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South Australia already at 57% wind and solar in 2016/17

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The South Australian government’s official target for renewable energy is 50 per cent of local demand by 2025. According to the Australian Energy Regulator, it didn’t just reach that target in 2016/17, eight years early, it is literally blowing past it.

Data released in the AER’s state of the energy market report released last week suggests that the combined contribution of large scale wind power and rooftop solar PV has already reached 57 per cent in the first nine months of 2016/17.

The report showed that wind power accounted for 38 per of the state’s demand in 2015/16, jumped to about 43 per cent in calendar 2016, and then jumped even further in 2016/17 as new wind farms such as Snowtown and Hornsdale came on line.

“In the nine months to 31 March 2017, the contribution of wind generation was even greater, supplying 50 per cent of South Australia’s electricity,” the AER says.

wind generation by state AER

Add in the at least 7.6 per cent contribution from rooftop solar – the AER report says that the 728MW of rooftop solar contributed 7.6 per cent of South Australia’s annual energy requirements in 2015–16 – that takes the state up to at leat 57 per cent for the nine months to the end of March.

That figure is expected to jump again as households and businesses continue to add rooftop solar, and as the third 109MW stage of the Hornsdale wind project comes on line.

Over the next year, the 220MW Bungala solar project and the 212MW Lincoln Gap wind farm, both near Port Augusta, will also come on line, taking the state up towards 65 per cent renewables, and there are numerous other projects said to be near the point of financial close.

As we reported in April, The Australian Energy Market Operator predicts that the state is heading towards 80 per cent renewable energy by 2021/22, saying that capacity of large scale renewables (wind and solar) will double to around 3,100MW over the next five years.

Those additions could be affected, however, by the structure of the state’s proposed energy security target, and whether it allows wind and solar farms to be paired with battery storage, or whether its insistence on “real inertia) (i.e. from spinning turbines) results in curtailment of wind and solar.

AEMO also expects the amount of rooftop solar capacity in South Australia to double and reach over 1500 MW by 2025, by which time the state’s minimum demand could on occasions be met entirely by rooftop solar, suggesting the need for something smarter to happen with battery storage.

market volatility graph copyInterestingly, the AER notes that the wild swings in prices often attributed to high renewable energy penetration are in fact being matched by states with rely almost exclusively on coal and gas.

This is because the prices are, in the end, set by the high price of gas-fired generation, and often manipulated when states have few major generators. Both South Australia and Queensland are dominated by just two or three major generation companies, and this is seen as a major cause of the problem

The AERs analysis shows that the most number of price spikes occurred in Tasmania in recent years, thanks to the failure of its Basslink cable, the drought that depleted its hydro resources and the subsequent reliance on fossil fuel generation.

The number of price spikes in South Australia and Queensland is roughly even, although the South Australia number is higher for the latest year after the work on the upgrade to the inter-connector to Victoria saw the gas generators in the state push prices to the maximum level on multiple occasions.

   

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  • Peter Kretschmer

    I think special acknowledgement for this has to go to Santos, a company that is basing its future on a global 4oC warming target. In helping to cause gas prices to spike it is now difficult NOT to make a profit with renewables in SA. My FiT has jumped from 6.8c to 12c on a new plan. It will probably go higher on July 1st and it may justify installing more panels rather than a battery. Now the critical step in the death-spiral is when gas becomes the price-setter in the market. The gas-gens won’t close because they can make profits as peaker-plants. As SA found out it’s the coal-gen that closes first with it’s constant cost structure for fuel and maintenance, still burning cash when the wind is blowing and sun is shinning.

  • Gary Rowbottom

    Only moderator here is that those percentages are % of generation, not electricity used in the State. for 2015/16 there were net imports of 1941 GWh, for the 6 months July 2016-December 2016 the net imports were 1480 GWh – so up a fair bit (due mainly to Northern Power stations closure. Still good numbers though, and will only get better as more RE projects come on line, to the point where there should be net exports from SA.

    • Nope, AER says quite specifically it is a share of demand, not local power. That percentage would be even higher.

      • Shane White

        Where Giles? I too only see “generation”. Figure 1.11 is “Share of total generation”.

    • Shane White

      Will only get better? Good enough to avert climate disaster?

      • Gary Rowbottom

        Well, maybe not, but there are lots of RE projects in the wind, (and sun and water) for SA, and if other states/countries follow our example (if we incorporate enough storage) perhaps we could just do it by golly! Crack on and add VRE with storage I say, these gas gens can run if we need ’em, not if we don’t. Plenty of other gas/diesel gens in SA that can be phased out.

        • Shane White

          Yeh, you’re going about this backwards like almost everyone else: that is looking at RE projects and hoping they’ll be enough instead of looking at the science and doing what it prescribes to avoid dangerous warming.

        • BarleySinger

          South Australia now has the worst rules for home solar generation in Australia, thanks to new rules obviously created via collusion between AGL and SA Power Networks.

          I have heard a lot of angry engineers in the industry over the past few weeks.

          The new Small Generator rules say that you
          can no longer have a residential system with a PANEL output over 5Kw,
          unless you have 3-phase power. All single phase (or SWER) residential
          properties (almost everybody) are limited to 5Kw now instead of 10Kw, and you can’t use export limiting to
          get around this.

          SA Power Networks took their stupidity well beyond that point – way beyond it – and effectively outlawed battery banks for anyone on the grid in SA. Nearly all battery bank solutions store more than 5Kw, and the limit for your home system is now 5Kw for everything (battery and PV, while disregarding the inverter completely).

          The “PowerWall 1” produces 6.2Kw by it’s self, which is (by intent of SA Power Networks) too much wattage for the new regulations (over 5) BEFORE adding on the PV panels.

          It is really obvious to engineers throughout SA that this was done intentionally to prop up the fossil fuel industry and cripple the rapid conversion to solar that has been going on in SA.

          Keep in mind that our FORMER friend “Export Limiting” exists as a tech, very specifically to let people generate MORE power than the grid rules allow them to export. It is now essentially illegal in SA for all new installs.

          Export Limiting systems exist all over this nation (still legal in all the OTHER states) and all over the world. SA Power Networks have essentially outlawed the entire new technology of hybrid PV/battery grid connected systems. You really can’t have a meaningful battery bank, unless you go totally off grid.

          * WHAT THIS MEANS IN REAL TERMS *

          If you stay on the grid you can no longer install a “PowerWall” in South Australia at all, or a Red Flow system – because they produce too much power (ie, they store a lot of energy and do the job properly – so of course they were outlawed via bureaucracy by SA Power Networks).

          Also the industry standard of using an inverter with an oversized set of panels (to keep solar electricity output *higher* even earlier in the day, toward sunset, in winter) – well now – that is officially dead in SA. You can no longer put 6.2Kw of panels on a 5Kw inverter, and have the utility call your max output 5Kw (becasue they now ignore the inverter).

          SA Power Networks doesn’t care what your inverter is rated to produce now – only what your PANELS and BATTERY combined can produce. They only care about your total theoretical output.

  • mick

    Vesey on abc news says agl will rebuild/replace older torrens isle gas gen as sa govt gas not to bid rather energy security only interesting to know how long before it becomes unviable

    • Joe

      Stranded asset, number ?

  • Shane White

    Giles I think this story is a dangerous form of silo-thinking; isolating an aspect so as to allow it to appear positive. As shown in figure 1.7 of the report (at https://www.aer.gov.au/system/files/AER%20State%20of%20the%20energy%20market%202017%20-%20A4.pdf), SA is part of the NEM and that figure shows NEM’s energy generation last year was about 3/4 coal.

    Earth’s climate is changing rapidly beyond scientific expectations while our window of opportunity shuts, commitments by federal governments worldwide take us to 3C+ of warming with unknown outcomes, federal politics here is is stagnant and toxic with an INDC that should be considered a crime against humanity, SA’s governments (state and local) support CSG and offshore oil extraction in The Great Australian Bight, and public indifference of all the above is incredible.

    I think this story’s perspective fuels that indifference. It encourages people to think things are in hand here, rather than worrying why an emergency isn’t being declared. Yes, an emergency, because the only thing we’re literally blowing past is our last chance for a safe climate.

  • JoeR_AUS

    As I write this SA is using 1226mw Gas and 29mw wind, that’s less than 3% renewable!

  • Joe

    We haven’t heard lately from Big Mal and his hand puppet Joshie about how reckless this all is in SA. I’m looking forward to hearing about The Finkel Report that is released today. Love to see Big Mal’s and Joshie’s reactions. Somehow I don’t think Finkel will be spruiking Big Fossil Fuel.