Wind energy now supplies one third of the electricity needs of South Australia, and about six per cent of the nation’s electricity demand.
That follows a big increase in wind energy generation over the last decade, which has seen its capacity jump from very little to more than 3,500MW. On October 6, wind energy in Australia set a new record output of 2,800MW in one half hour trading interval. On the same day, wind energy exceeded demand in South Australia for most of the day, the second day in a few weeks that the state went 100 per cent renewables for a large part of the working day.
But the wind industry is now asking itself, given the Coalition government’s attempts to slow down or at least stop the deployment of wind energy, is this as good as it gets? Has Australia reached peak wind?
The graph below, from the latest monthly data crunching by Hugh Saddler at Pitt & Sherry, illustrates the problem.
As Saddler notes, wind farm construction has slowed to a stop. The 275MW Snowtown wind farm was officially opened this week, although it was connected to the grid a few months earlier.
As Saddler notes: “The effect of the slowdown in new windfarm construction is very clear to see in (the graph), particularly for Victoria …. With only one new windfarm, Boco Rock, south of Cooma in NSW, currently nearing completion, it may be some time before a new output record is set.”
The Clean Energy Council estimates that around 7,000MW of wind energy projects are at risk from the government’s attempts to slow down the deployment of renewables, rather than speed it up as recommended by this week’s IPCC report.
Those 7,000MW would account for nearly all the estimated 8,000MW needed to acquit the current RET of 41,000GWh by 2020. But if the target is cut to a “real” 20 per cent, or around 26,000GWh, then only 3,000MW would be built, and some of this would be met by large scale solar plant.
There have been no new financial commitments to wind projects in Australia since early 2013, when it became clear to those in the industry that the Coalition would win power and implement a review of the RET. The only bright spot on the development horizon is the ACT government’s commitment to 90 per cent renewable energy by 2020. It expects to announce the results of an auction of 200MW of wind capacity before the end of the year.