Fossil fuel generators may be threat to grid security | RenewEconomy

Fossil fuel generators may be threat to grid security

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Concerns raised again that the NEM’s coal and gas generators can no longer deliver the grid security services expected of them.

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New standards are to be imposed on all new generation in South Australia as regulatory authorities scramble to ensure that the network remains stable, and amid increasing and significant concerns about the performance standards on existing, synchronous, fossil fuel generators.

While some media, such as the ABC and the Murdoch press, chose to focus on wind farms, the new standards to be announced by AEMO in South Australia will affect all new generation, be they wind, solar, gas or large-scale storage.


But these form just part of the overall challenge facing the Australian grid. Renewables are being widely blamed for bringing instability to the grid, but the renewables industry is fighting back, saying the state of the incumbent fossil fuel generators is actually the key issue.

They point, for example, to relaxed settings on coal and gas generators, which may mean that they can no longer deliver the grid security services expected of them, and admissions by AEMO that it had no idea of key settings on fossil fuel generators installed before 2007.

A major new study presented to the Finkel review expresses deep fears about the stability of the grid, noting that during the recent heat-wave in coal-reliant NSW, there appeared to be no frequency control supplied within the state.

That left it in a perilous state, the report says, and close to a catastrophic blackout or “system black.”

In its submission, leading wind farm developer Tilt Renewables says the state of Frequency Control Ancillary Services, or FCAS market (which controls and also restores frequency after major disturbances), has left the grid unstable because fossil fuel generators get penalised if they try to control frequency more accurately.

Frequency movements

It cited this graph above, which shows the change in frequency distribution from 15 years ago to the present. “Where there used to be a small standard deviation around 50 Hz, there is now a much wider response. This indicates that there is a much weaker control of frequency.”

How did this happen?

“The weaker frequency control is primarily as a result of thermal generators adjusting their frequency control settings to maximise their revenue in the frequency market. The FCAS market alone clearly does not result in good frequency control, despite the large associated costs.”

The industry cites one example when CS Energy was fined $80,000  for not following dispatch instructions because their generator control scheme had kicked in to control frequency instead.

The incident led CS Energy to relax the generators’ governor ‘deadbands’, which basically dictate how closely the generator will try to keep the frequency to 50 Hz, which ultimately led to most other generators doing the same thing.

This graph below illustrates the impacts. Firstly, there is an increase in the number of times frequency went outside of limits can be seen in 2014 (when CS Energy assumedly changed their control scheme across all 4GW of their generation portfolio to avoid future fines), then a second major increase occurred in the middle of 2016 (when the AER decision was made public and the rest of the NEM’s synchronous generators changed their control schemes to avoid the prospect of being fined).

frequency events

Over recent years AEMO has been telling anyone who will listen that the grid, and especially frequency, is getting harder to manage because of renewables. This shows a different and far starker perspective that frequency is getting harder to manage because the NEM is designed that way.

In the meantime, renewable energy companies have been loaded with what has been dubbed “causer pays FCAS” – where FCAS costs are passed on to consumers and generators. But the FCAS market, as we highlight here, has been open to abuse, with unaccounted for surges in prices.

Another part of the recommendations from AEMO to South Australian regulator ESCOSA is on so-called ride-through mechanisms; the ability of a generator, be it thermal, wind or PV, to ride through successive changes in voltage.

This was an issue in last September’s “system black” in the state, when AEMO admitted it had no idea about the ride through mechanisms on wind farms, despite it being a major issue addressed by market operators in Europe a decade earlier. It faced a similar problem with the ride-through settings on gas generators a decade earlier.

Adjustments to the ride-through mechanisms have largely been introduced, and proved successful earlier this month when the state’s two biggest gas generators suddenly tripped, for reasons that are still unexplained, and played a key role in keeping the lights on.

The renewable energy industry says these changes are generally good, but there is concern that some aspects of the new requirements do not make sense, are unclear and may force generators to operate above and beyond the design limits of the grid.

“Basically this means they are expected to continue operating in conditions that are undefined or uncontrolled, potentially putting generators and other equipment at risk of significant damage,” says the CEC’s Tom Butler.

“This appears to be a step to transfer risk from to the generators, when the management of this risk currently sits with AEMO and the transmission businesses.”

The Clean Energy Council says the new requirements should not be onerous in terms of costs, and have largely been expected. But there are concerns about the specifics of the new proposals that make the actual impact impossible to gauge.

“The advice is very grey. In some cases there may be significant costs to meet them but having no clear definition means that it is not clear what ESCOSA would actually be asking for.

“Ramp-rate control is one example where storage may be needed to fill the gap, especially in regards to large-scale solar PV where cloud cover can change the output quickly. The scale and timing of the ramp would add high, or low costs. Having an undefined ramp provides no certainty on this cost.”

While FCAS controls can be enabled in modern renewable generators the renewable energy industry says it is a sign that the FCAS market is broken.

The market was meant to bring the capability on-line, so requiring the capability will not resolve price or availability of FCAS service issues. It says that a similar statement can be made towards AEMO’s call for all generators to assist in restoring power after a system black where a market already exists too.

The concern from the renewable energy industry is that AEMO’s revised connection standards are merely bandaid solutions that avoid resolving evident failures of the existing market arrangements.

Further, as argued by the clean energy industry in its submission to ESCOSA and the Finkel Review, these failures are a clear and present threat to power system security. It says it is important for ESCOSA, AEMO and everyone else to look at the root causes rather than propose seemingly arbitrary solutions.

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  1. humanitarian solar 4 years ago

    I can’t see a problem. I think it’s unreasonable to expect fossil fuel generators to upgrade their technology, when we know they have problems maintaining frequency due to their ongoing issues with inertia. Why not just move with the times, add battery banks with a rapid ramp rate, so fossil fuel generators can run at a relatively low ramp rate in the background. It’s far more sensible to continue the push for new technology, rather than throwing money to upgrade old generators. I think standards should be relaxed enough for fossil fuel generators to continue supplying power to the grid, and faster renewable systems should be prioritised above fossil fuel wherever possible.

    • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

      Every ZSS in the country can bid into FCAS FFS. Just modulate output voltage at all non-peak times: sagging frequency triggers a drop in the voltage output of the SZZ HV bus(es) , so that Ohm’s Law and a typical aggregate mixed load of inductance reactance impedance will respond to a lower voltage INSTANTLY with a reduced power consumption. For crude sodium or mercury street lights w iron ballasts it’s a case of “Ohm’s Law on steroids” based on my tests 18 years ago.

      • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

        How much would you reckon the voltage could be turned down at night without effecting any appliances like computers etc to still get a substantial reduction in CO2? Would it cost grid operators anything to do?

        • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

          Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR) can be used in either of two ways for FCAS: distributors bid for added FCAS revenue by rapidly modulating ZSS-HVbus voltage down from about 245 volts (LV equivalent) proportionate to the drop in frequency below 50.00Hz, with an end point of 216volts for (say) 49.50Hz. Rapid onset, but carefully, slowly adjusted back to 245V so as to avoid system instability, as the frequency returns to normal.

          *OR* for a much more climate-friendly consumer-friendly public-spirited voltage regime, set the ZSS-HV bus to 220 volts AC (LV equivalent) and just bid very occasionally to INCREASE voltage rapidly in response to frequency disturbances ABOVE 50.00Hz e.g. peaking at 253 volts (LV equiv) for a frequency excursion of 50.50Hz. Rapid onset, but slow return to “normal” 220V as the frequency re-stabilizes back at 50.00Hz

          Best of all for dealing with the climate emergency but nothing to do with FCAS would be to supply all LV commercial and residential customers with 220 volts AC true-RMS every night 10pm to 6am, and whenever ZSS-HV bus load was <25% of its rated maximum power/reactive_power handling capacity (MVA). Given the known behaviour of typical aggregated ZSS loads in response to supply voltage adjustments within the permitted range 216-253VAC (see AS/NZS 60038-2000), we can anticipate a cut in off-peak demand of about 10% for a 10% voltage drop across the NEM. 245V down to 220volts is a 10.2% drop. Just do it, ffs! So what if the market share of baseload coal takes a massive hit? This will make it cheaper and quicker to decarbonise NEM's entire grid whilst offshore wind farms, big PV farms and the hundred or so 200MW pumped hydro stations get built. In this regard it would also be nuts not to mandate massive tariff reform to DISCOURAGE power consumption at times of known and predictable low renewables capacity (every bloody night)

          220 volts safe? YES! All lights appliances, motors and other electrical loads are supposed to be safe to operate, and to perform adequately within the full allowable voltage range under AS/NZS 60038-2000.

          Either we are in a climate emergency or we're not. If we are then the industry must be forced by strong "bipartisan" political leadership to take a haircut in order to save their customers from death (climate armageddon) in the medium to long term. Just sayin'…….

          SECV knew about fair treatment of customers regarding voltage, way back in 1961 (SECV internal document, Ludlow&Devereaux here: ) –but my thesis is to re-adjust all tap zones to give the LOWEST possible practicable voltage for even the most distant peripheral customers throughout each and every night

          • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

            Wow very comprehensively thought out from every aspect of the system. Intriguing. What your saying is we really are running generators needlessly high, for no purpose at all, running them at the same outputs during the night merely because that’s the kind of benchmarks needed for system reliability and security during the daytime.

          • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

            ..well the megawatt levels in NEM do vary reasonably predictably on a daily pattern, but to keep the coal boilers idling all night so they can ramp up efficiently next day is tricky, so traditionally they have much preferred for the customers’ night-time “demand” not to sag too low. My argument is that keeping the voltage at 250 volts all night — instead of a more climate-friendly 220 volts — is reckless ignoring the climate threat, whilst desperately hanging on to outdated Steam Age technology to preserve shareholder value, rather than exit the market ASAP to make way for credible affordable zero-carbon scenarios such as wind+PV+pumped_hydro. One way to retire coal faster is to depress night-time demand by manipulating voltage low at night every night across the whole NEM. 220 volts is entirely appropriate given the #ClimateEmergency, because if mandated across the entire NEM it would reduce the market share of baseload coal.

          • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

            Ingenious plan. I’m convinced it’s brilliant. I wonder what can be done to get it on someones table… these things tend to have a timing. Something that didn’t come to fruition in the past, may not have had the awareness of policy makers to support it’s merit, though things are always evolving along…

  2. humanitarian solar 4 years ago

    My $2.2K inverter/charger produces 50Hz at a tolerance of 0.1%. It does so as long as it has sufficient power in the battery. It’s not like the solutions to grid woes are not on hand. The only time my electric appliances are subject to shitty frequency, is when I run out of sunshine or battery power, and then my inverter has to “follow” the frequency of the fossil fuel generators. My inverter/charger can also be designed to “follow” the grid all the time, though why would I do that when their frequency stability is far worse than mine? So I only have my inverter/charger connect and follow the grid when I need the grid. It was designed this way because the inverter/charger evolved from yachts and applications in developing countries, that had intermittent access to a poor quality grid.

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      Clearly, large generators have to supply from behind load levelling capacitors and grid-tie inverters. That only leaves the question of what device will set the grid standard. And would that be synthetic or some spinning mass ?

      • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

        I don’t work in the grid, though an electronic device is going to have an accurate frequency, whereas the mechanical device would always get slowed down or speed up depending upon the load connected to it. Even though the electronic device is more accurate, it must depend on who it’s easiest to get to “follow” who, though given a choice surely a central battery/inverter should set the clock. Maybe SA will do that with its new battery storage, though when they are sucking power from interconnectors, then the battery/inverter may have to “follow” them.

        • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

          Yes and potentially that’s only one standard-setting device for the whole NEM. I wouldn’t mind, and wouldn’t have a preference which state or what technology does it. However the ‘signal’ should be extensive, omnipresent, able to be read in every corner and able to be differentiated from poor generator sinewaves (which will be told politely to get off).

          • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

            I think solarguy explained it as our inverters “count the beat” and jump in to dance in harmony with the AC waveform on the grid. So if our inverter needs to back up it’s own peak power because its short, or conversely it wishes to export, it has to be in harmony with the present AC on the grid. So when dancing into the grid, our inverter is “following” the beat of the bigger grid. My inverter also keeps track of the 50Hz and is programmed to reject the grid if it deviates too far from 50Hz. In an off grid setup, the inverter just generates its own 50Hz although if a diesel generator is connected, I think it has to surrender to the frequency of the generator when the generator is running. If the off grid setup has more than one inverter for redundancy, than one is set as a master and the slave follows that one. I don’t know how it works. I’ve only seen the software configuration boxes that are checked when they are configured for – staying permanently connected to the grid, or connecting to the grid only when the grid is needed, or being a master or a slave, or programmed for three phase power. I imagine the big inverters on grids are programmed in a very similar way, depending upon if they are operating on their own 50Hz with all other generators following, or if that device is following the rest of the grid. I don’t think there would be anything stopping an aberrant device that wasn’t following accurately other than the mayhem it might create and the original certification standard it was complying with in the beginning. I have read a report on this website somewhere of fossil fuel generators getting a bit out of phase and almost causing a network to fall over. I think it was a fossil fuel generator in SA getting out of sync with an interconnector. Hermann sounds like he potentially knows more about the folly of fossil fuel generators, if we could just get him to tell us a few stories.

          • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

            You cant go back to or rely on what appears to be outdated methods. If we recognise new technology we should go full technology. I’ve had experience of using the existing, ordinary 10amp electrical cable in my house rather than a conventional Cat5 cable to transport digital data from an ADSL2+ router in one room, to a computer in a remote room using additional devices on a power board. It seems irrelevant but may have an allegory in the high voltage transmission world.I suspect the generators’ sinusoids are sometimes slow, or fast, not up to the proper 240volt rms amplitude or out of phase with others because they’re imperfect spinning generators generating analogue waveforms, creating work for themselves to try to match anything else.Whereas a digital signal, such as happens in my house, can be differentiated from electrical energy because it’s waveform is made up of little square steps that when added together make an analogous albeit timed perfectly sinusoid, and travels at the same rate along transmission as the energy. Why couldn’t they consider that ?

          • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

            Well it’s proven in small scale in Australia, so guess a cultural acceptance might happen with the large scale battery systems a few states have just put out tenders for.

          • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

            “Large scale”? Pumped hydro is the appropriate size of the “battery” though we must assume Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro version will suck up cheap lignite power at night for many years for an appalling blowout in CO2 emissions: 1.75 to 2.0 tonnes CO2/MWh for coal via pumped hydro, when the hydro has 70 to 80% round-trip efficiency. Follow the money. But if the Turnbull fix is to use 100% renewable sources only, then the Snowy pumped Hydro seems environmentally sound, just crazy for an economic rationalist to contemplate.

          • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

            We’re wondering if a battery inverter would provide the most stable frequency for all the other generations to follow. Eg mine has a tolerance of 50Hz + or – 0.1%.

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        At this stage it would have to be a device that spins at a constant and controllable speed. The exact frequency is the lesser problem. but the stability of it within the grid, together with phase and voltage sync are paramount to interconnected networks. Inverters could do the job too provided there is a reliable, stable and sufficient power source behind it. In any event, the grid needs a reference and for more than a century that has been provided by fossil fuel generators and to a lesser extent hydro power.

  3. john 4 years ago

    I honestly think that a whole lot of smoke and mirror stories are about to be spread to the voters about the aspects of frequency control etc etc.
    As a lay person my understanding is that if there is more demand than supply frequency will drop and vice versa, so it is important to keep each in equilibrium.
    I fail to see how having a very varied supply of solar wind gas and PHES can not be matched together with the technology available today.
    It is not like some analogue system where some person has to flip a switch.
    So frankly when ever you read some story about the impossibility of moving away from Coal Generation because danger of blackouts please just think put in more of every other type of generation which is cheaper and join them all together; we are in the 2000’+ not the 1880’s for peats sake.

    • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

      NOOOOOO! peat is a (very young) fossil fuel 🙂

  4. Andrea 4 years ago

    What’s the issue here?
    The change in frequency distribution from 15 years ago is because the frequency standards were changed in Sept 2001!
    In 2001, the National Electricity Code Administrator determined the following: “The Panel now determines revised frequency operating standards which in summary:
    – relax the normal frequency band from 49.9 – 50.1 Hz to 49.85 – 50.15 Hz;
    – create a probabilistic tolerance for the normal band of 99 percent of time”

    So Frequency band exceedances are not a bad thing – they are just meant to occur not too frequently (i.e. under 1% of the time). In fact this increase in frequency band exceedances that looks so bad actually correspond to 0.2% of the time. So they are still doing very well.

    The only problem area is Tasmania, when Basslink was down.—-Three-Year-Historical-Trends.pdf

    • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

      This shows we had better quality power before 2001. It’s got to be cheaper. The worst that can happen is load defection could weaken the grid by having less money to maintain it, and we could end up with one like in third world countries. I think this is possible for a developed country like ours because we have a low population density with slow responding politicians. At this very moment, there’s 30,000 people in Sydney without power. Storms are a real problem for centralised power.

      • Robin_Harrison 4 years ago

        Our politicians are anything but slow responding. Look how quickly they blamed renewables for everything. Always anxious to please their masters.

        • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

          Well at least there’s no technology barriers. If we can get a few states with reliable renewable power, that should highlight the others are lagging behind.

          • Robin_Harrison 4 years ago

            I couldn’t agree more and it probably only takes one to succeed and it’s game over.

          • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

            I think even data from a successful microgrid would do it. One with renewable energy with little external grid imports or if remote, demonstrated minimal diesel run times.

      • Andrea 4 years ago

        Actually they changed it in 2001 after a review that found (among other things) that the NEM had among one of the most conservative normal frequency bands in the world! The NECA document makes for interesting reading. My recollection from the time is that had a very tight frequency band in Victoria and NSW just because they could – not because they needed to

        • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

          That’s good to know. Lets hope it stays as is. Distribution seems more the problem for reliability and maintenance cost in this country.

      • juxx0r 4 years ago

        Isn’t that the best thing that could happen, when the tide goes out you see who’s been swimming without pants.

    • Ian 4 years ago

      Thanks for this insight. Perhaps the tight tolerances in frequency of the past were found not to be so necessary. Just how wide can these tolerances get before the grid infrastructure or the end user’s equipment fails. How many household appliances will pop if the frequency drops to say 45Hz or rises to 55Hz for example. How many hospitals or data centres rely solely on a reliable grid frequency without filtering this first ?

  5. Hermann 4 years ago

    Sorry folks, but the above article about the reliability of fossil fuel generators is absolute nonsense!

    For about a century coal fired power stations have provided us with very stable and reliable power supply and now you want to blame our very reliable fossil fuel generators for the problems caused by your ideologically based but unsuitable windmills.

    Every electrical engineer would know about the problems caused by too much intermittency introduced into a power grid at the expense of inertia which is supplied by fossil or hydro powered generators, well, anything that spins at a constant and controllable speed. Is it so difficult to realize that power supplies which rely on sunshine and wind are by their very nature unreliable and as such should only be used as a supplement and only as long as there is sufficient spinning or extremely expensive battery reserve available!

    As for relaxation of settings, would it be so inconceivable that that might be to accommodate the massive intermittency caused by the excessive reliance on windmills?

    Btw, to provide a stable grid not only the frequency has to be in sync but also the phases and voltage. Any deviation can cause an interconnected generator to actually draw power rather than deliver it! And when that is about to happen, protective mechanism will isolate the offending part unless precautions are taken, such as load shedding.

    • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

      So you’re an old engineer who sees things from the perspective of the mechanical things on the grid. Well I’m seeing it from the inverter/charger on my wall fed by a battery. Fact is my inverter has a tolerance of 50Hz + or – 0.1% and your old clunkers can’t do that.

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        We talking about an interconnected grid, not the Powerwall…

        So far all we have had is massive reliability problems in SA to such an extent that Manufacturing has already fled the place or is about to do so! Trust me, they don’t fool around!

        • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

          I’ve just showed you there’s no frequency or reliability problems by adding renewable energy with storage and it will make the grid more reliable than it has ever been. It’s perfectly complimentary, if we can think past grid-tie inverters or other forms of renewable energy without storage. It’s a challenge that’s very easy to manage by simply getting an assessment of the amount of storage needed. Perhaps SA will find out next summer.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            As long as costs are of secondary importance…

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        Also, the old clunkers are still running happily supplying most grids all over the world to very affordable prices, unlike here in Australia where power prices have gone through the roof and are about 3 times the costs in the USA, but on par with countries like Germany and their “Energiewende” (Power transition).

        One has to really question the merits of renewables when all they do is driving power prices to unaffordable levels.

        • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

          Even small scale solar and battery systems can now achieve a ten year payback of their capital cost compared to paying for grid electricity. It’s unstoppable so why don’t we work together to see renewable energy is added effectively? You could supply fantastic expertise if you come on board and help the transition happen effectively.

        • Ian 4 years ago

          A temporal association does not necessarily imply a causal link. And if there is a causal link it may not be as simple as you state. You seem to be saying countries with higher penetrance of energy from renewables have higher electricity prices , therefore renewables deployment drives higher power prices. Don’t you read Giles’ and friend’s articles. They have been at great pains to show time and again and in many ways that this is simply not true. Even the thrust of this article is to show how incorrect those assumptions are. Goes to show hey, ‘none are so blind as those who will not see’

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            To my knowledge there is no other country country with a wind power penetration of almost 50%. Even environmentally minded Sweden has only about 10%. The rest is mainly nuclear and hydro.

            Even Germany is learning its lesson…

          • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

            You cannot compare .se ditching a huge offshore wind farm with a nuclear program. Apples ain’t oranges. I firmly believe baseload nuclear fission is poison, so of course I don’t advocate, rather would campaign against it, but we also must not be blinded by unrealistic enthusiasm for the wrong mix of zero-carbon technologies. Andrew Blakers ANU analysis/modelling and costing is the most promising fix I’ve seen to date. Surely offshore wind, big PV arrays and PUMPED HYDRO can provide the necessary scale of grid balancing, ancillary services, and real grunt to keep the lights on when the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow. Turnbull’s thought bubble of an expanded Snowy is too big, has too long a tunnel to be rapidly responsive or efficient, and there’s no guarantee it won’t be run by the sick economics of the NEM/AEMO marketplace to fill the upper dams using LYB’s cheap lignite power for hours every night just because the economics happen to stack up. Turnbull’s aversion to root and branch market overhaul, and his long-term plan for a mega Snowy upgrade must be music to the ears of the industry’s incumbents, the #GreenhouseMafia

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        Incidentally the Germans seem to be learning their lessons. They are building a new coal fired power station, see here –

        The Swiss, possibly the only real democracy, have rejected the closure of their nuclear power stations in November last year.

        And we here in Australia? Unwilling to face reality!

    • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

      See here is one here. $2.2k buys better frequency than you’ll ever get from a grid. It produces 3000VA nominal 6000W peak and can back itself up with over 10kW from the grid for any high power loads you want to run.

    • Jens Stubbe 4 years ago

      You should try ask yourself if you think countries like Denmark and Sweden are engineering half wits.

      These problems have been solved completely without batteries.

      Your description of an antiquated grid with high risk design flaws has nothing what so ever to do with the source of electricity generation but everything to do with incompetence.

      Ridding ourself from the last fossil fuel generators has been decided politically in both Denmark and Sweden and our ability to do so is not questioned by any serious person, which would also be quite stupid.

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        Had to google that to get the facts…

        “The main part of Sweden’s electricity is produced by hydropower and
        nuclear power. On average, about 10 percent of the electricity is
        produced by wind power but production varies with the weather”

        I guess it is time to let go of any illusions here before our engergy rich country shoots itself even more in the foot and we are becoming the laughing stock of the industrial world!

        • Hermann 4 years ago

          Btw Most if not all European countries are interconnected ever since I can remember. (German: Verbundnetz) That would account for the high network stability in that part of the world.

        • Jens Stubbe 4 years ago

          You are talking nonsense again.

          And certainly not based in any facts unless you are one of these Trumpian types that adhere to alternative facts.

          Wind is far more reliable than Swedens aging nuclear fleet and also simply cheaper than already depreciated and lifetime extended nuclear power plants despite their huge direct and indirect subsidies.

          Even new offshore wind is now cheaper guaranteed over 25 years designlife!

          I think the maksimum recorded variance between a low and a high wind year is less than 10% try to match that up against the variance in any nuclear powered country.

          Sweden has just dropped the largest offshore wind project in the world allegedly because the airforce cannot keep clear – in reality they realized it would be game over for their nuclear fleet.

          According to Vattenfall that is second only to DONG in offshore wind offshore without subsidies is coming within this decade. Incidentally only one more year with the price drop experienced since 2012 will do the trick.

          Some analysts expect that MHI Vestas go in black numbers this year three years ahead of schedule despite the fact that the FIT for Danish offshore has dropped 72% between 2012 and 2016.

          Laughing stock – hmmm.

          • Hermann 4 years ago
          • Jens Stubbe 4 years ago

            This entire article is biased insanely.

            RWE, EON and Vattenfall was bailed out by the German government from their nuclear obligations. That was extremely costly.

            Vattenfall was also bailed out from their lignite power plants and mines by the German government who did not want them close down the operations. That was expensive.

            Germany keep loss making nuclear and lignite operations running while having imposed an embargo on cheap RE import.

            Germany systematically does not play by the book and have refused market access. Last year they were forced to open the wind turbine market up for foreign competition, which means that the German wind power industry is forced to its knees as they operate just south of Vestas, MHI Vestas and Siemens Windpower.

            Vestas has declared that they expect to normalize their German marketshare, which will spell havoc for Enercon, Nordex, Senvion and Adwen. The German government will probably bail these companies out as well since protectionism is German DNA.

            Germany has amble RE resources but their own companies has all flunked.

            The Danish government has made more cash on books from RE than has ever been used for government supported research or government funded and/or government arranged subsidies.

            Still even though RE has been a big societal economic advantage Denmark has no foreign depths at all and we are way ahead of our climate obligations. Sweden is also doing great.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Stop the subsidies and the lights go out in SA!

            Subsidies distort the markets, maintain inefficiencies and guess who ends up paying for them…

          • Island fisher 4 years ago

            Im with you on this one Herman, BUT only if it is applied across the board, presently the FF industries in Australia have taxpayer subsidies amounting to around $9B per annum, and I believe this figure does not include the health costs of air and water pollution caused by thier activities, so letts all campaign to rid all these subsidies

          • Jens Stubbe 4 years ago

            The market is distorted. Fossil fuels external cost are huge but remains unpaid. Nuclear has been subsidized all years in all countries.

            If the subsidies disappeared fossil generation would end as soon as it could be replaced.

            Wind and solar requires and receive almost no subsidies.

            Indeed subsidies for solar and wind is being totally removed in the worlds largest economy while Trump and his cronies makes sure they keep and expand their insane subsidies for fossil fuels.

            Still even in this unfair market situation fossil fuel generation will be phased out fast due to continous fast RE cost reductions.

    • Ian 4 years ago

      Once upon a time there was very little in the way of power electronics. The grid frequency was controlled by adding more or less steam or water to the power station turbines to speed up or slow down the generators. Well for a long time now switch gear has become electronically controlled and large power generators could choose any frequency adjustment as well as any voltage adjustment that is requested. The settings are governed by the electricity market operator. That’s the point of the article, The rules that govern the generator settings seem to favour dispatch over frequency. In fact CSEnergy with 4 GW of generating capacity was fined $80 000 for providing frequency control when they were instructed to dispatch. To have the ability to dispatch or to regulate frequency a generator of any kind must be able to at least restrict its power output from maximum achievable at that point in time for control of one side of the ideal voltage, frequency or other settings. To control variance to both sides of the set point, the generator must export less power than it is capable of generating so that it can ramp up extra power output when needed, and reduce power output when needed. Any generator, big and small and of any type can potentially provide this ‘back-up inertia. Up until the September blackouts nobody had bothered to check the capability or settings for wind farms to do this type of control. A decade earlier gas generators did not provide this grid control and a similar problem existed.

      Just thought I would help cloudify the issue further. It helps to re-state and put things in your own words to understand what the heck the author is talking about. The title is a little misleading and should say something like : Fossil fuel generator owners and those controlling the grid, who generally favour the encumbents , may be the threat to grid security or stability.

      In this age of relatively cheap power electronics, there really is no need to have a uniform frequency right across the grid. You could, if it was convenient, have long distance transmission lines running one frequency and local towns or distribution networks running another, these wouldn’t even need to be synchronised with each other. Companies with sensitive electronics, and even TV’s and computers don’t rely on the accuracy of grid frequency anymore, they adjust and smooth the available power themselves. Distributed batteries and power generation may become so ubiquitous that a power outage in one part of the grid would have little immediate affect on other parts. Households with solar and batteries may , or may not even bother to have a grid connection.

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        We are talking about an interconnected grid, not individual power solutions. First of all, the frequency and voltage must be the same and the phases in sync within an interconnected network, there is no way out. Any deviation would lead to wayward currency flows. As such the spinning speed of the generator is constant at 3000 rpm to provide 50 Hz. The frequency can be anything as long as it is uniform across the interconnected grid. It depends on the rotor speed and stator wiring arrangement. The USA have 60 Hz.

        I agree, the title of the article is misleading, but the point is that by their very nature, windmills can never provide stable frequencies or even output that is reliable in any way since we cannot command the wind to blow at a certain speed.

        I find that the ramping up of wind power and shutting down coal fired power station in SA is the issue here and borders on reckless irresponsibility! The place is run by ideology, not practical considerations and that is why the state is in such an unholy mess! The whole situation is a disgrace for such an energy rich country! Sweden for example has 10% wind power with nuclear and hydro picking up the main load, a figure which can easily be absorbed plus they are part of the interconnected grid in Europe which provides extra stability.

        Again, for ideological reasons we won’t touch nuclear either!

        The attitude of the Greens is like “You–who leap like a savage out of the jungle of your feelings to the
        Fifth Avenue of our New York and proclaim that you want to keep the
        electric lights, but to destroy the generators–it is our wealth that
        you use while destroying us, it is our values that you use while damning
        us, it is our language that you use while denying the mind.”- Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

      • Michael Gunter 4 years ago

        I agree with Hermann on one point here, the frequencies MUST be kept in lock-step across NEM on an interconnected AC transmission network. Tasmania is a clear exception as it has a DIRECT CURRENT EHV link, with three-phase AC interfaces at each end which (presumably) don’t have to keep in phase at all. After all once you convert 3-phase AC to a single circuit DC connection there’s a pretty smooth DC current profile: six 10mS half-cycles every 20 milliseconds all coursing down one DC cable, even without big smoothing capacitors to flatten the ripple. (perhaps capacitance to the surrounding seawater is worth a few milli-Farad?)

        Interestingly the ANU/Blakers pumped hydro proposal is for a big HVDC backbone on the mainland, but even that will not release any mainland state from the frequency straitjacket, because the EHV-AC interconnectors will almost certainly remain as part of N-1 redundancy across state borders.

        • hydrophilia 4 years ago

          Any reason the AC interconnectors could not be repurposed as DC? Decoupling frequency control between states might be a good idea.

    • Ray Miller 4 years ago

      Sorry Hermann, how come we have some many intermittent generators? A significant number of Australian engineers seem to be living in the past, have very narrow or missing system thinking and be obstructive. While engineers are good at solving problems they seem to hopeless at identifying the problem.
      Australia seems to be at the bleeding edge of a warming climate, yet significant numbers of our engineers seem to be living on a different planet and not rising to the challenge of helping doing something about it.
      The days of burning coal are very much numbered for a number of very good reasons, the transition to renewables has started and requires different thinking and presents a new range of engineering challenges. We urgently need competent engineers willing to open their eyes, think differently, not be complacent, identify what engineering problems we really do need to solve and collectively set about solving them.
      At present it is embarrassing watching so many of our top engineers making fools of themselves costing our society time and money neither of which we will every recover.

  6. Hermann 4 years ago

    Incidentally the Germans seem to be learning their lessons after reliability has gone to pots and prices through the roof! They are building a brand new coal fired power station, see here – http://www.power-technology

    The Swiss, possibly the only real democracy, have rejected the closure of their nuclear power stations in a referendum in November last year.

    And we here in Australia? Unwilling to face reality; all the while busy chasing unicorns…

    • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

      Hermann I know you’re an engineer because I’ve spoken to you before but I can’t decide if your a dear old fellow who can’t “face reality” or if your deliberately dragging a dead weight of negative investments or something. I do know how difficult change can be. We pride ourselves on our knowledge and yet often it’s more a kind of comfort of thinking styles. Even rational people can get caught in a groove, even though most of their knowledge was evidence based at one time or another. I too am middle aged and young people seem to be much better at some things. We can still have self esteem by contributing in the best way we can and we don’t really need that much to live, so the investment in fossil fuel, the superannuation, doesn’t really matter that much.

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        The problem is that we are hellbent to replace something that works with something that only sounds good! I used to be much in favor of alternative energy and I understand that we cannot rely of fossil fuel forever. However I also feel that we must not get ahead of ourselves and risk wrecking the economy in the process. The failures in SA might make many people think twice about going to wind and solar to such a large scale. No matter how windy the place, there will always be times where there is no or little wind, or even too much. Windmills will stop working at wind speeds in excess of 90 to 95 km/h to protect then from mechanical damage. As for solar panels, a cloudy day can substantially reduce their output to 20% or less! Efficient battery storage is still in its infancy and prohibitively expensive, especially when one takes their lifespan into account.

        • Jens Stubbe 4 years ago

          Wreck the economy !! The only economy that you wreck is that of those in fossil supply chains.

          There are enormous benefits to everybody else because fossil supply chains carries extreme externalized cost that everybody else pay for not only economically but also with their life and health not to mention on the expense of the global climate.

          You are correct in assuming that battery tech is a no go for balancing grids. That is an unfortunate folly among many RE supporters who are unable to do the numbers. However there is absolutely no need for battery storage in a 100% RE scenario for Australia or any other part of the world.

          • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

            But I’m in a rural town and I’ve had 5 or 6 outages in about as many months recently. It went something like two planned daytime outages, then wind damage, then lightning, then another planned. So I like having a few batteries or some sort of local storage. What else can I use? I agree I’m perfectly happy for the local city council to get pumped hydro or something suitable for our geographic area. Also if my battery storage is nested in my local city councils storage, then I’d be confident I wouldn’t need as much storage.

        • humanitarian solar 4 years ago

          I’ll be honest Hermann, I’m a control freak and I know I can buy an inverter, battery and solar panels and it doesn’t take much tools to install. Yes I bought older generation batteries (lead acid) that will last about 5 to 7 years, though 9.6kWh only cost about $2k. I chose to do this because I knew batteries would come down in price. I could have done what Giles did and buy less batteries but new generation batteries, but I wanted to know I have the amps to run my whole property in an outage and each of my batteries can supply up to 2000amps and there’s four of them. But people today can buy new generation batteries with a 10 year warrantee and get a ten year payback, according to analysts on this site. I believe them because their maths was an open process. There’s even a manufacturer with a 15 year warrantee. Of course the battery will have less capacity then, though I just buy it big enough so it does what I want it to do. Definitely with solar panels, because they’re so cheap and the money comes back fairly quickly, the rule of thumb is oversize wherever possible so there’s adequate power to fill the battery in winter.

  7. Jan Veselý 4 years ago

    This is a classical example of perverse incentive. They cash in on solving the problem they cause.
    The Lovins-like solution to this problem would be a change of the business model/payment scheme. Stop paying them for commodity (Wh or W), start paying them for the service based on quality (abs(current frequency-50)), evaluate in short time periods, open the market as much as possible periodically reassess the total sum paid to prevent under-/over- payment.

  8. James Ray 4 years ago

    Misgovernance and incumbent industry interests are the underlying cause of holding back the betterment of electricity provision, and more generally, the betterment of society, economy, and environment. That needs to change. One way to weaken the influence of misgovernance and incumbents is to build better governance, which could be done through a platform like Democracy.Earth. Innovation is important too, but innovation will always be held back by incumbents, so it is important to find way to undermine the power of incumbents.

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