coal fired station every year (except it doesn’t work most of the time).

Strap yourself in! This is more useless infrastructure than anywhere else on planet Earth. The only time solar PV panels provide something we might need is at afternoon tea time in summer when airconditioners are on. So for three quarters of the year they provide electricity when we don’t need it, and for three quarters of every day they don’t even work. The rest of the time they burn capital, increase the blackout and fire risk and sit there collecting dust and hail stones.

Electricity at the wrong time is not just wasted, it’s a burden

Too much electricity bumps up the grid frequency and voltage, potentially damaging equipment and risking blackouts. Obviously we have to “manage” this flood of [...]

Even in sunniest Queensland, solar can’t run without big subsidies — so big they have to be kept secret

Solar is so competitive that the Queensland government has to pour in money to keep solar developers from running away.

How much money? Who knows. Whatever it is, it’s so big, the government has to keep it a secret.

Queensland taxpayers kept in dark as they prop up solar firms

MARK SCHLIEBS, The Australian

The Queensland government is concealing its financial support for large-scale renewable energy projects, guaranteeing subsidies to solar companies that do not ­appear on balance sheets.

With an expert panel previously finding the government would need to spend between $500 million and $900m in subsidies to meet its 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, there are now calls for spending to be made public.

The government has struck four deals with major solar-farm developers, under “contracts for difference”, with floor prices nominated for the sale of their ­energy in order to attract finance. When the market price falls below that threshold, the government has to make up the difference.

Luckily for Queensland taxpayers — who don’t know how to spot a good investment or the energy source of the future — the Government can spend their money for [...]

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

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.

[...]

Even AEMO head admits solar panels are a big “disrupter” in Australia – fears big players may abandon grid

The land of the sunburnt country finds that the rapid uptake of solar is a headache, disrupting the grid, adding variability, making management more complicated. Read right through. The head of the AEMO gives an upbeat talk, but the ominous message is that solar panels are flooding in, there are lots of problems, and not only are baseload generators leaving the market, but there may come a day when things are so ludicrously expensive that big energy customers leave to generate their own too. Is that what the death of a grid looks like?

 

Audrey Zibelman is the head of the AEMO – Australian Energy Market Operator – which has the responsibility of managing the electricity and gas market and grid stability for all Australians. To hear her, you’d think the future is renewable, the transition is not being artificially forced on the market, and there is no alternative to alternative energy.

Zibelman tosses out pat free-market lines with a straight face, saying at 17:20 that we never really want governments to “pick a technology”, ignoring that this whole transition, all of it, is only happening because governments “picked a technology”.

Listen at 21:30 to get an [...]