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Graph of the day: South Australia’s “baseload” wind supply

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I’m sure that people in South Australia can confirm that it has been windy over the last few days. What might surprise them is how wind has dominated the state’s electricity supply – and how consistent its output has been.

This graph below comes from Dylan McConnell at Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College and quite frankly, it is barely believable: it shows wind output in the state at a constant output of around 1200MW over the last three days.

renewable graph.

As the graph shows, the orange and dark orange bits represent gas – which is also pretty constant due to the new guidelines imposed by AEMO, the market operator. Yellow represents the output of the state’s 700MW of rooftop solar.

But it is the green that fascinates. South Australia has just over 1,700MW of wind online, but it is highly unusual to see it so constant. The reason is that AEMO has put in constraints to limit the output at 1200MW, which it does when it cannot find a fourth gas unit to operate at the same time.

It’s not surprising, seeing that gas is expensive and usually want a lot more than $100/MWh. It means that some unlucky wind farms get part of their output curtailed, but it paints an interesting picture of “baseload wind”.

   

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  • Tim Forcey

    Way to go Dylan!

  • Dee Vee

    derr, reality check, Wind is NOT baseload. No wind, or high winds = no power generation.

    • Joe

      Coal is not baseload when it is out of action for maintenance or the weather is too hot.

      • jm

        Same with Gas. We have to remember the SA power crisis and the NSW power crisis were magnified by failures in fossil fuel power.

    • Sir Pete o Possums Reek

      Perhaps you might “read” the article again.

      • Alex Hromas

        Enough renewables spread over a large enough area provide continuous reliable power especially when CSP is added to the mix. Coal fired power stations do drop out due to faults mech & elec and the much vaunted high efficiency ones that aren’t that high need more maintenance than the standard models

        • Sir Pete o Possums Reek

          Yep. Roll out 5 more Solar Thermal plants I reckon 🙂
          Mix the storage and collection technologies, so as to add depth and diversity.

          Each wind farm could also add local and or remote (pumped) storage , at least as a leveller. (once again mix the technologies and chemistries).

          Now you have enabled an entire new low pollution industrial sector _and_ all its research and ancillaries. Just add ores.

          FWIW my original “comment” was directed at Dee Vee.

          Who it would appear had not actually read beyond or perhaps “misunderstood” the title.

    • stalga

      Reality check, and base-load is a myth.

      Folks, this joker trolls the Guardian website too.

      • Rod

        I think a troll is someone who posts this sort of shit when they know better.
        Most of these poor deluded muppets actually believe the crap fed to them by the Murdoch rags and mainstream media. I blame our education system.

        • Joe

          …and ‘Gonski’ has been butchered so no improvement in Education anytime soon.

  • Chris Fraser

    More solar could take a big bite out of that gas, too. Hopefully the solar is not curtailed !

    • Goldie444

      What size umbrella do you need to curtail solar?

  • Mark Roest

    Could someone please access the total actual wind available — obviously more than 1200 MW over 3 days, but possibly less than 1700 MW — and calculate that if you had about 1075 MW of available from batteries (the difference between 1200 MW and the total demand peak), and if you had enough additional wind, solar, and demand response / v2g / energy conservation to provide what was needed to keep the batteries charged enough to meet demand — how many battery kWh and how much of those additional assets would you need?
    And how much did the system doing business as usual cost to operate? What did it charge customers? Let’s assume 3 years out, so let’s assume $100/kWh (and per kW) capacity for batteries, and 800 Wh/kg for battery performance (so mass adoption of battery electric vehicles, with most associated with enough additional solar to cover their needs), and finally, continual reduction in the cost of the additional assets. How many kWh and KW of stationary battery storage is implied? How much solar capacity, and how much wind capacity?
    (This will be feasible in 3 years!)

    • wholisticguy

      Ready for an internship at AEMO?

  • Mark Roest

    PS, there is a potential positive correlation between wind and sun (or heat). In the San Francisco Bay area, when the Great Central Valley heats up intensely, the heat rises and flows over the Sierra Nevada, and is replaced by air pulled through the gap in the Coast range and up the Sacramento River delta. That air is often also pushed by high pressure off the coast. So it is forced through a ‘venturi’ (choke point) both horizontally (toward the opening between the mountains) and vertically (over the mountains on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, against the force of gravity and the air above it.) That is what powers the Altamont wind farms, and the ones along the Sac’to delta. The native tribes called it the Suisun wind (the west wind).

    • Alex Hromas

      Not in South East Australia here the correlation is very weak. Our main wind resource is from the roaring 40’s. It improves as you go south hence wind turbines in Tas and gets deflected north by the great diving range as far as Tarralga . Local temperatures are secondary.

  • Zvyozdochka

    Yesterday Senator Birmingham (Lib-South Aust) said the SA government had a fleet of diesel backup generators on standby for this summer? Is there a way to confirm that? I can’t find any evidence of it.

  • christopher

    Again I see that government plays into the hand of Gas Plant businesses by restricting the output of wind generators. The people has to pay higher prices for this, and its the SA peeps who suffer.

    • FentontheDragon

      Imagine adding a couple of GWhr of batteries to the mix; run wind turbines at 1700MW, charge batteries from spare wind and solar capacity at low demand / low wholesale cost, use batteries to follow the demand curve / wholesale cost peaks.
      Suddenly expensive GAS is idle.

      PS this is why they’re scared of the proposed 5 minute settlement rule changes.

      • wholisticguy

        One of the many reasons for 5 minute settlement resistance. Modern gas turbines can react quickly, not as quickly as batteries or solar inverters but more quickly than coal.

    • Mike Shackleton

      This was a response to the storms last year – Wind generators cannot supply the majority of power in the state unless there is gas spinning to replace it in the event that a wind farm drops out. This situation will only be temporary until there is confidence in the new override settings and the Tesla battery come online.

      • wholisticguy

        A decision that is Ironic and short sighted considering it is the gas that has a history of “dropping out”. Should all gas require spinning wind?

        • wholisticguy

          Dispatchable storage shouldn’t be solely competitive on arbitrage. We need a lot more, and it provides grid services that are inherently more valuable than opportunistic renewable generation. Where is the market mechanism in the NEM to encourage the build out of these grid firming services?
          The cost of blackouts is not carried by the generators. In fact the opposite! They get the best price when they sail as close to a blackout as possible. Talk about a perverse incentive.

  • Henry WA

    Giles
    In all other ways, Audrey Zimelman appears to understand and fully support the transition from fossil fuels to renewables including the cost benefits. Therefore what is her logic in requiring wind power to be curtailed because there isn’t a 4th gas unit available, thereby using less wind and more of the limited and expensive gas that is available?

    • Good question. It has many people scratching their heads. But i expect AEMO to be incredibly cautious and conservative this coming summer because the risks of outages in s.a. remain high, mostly because the big gas generators are unreliable. And any outages would be toxic – in the policy and politics sense.

      • wholisticguy

        I don’t fully understand the rule, but if no gas generators are available, and there is a sudden shortfall in supply (eg gen goes offline) would wind still be curtailed?

        Surely not…

    • BushAxe

      It’s the debate in the industry as to how much inertia and fault current a fully renewable grid has, there’s still alot that don’t believe batteries are capable of filling the gap. With the renewable projects to be completed in SA within the next 12 months 100% renewables will be easily achieved on low demand days -lack of storage is the only thing stopping it.

      • patb2009

        how much would it cost to add Rotating Flywheel/Motor/Generator pairs to the grid to help smooth it out.

        Would it be possible to spin big turbo-generators at coal stations as ‘inertial’ mass?

  • patb2009

    A little bit of battery to smooth those hourly oscillations and you could really start seeing “Baseload” wind.

  • TheTransition

    I read this graph differently. It shows a fundamental problem with simply increasing renewable energy supply without thinking through or at least putting place rules and systems that allow that renewable energy to be actually used. 500 MW of curtailment is substantial. Even without the rules regarding inertia it would be hard to find a market for that power given that Victoria is also generating a similar amount of power over that period of time. We really need Snowy 2.0 and additional interconnects to use that power. As it stands a substantial fraction of what is already generated is just pissed away. When Victoria and NSW get their 40% renewable supply in place the problem will get much worse.