The National Electricity Market’s “summer of trips” continued this week, with a unit at AGL Energy’s Liddell coal power plant in New South Wales dropping out on Tuesday afternoon, and taking around 400MW of generation capacity with it.
Two units out at Liddell. That’s equivalent to all 3 un-mothballed gas backup plants that AEMO bought back + entire SA diesel backup. Not surprising for a power plant that predates colour TV in Australia #gasandcoalwatch#auspolpic.twitter.com/W4Aqk0qkoL
— Australia Institute (@TheAusInstitute) January 30, 2018
The as-yet unexplained trip at the Hunter Valley coal plant was of the “sudden and unexpected” variety that do not wind up causing a blackout, which as Hugh Saddler explained here yesterday are actually quite common.
Indeed, they are particularly common for aged coal plants like Liddell, which – as The Australia Institute so deftly put it in its Tweet above – “predates colour TV in Australia.”
Of course, readers would note that this is the very same coal plant that state and federal Coalition governments argue should be kept open past its 2022 use-by date, when it will be 50 years old, to make the grid more “reliable.”
As we have reported, one of the plant’s four units have been out of action for most of the summer after broken turbine blades took unit 1 (420MW) out of the market in mid-December.
At that time, the number 2 unit at Liddell had not operated since early August, and was not expected to be back in service until somewhere between end of January to mid-February.
Liddell is expected to close in 2022, after AGL said it would cost nearly $1 billion to keep it open, without being able to guarantee that it could be counted on.
A mix of solar, storage, and possibly some gas plants – or the Coalition government has its way, Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro – is planned to fill the gap.
One 250MW solar plant, Maoneng’s Sunraysia project, has already been contracted by AGL, while Photon and Canadian Solar on Wednesday revealed they would co-develop 1.14GW of large scale solar projects in NSW to help fill the gap of ageing coal generators.
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.