Malcolm Turnbull blown off course by South Australia’s 100% renewable energy

It is something of an irony that prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s attempts to visit the South Australian city of Port Lincoln over the weekend should have been thwarted by strong winds – winds, it should be noted, that provided 100 per cent of the state’s power needs for much of the day.

According to local media reports, Turnbull’s planned visit to Port Lincoln on Sunday was aborted when his plane was unable to land after two attempts due to strong winds.

It is not the first time Turnbull’s attempts to land in Port Lincoln have been thwarted by strong winds – a similar attempt a month ago was also abandoned in the face of bad weather.

south australia 100% wind
The winds in Sunday were strong – not strong enough to stop wind turbines from spinning however, as deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and South Australia Senator Nick Xenophon like to believe, but enough to provide more than 100% of South Australia’s underlying electricity demand for more than 10 hours on Sunday.

According to Dylan McConnell from the Melbourne Energy Institute, who provided the graph above, wind provided more than 100 per cent of the state’s needs from 8:10am to 6:40pm.

During that period the price averaged approximately negative $25/MWh.  At 2pm on Sunday, wind was (very briefly) was producing 46 per cent more than underlying demand – around 1370 MW of wind and 935MW demand from the grid (which does not include rooftop solar being consumed in homes).

As it happened, it was not just windy that day, but also quite sunny. And according to the APVI solar map, rooftop solar PV was producing about 293MW, which means that variable renewable energy sources (wind and solar) were producing 1,670MW.

Some of that rooftop solar would have been satisfying household demand not seen by the grid (and therefor not included in the 935MW) – but it seems certain that wind and solar were providing one and a half times the state’s electricity needs at the time – and exporting much of it to Victoria.

Turnbull, of course, was a great supporter of the 100 per cent renewable energy concept back in 2010, when he was a mere deposed Opposition leader, but as prime minister with a wafer thin majority over Labor in parliament and an equally small majority over the  right wing in his own party, Turnbull’s views have changed.

Following the blackout in late September, Turnbull and his ministers have attacked state-based renewable energy targets in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory, saying they are all unrealistic and damaging to the economy.

So, it’s a shame Turnbull didn’t get to land in Port Lincoln, which went without power for more than two days after the blackout because its fossil fuel generators didn’t work.

Port Lincoln is a classic example of a town that should be focused on local renewables – wind and solar – battery storage and a local micro grid, rather than centralised generators. The nearest coal generator is more than 1,200kms away in the Latrobe Valley, meaning line losses of more than 10 per cent.

As the owner of one of those Latrobe Valley generators, AGL Energy CEO Andrew Vesey, said recently, the best way to guarantee energy security is to have local micro-grid, and that means more renewables not less.

The case for micro-grids is also being promoted by network owners – because it increases security and saves on grid costs – and the cost of micro-grids is falling quickly as renewable energy and battery storage costs fall.

David Shearman secretary of the Doctors for the Environment Australia, says Port Lincoln clearly has plenty of sun and wind.

“Any rational assessment would find it capable of self-sufficiency and, therefore, during emergency, of being independent of the national grid.

“It is hard to believe that Government policy is to support coal “for many decades to come” and that this support extends to attacking renewable energy because it increasingly threatens coal as the technology becomes cheaper. But rational thought indicates this must be the Government’s irrational policy!”


10 responses to “Malcolm Turnbull blown off course by South Australia’s 100% renewable energy”

  1. trackdaze Avatar

    A gig or two of storage would be a knockout blow.

    Little chance of the current government advancing a local storage manufacturer. I suspect they would talk it down chase them out of town.

    1. john Avatar

      We just mine the materials and export them along with the value added benefits so we can buy back the finished product with the profit made over seas.
      In the long run there will be more and more RE put into the mix especially in areas of high solar, wind as well as wave and possibly in a few areas the north west of the country and the middle north of Qld. where tidal energy is significant.

    2. john Avatar

      I do not think we will get into manufacturing storage batteries we can not even build a water pump, mind i think we did do something about 60 years ago to pump water up hill with a by pass pump

    3. neroden Avatar

      In 3 years, solar will have quadrupled, wind will have doubled, and a gigawatt-hour of storage will be sufficient to render gas and coal unnecessary in South Australia.

  2. howardpatr Avatar

    Not a word from Frydenberg’s mouthpiece, the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann?

  3. Chris Fraser Avatar
    Chris Fraser

    Mal get out of SA stop preaching.

  4. Les Johnston Avatar
    Les Johnston

    The graph looks like wind for baseload when solar is moved up above wind.
    Why didn’t the wind cause another blackout? There was a lot of wind for a week!

  5. David Rossiter Avatar
    David Rossiter

    AGL’s Andrew Vesey sounds as if he is genuinely progressive microgrids are the way to go and Tesla Powerwall 2 funded by AGL could be the way
    David Rossiter

  6. BeyondZeroEmissions Avatar

    The huge pressure that the gas industry is no doubt putting on South Australia, right now, as it considers a range of tenders for power that include concentrated solar thermal, is more concerning. See this for recent background:

  7. MaxG Avatar

    Glad the clowns couldn’t land… nobody needs them or their double speak. I keep dreaming that the Australian People will one day see the light… I think I said it: it is a dream. 😉

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