It wasn’t that long ago when the grid operator in Western Australia was complaining that if ever there was 5 per cent contribution from wind energy, then the grid would probably crash. They were not alone in that view.
Last week, however, wind energy hit what could have been a record for the state on a week day, reaching more than 25 per cent of demand as a big cold front came across the state. The 479MW of wind farms in the state were operating at near full capacity – much of it from the 207MW Collgar wind farm near Merredin.
Of course, there may be little chance that any more wind farms will be built in the state any time soon. The WA government has said it would prefer not to, and is currently considering a new report that canvasses importing coal from Indonesia – at a cost of more than $100/tonne.
At that rate, coal fired generation would likely be more expensive than solar to produce, but there is no mention in the report of renewables as a potential energy source into the future. The largely-fossil fuel grid, meanwhile, is supported by more than $600 million a year in subsidies to lower the cost to consumers – a cost of more than $500 per household.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.