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Wind disappears in South Australia, costing wind-industry millions, BOM blames climate change even though models predicted faster winds

The wind fizzled out over the South East slab of Australia during June. Predictably, that meant the wind industry lost millions, and wholesale electricity prices went up. When the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) was asked where the wind had gone, Darren Ray, expert climatologist, said it was due to a high pressure system over the bight, which, he explained, was linked to “climate change”. Thus, as the world warms, wind farms will be progressively more useless in South Australia. Perhaps the BOM should have mentioned that before SA became dependent on wind farms? I don’t think he had thought this one through.

Perhaps the BOM is hoping that the masochistic sacrifice of South Australia will stop global warming before global warming stops the wind farms?

You might think that if the global climate models could see this coming they would have suggested that wind farms weren’t a good idea. Or maybe, since climate models predict every equal and opposite outcome in unison, the models are always right post hoc, but not so useful in projections?

Climate models predict climate change causes faster and slower winds over Australia

In 2017, Darren Ray, BOM expert, said the decrease in winds was due to the widening of the tropical belt. But back in 2011, CSIRO predicted that climate change caused winds to increase over Australia for the exact same reason.

Climate change ‘blowing in’ stronger winds, CSIRO finds

WIND speeds in Australia have increased by about 14 per cent over the past two decades”

“We think the overall increase is caused by the widening of the tropical belt, due to climate change,” he said.

In 2011, CSIRO predicted that climate change would help wind farms:

“The findings were significant for wind-farm developers as they meant increased productivity….”

Although the CSIRO’s research on wind speeds is good news for wind-power development, supportive government policies will continue to provide the strongest incentive for the industry.

There’s a lesson for investors there about climate models.

Note that the “NEM” data is not just about South Australia. It means the whole damn National Electricity Market —  including Victoria, NSW, Tasmania, and Qld.

h/t to Stop These Things.

The wind slowed dramatically this June:

      Where’s the wind gone? NEM-wide wind farm operation lowest in 5 years

Paul McArdle, WattClarity

“….we have to go back to April 2012 (just over 5 years ago) to see a lower aggregate production from wind.  That’s truly astonishing.  Considering that there have been many new wind farms commissioned in the 5 year period (like Hornsdale in July 2016 and Ararat in August 2016), it does beg two questions:
1)  More academically, on a like-for-like basis, has the aggregate wind output ever been lower?
2)  More practically (and very importantly), where has the wind gone, and why?

Wind farms, NEM, June 2017. Graph.

South Australian customers get higher bills:

Lack of wind blows out South Australia power costs

Geoff Chambers, The Australian: 

“The drop in wind supply pushed average South Australian prices for the June quarter to $116 per MWh, up from $81 in the previous June quarter.

The Wind industry companies are losing millions:

Last week, New Zealand wind power company Tilt Energy, which owns the Snowtown 1 and Snowtown 2 wind farms in South Australia, issued a $10 million-$12m pre-tax profit downgrade because of the lack of wind.

It followed a $9m-$12m downgrade for the same reason the previous week by Sydney-based Infigen Energy.

“Production from Australian assets for June will represent the lowest month of production since the full commissioning of these assets in 2008 and 2014 respectively,” Tilt said…

The BOM blame Climate Change:

Darren Ray, a senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said the low winds had been caused by a high pressure system over the Bight. … Global warming was making the high pressure systems more common.

“There is a long-term trend linking it (high pressure systems in the Bight) to climate change,” Mr Ray said.

“The tropics expand as the planet warms and that sees high pressure systems staying through­out the south longer than they used to.”

Paul McArdle adds in a PS. There have been some of the lowest wind speeds recorded for many-a-year.

He also notes that there may be other factors at work too, like technical problems with rotor bearings reducing output at one “farm” in NSW. Yes, well, but that is another problem isn’t it? Collecting low density wind energy requires massive infrastructure, subject to extreme conditions, and that will always be prone to problems.

Last word to commenter “John” at The Australian who seems to be onto something:

There seems to be a strong correlation between closing coal fired power stations and a fall in wind speeds. The evidence is clear. Anyone who doesn’t believe the correlation is a coal powered wind denialist. In order to avert this problem we need to subsidise the construction of coal fired power stations.

The last, last word to Ruairi:

In winter, high pressure brings chill,
Hard frosts, with the atmosphere still,
Just when people most need,
An electrical feed,
Not a watt from any windmill.

— Ruairi


See Aneroid for Wind Farm output data for June 2017, compared to June 2016, June 2015, and June 2014. The graph changes scale in 2017 when MW production makes it up to 2,200W only once briefly. In other years, wind farms produce closer to 3,000MW.

h/t RobertR

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