Loy Yang A unit returns, just in time for another blistering heat-wave | RenewEconomy

Loy Yang A unit returns, just in time for another blistering heat-wave

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Unit 2 of AGL Energy’s Loy Yang A to return to service this week after a seven month absence – in time for a major heatwave that will test Victoria’s brown coal generators.

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AGL Energy says repair works on Loy Yang A have been completed, with the problematic Unit 2 due to return to service on Thursday after a seven month absence – just in time for a major heat wave that will once again test the resilience of the state’s brown coal generators.

The Latrobe Valley coal plant’s second unit broke down on May 18, and was ruled out of action for what AGL estimated at up to seven months due to the difficulties of replacing the stator and rotor components, and the extent of damage caused by the failure.

In July, AGL appointed GE to to make the $57 million repair and upgrade to the unit, and said the expected return to service date remained mid-December 2019, in time for the summer heat. It will take a $100 million hit to the company’s earnings.

In an emailed statement to RenewEconomy on Monday, AGL’s executive general manager of group operations, Doug Jackson, said some “final minor mechanical work” on the unit would be completed Wednesday, with generation set to begin on Thursday then progressively ramp up in load.

“We will continue to work closely with AEMO during the ramping up process to achieve full load from the unit,” Jackson said. “With the warm weather, we have aimed to bring the unit back to service as soon as possible, in a way that is focused on long-term reliability.

“Our teams and the local workforce involved in the repairs have worked incredibly hard to meet our commitment,” he added. “We thank them for their expertise and dedication.”

The return to service comes as the Australian Energy Market Operator warns that coal and gas generators in four different states will be tested this week as temperatures soar beyond the normal reference points.

This is a particular concern for AEMO, which named the vulnerability of coal generators, and fossil fuel plants in general, to severe heatwaves as one of its major concerns for the “tail-risk” events that it cannot control and which may threaten supplies this summer.

“The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) is forecasting both warmer than average and extreme temperatures this summer, and an ongoing and significant risk of bushfires with drier than usual conditions,” AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said in a statement accompanying its Summer 2019/20 Readiness Plan.

“These risks add to the deteriorating reliability of some of the older coal generation plants.”

The heatwave begins on Wednesday, a day before the Loy Yang A unit returns, and AEMO has already issued a LOR2 notice for that day, advising that some rarely used peaking generators may be needed. On top of this, AEMO has access to more than 1GW of reserve supplies – both on the supply and demand side – in case the situation moves to a more serious LOR3.

Here’s the list of mind-boggling temperatures AEMO will be working with around Australia this week:

QLD:
On 16/12/2019: Maximum forecast temperature 41 degrees C at Archerfield for the Brisbane area.

NSW:
On 19/12/2019: Maximum forecast temperature 42 degrees C at Bankstown for the Sydney area.

VIC:
On 20/12/2019: Maximum forecast temperature 43 degrees C at Melbourne for the Melbourne area.

SA:
On 18/12/2019: Maximum forecast temperature 43 degrees C at Adelaide for the Adelaide area.
On 19/12/2019: Maximum forecast temperature 43 degrees C at Adelaide for the Adelaide area.
On 20/12/2019: Maximum forecast temperature 45 degrees C at Adelaide for the Adelaide area.

As RenewEconomy reported in June, the broader impact of Loy Yang’s outage might not have been substantial over the past seven months, but threaten to become so if the unit does not get back into service this week, as planned. Or if it runs into trouble again in the heat.

In the summer of 2018/19, multiple breakdowns of Victorian coal generators sent wholesale prices to the maximum level of more than $14,000/MWh, and forced the Australian Energy Market Operator to impose rolling blackouts on up to 200,000 customers on January 25.

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10 Comments
  1. GlennM 9 months ago

    Great Value $100 million and it will probably last a week….though still cheaper than Nuclear ! If only there was some technology that actually used the Sun to make power….Naaaa that is just silly talk

  2. Horst 9 months ago

    Wow $57M, when those big coal plants fail, I for one always assumed it was a fuse or a pressure valve that pops, not that the rotor or stator get mangled, that would have made quiet the racket.

    • Chris Drongers 9 months ago

      What parts in a power station get more stressed when its hot? The boiler furnaces would always burn at 800-1000C, the steam is at the same temperature, as are the externally cooled turbines and generators. A bit of efficiency is lost from the cooling circuit. But which bit actually becomes more fragile when the temp goes from 300 K to 310 K?

      • Phil Shield 9 months ago

        I think the most failures in extreme heat are due to electrical switchgear failures. But the generation capacity also reduces in hot weather. The plant becomes less efficient due to the higher condenser water temperature. The steam downstream of the turbine is at a higher pressure because it condenses at a higher temperature. So there is a lower pressure drop across the turbine, therefore less power.

  3. Billyen 9 months ago

    What’s funny is most home with Solar on their roof have a 5Kw export ban cap.

    I was away last week and my 12Kw solar system was only ALLOWED to export 5Kw to the grid.
    (I wonder how many more houses have excess solar getting capped…while 40-60+ cent Kw peakers are turned on.)

    It’s all just a big joke.

    • Dale 9 months ago

      On a good day I’m exporting over 5.5 for some of the day (in Melbourne). Is this dependent on your energy retailer, or state policy?

  4. Ray Miller 9 months ago

    Repaired but untested under stress, there will be a large amount of fingers crossed in this one.

    $54m repair, ROI?, maybe AGL should use their money more wisely and invest in more renewables and storage?

    • Joe 9 months ago

      The boilers will be getting that ‘little test’ soon enough.

  5. JackD 9 months ago

    Just one question:

    Has Origin Energy’s 500+MW Gas Plant in Western Victoria, now returned to be fully available or is still available only partly? It had been operating in a reduced capacity whilst repairs / maintenance were being undertaken.

    This plant too, is an important part of this summer’s generation scenario for Victoria.

  6. Paul McArdle 9 months ago

    This context (and a Tuesday update) be useful to some readers:
    http://www.wattclarity.com.au/articles/2019/12/sweating-on-the-return-of-loy-yang-a-unit-2/

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