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AGL says blackout not fault of wind farms, but Barnaby and media know best

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hallett wind farm

AGL’s Hallett wind farms

AGL Energy, the bigger coal generator in Australia and the biggest player in the South Australia market, says wind farms are not to blame for the blackout in South Australia, in contradiction to the claims of the federal government and many in mainstream media.

In a statement issued late Thursday, AGL said it was clear that wind farms were not the cause of the blackout, nor was the loss of output in the chaotic seconds leading to the blackout of sufficient scale to cause the system to black out.

The blackout on September 28 sparked a frenzy of accusations from the Coalition, right wing parties and mainstream media that the state’s high reliance on renewable energy was at fault. This was despite early and clear signals from the market operator and the grid owner that the source of energy was not an issue.

AGL CEO Andrew Vesey earlier this week made it clear that it “didn’t matter what was hanging off the wires” when they blew over, the system would still have gone down after such an event had brought down so many transmission lines.

Still, the Coalition government and many in the media are still playing hard against renewables, saying they threaten energy security, and costs. A CoAG energy ministers meeting was being held in Melbourne on Friday, although it has been branded a “stunt” by the Victorian government.

Barnaby Joyce, who earlier in the week blamed wind turbines on the blackout, took issue with the report by the Australian Energy Market Operator and the South Australian government.

“But this idea that a storm caused the blackout,” he said. “No rubbish, Sherlock, we got that part. But why couldn’t you get the system up and running again?” Well, according to AEMO, the system took a while to get up and running because the gas-fired generators wouldn’t work.

Yet the media keeps attacking, or seeming not to understand; falling for the federal government’s attempts to muddy the waters and question the push to more renewable energy.

The ABC’s Chris Uhlmann wrote last week that the whole nation could be blacked out if it continued the push to wind and solar, and has since taken on an Andrew Bolt-like “I’m the victim for telling the truth” justification for his reports.

In the Australian Financial Review on Friday, columnist Jennifer Hewett said it was “very probable” that the combination of the wind not blowing and “a surge in demand for power for all those air conditioners could easily lead to a similar blackout for South Australia.”

The Australian joined in by publishing – in two reports – a federal government “analysis” that put a $41 billion price tag on the renewable energy targets in Victoria and Queensland. The government refused to provide RenewEconomy with the copies of the study.

The Australian Energy Market Operator released a report on Wednesday, cataloguing the series of events, but making no finding of what the causes were – apart from the major storm which brought down three major transmission lines.

Critics of renewables have pointed to the loss of 325MW of wind output just before the inter-connector to Victoria shut down, assuming that the nature of the wind farms and the loss of output was the trigger and the cause for the interconnector to close.

But this was rejected by AGL on Thursday, which owns and operates four wind farms in the state as well as the biggest gas generators, saying there were obviously other factors at play.

“AGL’s current view is that the reduction of wind generation alone was not sufficient in scale to cause the system to black out. In fact, a third of AGL’s wind generation at the time in South Australia continued to operate until the system blackout.”

It went on to say: “AGL has safely run its wind turbines in South Australia for the past eight years and is confident wind generation does not degrade the reliability of the electricity system. Wind generation is a valuable part of the energy system and contributes positively to the reliability and security of the system.”

But it said that the severity of the recent storms in South Australia and the unprecedented scale of impact along the transmission network are an appropriate cause for a review of protection settings of generators and the network system.

The cause of the loss of output of the wind farms is still being confirmed. It is thought that some wind farms had a software “glitch” – since rectified in some cases – that caused (to the surprise of the operators) individual turbines to stop generating after three successive “faults”, such as lightning strikes or loss of voltage.

It is not yet clear, but it is thought that the loss of power from the big Snowtown and Hornsdale wind farms occurred after the nearby transmission fell down, and caused a loss of signal that would have caused any generator to lose power.

AGL says it does not anticipate any system reliability or security obstacles to additional renewable generation in the NEM, “subject to the better integration of climate and energy market policy.”

It has lobbied hard for a staged exit of coal-fired generators, and also “capacity” payments, which would ensure that enough dispatchable generation remains in the system as more renewable energy is added.

AGL will continue to work closely with energy market stakeholders and regulators to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of energy to customers.  

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  • Kenshō

    It’s amazing how far we’ve come in our collective evolution. We’re the most dominant species on the planet. We know the value of life especially our own and our own species. Yet those lacking an enlightened self interest and deeper empathy with nature, are threatening biodiversity and we need in some way to set boundaries with them. We need them removed from political office. We need them sidelined from scientific debate. We need place them into subordinate positions where they are no longer custodians of anything, until they develop true self respect for others and nature.

  • Rob G

    It says a lot when Australia’s biggest coal user is more ‘in touch’ with reality than many in our government. The question is; why is that so?

  • Andrea

    Sorry, but I think AGL is mounting a public relations exercise. Many of its wind turbines didn’t ride through the faults as required due to a “software glitch”. Clearly just a 123 MW loss from its wind farms wouldn’t have overloaded the interconnector; but in combination with the other two generators losses….
    AGL is just a private company trying to protect its reputation. I would rather wait to see what AEMO’s final report says.

    • Nicko

      Yes, a pinch of salt is required, but it is something that such industry claims are milder than from Malcolm ‘I love renewable energy and innovation, but….’ Turnbull.

      Turnbull isn’t saying: ‘let’s innovate to ensure renewable energy continues to increase its use safely, there’s never been a more exciting time for innovation in electricity supply’ etc, but picks up the old Tony Abbott notes from carbon tax days etc.

      By the way, I saw Uhlmann’s moan about being hard done by as being more that of a ‘truther’ like Malcolm Roberts of One Nation. That is, the Heroic Guardian of Sacred Truth in the face of the mob. Roberts or Bolt? Whichever, Uhlmann’s is standard right wing whinge.

      Sadly it was only 180 complaints to the ABC, I think. Should have been more.

    • solarguy

      The report may say what the LNP government is paying them to say.

      • Andrea

        I doubt it. AEMO isn’t a federal govt body. All state and federal governments are members, as are the electricity companies

        • solarguy

          Regardless, money talks and in conjunction to that the government are the sworn enemies of renewables, which suits their FF lobbying masters.

  • howardpatr

    Ask the ex seminarians, Abbott and the ABCs Chris Uhlmann?

    With their deep religious backgrounds they might even get a look in as assistants to Alan Finkel.

  • Andrew Vasey has an engineering degree, “his experience extends across the energy supply chain, including power development, generation, distribution and retail businesses”.

    Prior to entering Parliament Barnaby Joyce worked as an accountant.

    Who should we believe as to the cause of the failure of a complex electrical network?

    • solarguy

      Finn, the forces of darkness will say them. Accountants are good at counting the money passed under the table.

  • Michel Syna Rahme

    Uhlmann who? Wasn’t he that journalist that went to work as a lobbyist with Martin Ferguson after the ABC realised that everyone lost total respect for him and let him go?

    His recent Twitter rant and latest article today seems like a page ripped out of Trump’s book ‘Cry Baby’, and definately the last click he ever gets out of me.

  • johnward154

    Cabinet Ministers have conspired to remove all funds from the CEFC by pledging the total amount left in the CEFC account to other ‘good LNP causes’.

    
At the same time Malcolm Turnbull is subsidising the fossil fuel industry (Oil, Coal and Gas) with (IMF numbers) $1,712 per person a year or $41 billion of taxpayer funds.

    This includes exploration funding for Geoscience Australia and tax deductions for mining and petroleum exploration.

    
The president of the World Bank stated that it was crazy that governments were still driving the use of coal, oil and gas by providing subsidies. “We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now,” he said.
In July, Stern estimated that tackling climate change would require investment of 2% of global GDP each year.
The IMF work indicates that ending fossil fuel subsidies would benefit governments by the equivalent to 3.8% of global GDP a year.

Prime Minister Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Joyce, Former Prime Minister Abbott, Ministers Pyne, Hockey, Cormann and Hunt are attempting to falsely convince the public that the Cabinet can “re-purpose and re-direct the Act” without going back through the Parliament.