Improved transmission to aid wind power in Australia | RenewEconomy

Improved transmission to aid wind power in Australia

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Planned transmission infrastructure upgrades will allow South Australia to export more wind power and Victoria to use less fossil fuel.

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South Australia has a lot of wind power. The neighbouring state of Victoria doesn’t. Even though Victoria has just recently opened the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere, its wind capacity only supplies about 5% of its total electricity use. As a result, when winds are high and its demand is low, South Australia exports electricity to Victoria. However, sometimes the transmission lines reach the limit of their capacity causing some wind power to go to waste. Losing a little green power is not a disaster, but it is a pity, since thanks to its use of brown coal, Victoria probably has the worst generating sector in the developed world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt-hour produced.

Fortunately, the transmission infrastructure between the two states is to be upgraded and one benefit will be to allow South Australia to export more wind power and allow Victoria to use less fossil fuel. According to the Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO) the Heywood interconnector will be upgraded from 460 megawatts to 650 megawatts, an increase of 40%. The upgrade is expected to be completed by 2016, will cost $108 million, and is expected to provide $190 million in benefits over its lifetime.

A more expensive option to build up to two gigawatts of additional transmission between the states was rejected. Given that we can’t be certain how much energy storage will cost in the near future and that Victoria has the potential to build a lot more wind capacity of its own if it wants, the cheaper option may be the best choice for the moment.

Oddly enough, there were fossil fuel interests that resisted any improvement in transmission capacity. I find this strange, because last time I checked they too were dependant upon the earth maintaining a habitable environment for the survival of themselves and their descendants.

This article was originally published on CleanTechnica. Reproduced with permission

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  1. Jonathan Prendergast 7 years ago

    Hi Ronald,

    I’m not sure the increased inter-connector capacity is for SA wind supply to Victoria. The decision of who generates and where electricity is transmitted is based on price, more than type of energy. From what I read, due to the great increase in wind electricity supply in SA, and the price on carbon, coal fired electricity generation has dropped and wind and gas fired generation are the main generation sources.

    Currently Victoria can produce electricity cheaper as shown by the spot price and average wholesale energy cost. The increased inter-connector capacity will probably see more electricity exported from Victoria to South Australia.

    Also, South Australia occasionally suffers huge price spikes due to lack of capacity at peak demand times (I assume). Great inter-connector capacity could help this.

    • Ronald Brak 7 years ago

      Hi Jonathan, sorry for taking my time getting back to you. The improved interconnector will of course allow increased electricity arbitage in either direction. But under current conditions a lot of it will be wind energy going from SA to Victoria. This is because although Victoria produces electricity at an average wholesale price that is quite low for an Australian state, the price is always higher than zero, while in South Australia, thanks to wind power, the wholesale price of electricity is fairly frequently nothing. From the point of view of South Australia, the much more populous state of Victoria is a giant sponge that is currently capable of soaking up any excess electricity we produce at a price that is always a lot more reasonable than zero cents a kilowatt-hour. The only limiting factor is the capacity of the interconnectors. They are being improved, which is good because South Australia’s wind capacity is also being increased. South Australia seems likely to profit from Victoria as long as their onerous restrictions on wind power development are in place.

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