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South Australia wind energy jumps to 43% in July

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South Australia’s wind farms produced enough electricity to meet a record 43 per cent of the state’s power needs during July, and on occasions during the month provided all the state’s electricity needs.

The output was boosted by the addition of the 275MW Snowtown II wind farm earlier in the month. Before that, the state’s 1,200MW of wind farms had provided around 28 per cent of the state’s electricity demand in 2012/13.

Combined with the state’s 550MW of solar power, it is likely that nearly half of the state’s electricity demand came from variable renewable sources such as wind and solar – a record for a major developed economy.

sa wind generationSpain, for instance, this week, said that in July solar made up 8 per cent of its power supply, spread evenly between concentrated solar thermal and solar PV – while wind energy contributed 16.8% of the overall energy generation mix.

“With more than 40 per cent of the state’s power demand provided by wind energy for the entire month, it is clear that large amounts of renewable energy can be added to the system without the need for extra backup generation to be built,” Clean Energy Council acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said in a statement.

“The South Australian example shows that wind power can generate jobs and investment, as well as large amounts of renewable electricity.

“During a short period early in the morning of 31 July, wind power met all of the state’s power needs, as well as providing more than 90 per cent for large parts of 8 July,” he said.”

sa generation mix

As well as the new record set in South Australia, wind power provided an average of about 7 per cent of Victoria’s electricity demand, and around 6 per cent across the National Electricity Market.

Thornton said that while wind was variable, it was also predictable, allowing the grid operator to source the mix of power generation that would deliver the lowest possible prices for consumers.

“This technology has been a clear wind-win for South Australia, generating more than $5 billion of investment over the last decade, creating hundreds of jobs and providing the state with a cleaner power supply – at a low cost to consumers.

“None of this would be possible without the national Renewable Energy Target, which is currently under review. Approximately $15 billion of additional investment will be generated by the policy if the scheme if left as it is currently legislated.”

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  • Mick

    Is it just coincidence that South Australia is the only state showing positive jobs growth.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Yes. It’s almost certainly a coincidence. Electricity generation is a tiny part of the economy. It only seems large because so much of the money we pay for electricity is wasted on the following:

      1. Unnecessary middle management that we did just fine without in the past. A form of crony capitalism tax farming.

      2. The branding of electricity which is ridiculous as it’s a commodity. Perhaps I can interest you in some Toowoomba brand tap water? It’s branded!

      3. Unnecessary transmission infrastructure. Because who could have predicted that solar power would take off in Australia of all places? Or that raising electricity prices in response to people using less electricity as a result of raising electricity prices would cause people to use less electricity? Who could have possibly seen that coming? It’s almost as if Australians have managed to create some sort of bizarre and mysterious law of supply and demand out of nothing!

      • Beat Odermatt

        The scary thing is that people with a total lack of foresight are actually running large energy companies and are getting paid millions of dollars a year. These short sighted people are still getting paid a fortune, whilst consumers and shareholders suffer.

        • Ronald Brakels

          To me it seems clear that the goal of certain powerful actors is to extract as much money from the system as they can before the wheels fall off.

  • Beat Odermatt

    Renewable energy is crucial for the
    development of South Australia. Coal resources in Leigh Creek are of
    very poor quality and the resources is quickly running out. Gas may
    be available, but export parity pricing has made its use for
    electricity expensive.

    South Australia did undertake a wind
    energy assessment programme already during the 1980th when
    state owned ETSA run an electricity monopoly for South Australia. It
    was clear that the future of electricity supply for South Australia
    had to rely on new coal mines (located in prime agricultural lands
    near Lochiel) , import of coal or electricity from other states, gas
    or renewable energy.

    In hindsight it was fortunate that the
    Government of South Australia had sold its electricity business to
    leave the door open to clean renewable energy.

    I think most South Australians are very
    proud to be leading Australia in many environmental areas. Actions
    such as mandatory deposits on bottles to the ban of free plastic bags
    in supermarkets lead to an increased environmental awareness and
    pride. Today you can travel through some working class suburbs and
    see solar panels on the majority of roofs.

    • Ronald Brakels

      When it is clear that it is uneconomical to shop Australian coal to South Australia, hopes of expanding Australia’s coal exports to India or other countries are shown appear exceedingly hollow. Pointless and hollow. Like a coconut. Or maybe insane would be a better descriptor. Insane as in not connected to reality.

  • ac baird

    Surely this can’t be true. RE is too variable. But then again Leigh Ck coal isn’t. It’s all pretty rough, up to Latrobe Valley standards…

    • Ronald Brakels

      It can be and is true. And I’ll mention that it wasn’t that long ago that South Australia had no operating coal plants. They were all shut down last winter as the wholesale cost of electricity wasn’t high enough for them to make enough money to keep operating. That is, South Australia had no base load generating capacity in use and it wasn’t required. Now that natural gas prices have increased so dramatically one of two units at the coal fired Nothern Power Station is operating this winter. Fortunately our renewable capacity is continuing to expand and hopefully it won’t be too long before our most greenhouse gas intensive source of electricity is shut down for good.

      • ac baird

        I was being sarcastic. The RE variability thing is trotted out all the time by the usual suspects.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Ah right. You forgot to program your avatar to convey the emotional subtext.

    • Beat Odermatt

      Leigh Creek just needs a single major flood and the mine could be out of operations for years. Very clever engineers had built a bund-wall around the mine to prevent flooding. Even smarter engineers build cut a hole through the dam wall to build an access road.

  • Jacob David Tannenbaum

    This achievement is made all the better by the realization that this energy is not vulnerable to outside forces. Sure the wind might blow weakly for a time or the weather become cloudy, but when natural gas prices spike or carbon policy at home or abroad necessitates a move away from coal, South Australia’s relatively unafffected.

  • JA R

    All very well but was that 43% spread evenly across the month – what about the days or evenings when there was next to nothing being produced. Was this 43% being produced when it was needed. Oh these figures – they can be misleading.

    • Ronald Brakels

      The figure given in the first sentence that starts, “South Australia’s wind farms produced enough electricity to meet a record 43 per cent of the state’s power needs during July…” I don’t see how that could be misleading. That’s more or less exactly what happened. South Australia’s wind farms produced electricity equal to 43% of the state’s grid demand. It statement could be made a little bit more accurate by pointing out that it was grid demand, but I fail to see how the failure to clarify that could really lead people astray. In what way do you think it is misleading? Can you sum up why in one sentance? I’m not very bright, so I’ll tell you now that if you can’t get your concern across in one sentance I’m not likely to understand you.

      If as a separate matter you want to know what the availability of wind power is in South Australia, I can give you a rough answer or point you in the right direction to find more information, but I’m guessing that’s not your goal here.

      • JA R

        Perhaps it may become clear if you log onto the website http://www.windfarmperformance.info where data from AEMO has been presented in clear to follow graphs. Three dates which will demonstrate that though it may be possible for the turbines in SA to produce 40% of energy requirements it is impossible for anyone to predict it they will produced it when needed. Graphs for 2 and 3 August are also good examples of the unreliability – just when temperatures were heading to zero and below wind energy was in the doldrums. So looking at figures for a month is misleading if they are given as an example of how they can provide energy for SA or indeed anywhere else.

        • Ronald Brakels

          So JA R, are you saying that the 43% figure is misleading because wind power did generate enough electricity to meet 43% of grid demand in South Australia in July?

          • Chris Fraser

            Being 43%, it was successful by any standard because it was greater than 0%. Wind opponents often put across the thought that anything less than 100% provokes nihilism and failure. I wonder what is the underlying fear of allowing an energy mix ? Does it appear to some to be rather too ‘complicated’ ?

        • Neville Bott

          “it is impossible for anyone to predict it they will produced it when needed”

          You clearly haven’t read the many quality articles here that describe just how accurate forecasting has become.