Friday, 10 February 2017

Keeping the lights on in a rapidly changing world

Credit: How Stuff Works

On the afternoon of Wednesday 28 September 2016, a once-in-50-year storm, with winds up to 130kph & more than 80,000 lightning strikes, occurred in South Australia. Direct damage included destruction of more than 20 electricity transmission towers. In addition, 3 items of critical distribution infrastructure were destroyed. Other items of infrastructure responded to protect themselves, as planned, by shutting down.

Result for South Australia residents, was a state-wide failure of electricity supply.

Coincidentally, at over 40%, SA is leading the nation in adoption of renewable energy.

Just to be clear – the loss of power in SA was totally unrelated to the source or capacity of generation. Failure occurred because of the loss of critical distribution infrastructure.

Unfortunately, some, mainly on the conservative side of Australian politics, saw this as an opportunity to attack renewable energy.

01 October 2016 – “Once-in-50-year storm blacks out South Australia – naysayers rush to attack renewables”

In fact, in a large grid, accurate weather forecasting makes it possible to accurately predict & schedule renewables a day ahead.

27 November 2016 – “Renewable energy & the national grid”

On 08 February 2017, a heat wave in South Australia led to a spike in demand, which forced, “load shedding”. At the time, gas power plant at Pelican Point, new Adelaide, was sitting idle due to a lack of foresight &/or planning by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the relevant authority.

Once again, those on the conservative side of politics rushed to judgement, attributing the power outages to renewables. Witness this remarkable piece of double speak from Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg:

“Well we're not politicising the fact that there is an insecure energy system in South Australia & that high renewable energy targets, be it in that state or in other states, put in place by Labor governments is going to bring great instability.”

Australian Broadcasting Corporation – “SA heatwave forces blackouts to cope with electricity demand, angering Government”

Then, a predicted heatwave in the coal dependent state of New South Wales on Friday 10 February promised to force load shedding.

Ausgrid – “NSW HEATWAVE”

9 February 2017 – Renew Economy – “Coal-reliant NSW faces rolling blackouts as accusations fly in South Australia”

In the event, no load shedding was required during peak load. This was due, in no small part, to load being shed before the event – some industrial users including Tomago Aluminium (which consumes 10% of the power generated in New South Wales) , & Visy paper mill had taken some of their operations offline to help conserve energy. – Residents told to switch off appliances during crucial hours of peak demand

Australian Broadcasting Corporation – “NSW power: Blackouts across the state averted, energy operator says”
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