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S.A. network operator blows away more wind energy myths

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The operator of South Australia’s electricity transmission network has dismissed two myths about wind energy currently peddled by anti-wind groups within and outside the ruling Coalition government.

ElectraNet, which operates the network in the state with by far the largest penetration of wind energy in Australia – more than 30 per cent with the imminent connection of the Snowtown 2 wind farm – says it is clear that wind energy has “substantially” reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has not resulted in any added costs to the network.

This directly contradicts two claims made by the anti-wind lobbyists, including Tony Abbott’s main business advisor Maurice Newman. They insist that wind energy does not reduce emissions, and adds greatly to network costs.

sa windElectraNet, however, could not be any clear in dismissing this as nonsense.

In its submission to the government’s RET Review panel, it noted it had already connected 1,200MW of wind energy capacity, with another 270MW to be connected with Snowtown 2.

“This level of renewable penetration has substantially reduced greenhouse gases produced by the electricity sector in South Australia, and made a contribution to greenhouse gas abatement across the interconnected network.”

And then, on the issue of network costs:

“The connection of wind generation in South Australia has been achieved without the requirement for additional transmission network charges to electricity consumers,” it writes.

“Studies undertaken by ElectraNet indicate that there are no immediate network capacity or network stability barriers to further wind generation connection in South Australia to unlock more of the state’s renewable energy resources.”

South Australia has more than 2,000MW of wind projects in the pipeline, and if only a few of those projects are developed wind and solar could contribute more than 50 per cent of the state’s demand, reaching towards 100 per cent within a decade if official forecasts for the take-up of rooftop solar and energy efficiency are realized.

ElectraNet said it was clear, however, that policy uncertainty had caused investment to come to a halt (Snowtown 2 was committed in 2012).

Its comments about transmission costs and emissions reductions are not the only myths blown away in recent weeks. The government’s own modelling has dismissed suggestions that the RET increases costs to consumers (although Abbott keeps insisting that it does), and also rejected arguments from fossil fuel generators that the target would be impossible to meet.

Still, it seems inevitable that the government will scale the target back, in any case, to protect the revenues and asset values of coal and gas plants, including those that the Queensland government are trying to sell.  

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  • Tim Brown

    Please edit this, there are too many spelling errors.

    • Matthew Wright

      It would be nice if some of the spelling and grammar was fixed however In my opinion to be fair to Giles, he has setup reneweconomy from scratch and doesn’t have the big budgets for sub-editing as the Fairfax and Newscorps of the world. A fine effort to get a few pieces out a day and look for speaking opportunities, advertisers and run a business generally.

      • Tim Brown

        Giles does an awesome job and I really appreciate the excellent articles. Keep up the good work.

      • ricardo

        Do you need a big budget to run a spell-check or do a two-minute proof-read? The content of the articles is excellent but this sloppiness suggests sloppiness in other areas… like fact checking.

        • Matthew Wright

          If you’re researching and writing articles then to be honest you need another person to spell/grammar check. If you don’t have those resources and are writing three articles in a day, juggling the parts of your businesss then it’s very challenging to get it right. I write and I haven’t demonstrated in my life that I can do what Giles is achieving day in day out.

          • ricardo

            I admire his work but to me the return on checking for errors is greater than the investment in time and resources. Hell, I’ll do it for free if needs be. I read most of the articles on here anyway…
            Anyway, let’s not get sidetracked. Abbot bashing were we?

          • Abbott, not Abbot! 🙂

          • ricardo

            Mmm, humble pie.

  • Peter Campbell

    Am I correct in thinking there is only a relatively ‘thin’ cable connecting South Australia’s grid to the eastern states? If so, how much benefit would there be from a fatter link? I am thinking that SA and the eastern states could both have more renewables more easily if each could smooth out demand and supplies through interconnection.
    What would drive the provision of that interconnection?

    • Matthew Wright

      Hi Peter,

      Actually oversizing might be a better option. Because all wind turbines within the South Australian grid don’t usually run flat out at the same time very often. So instead of investing in grid interconnection, initially it maybe far more economic to take wind penetration to 150% and then just suffer some curtailment.

      So say the average capacity factor is 38% across SA. By reducing the average to 35% through some curtailment at the windiest times then you can squeeze 50% more wind turbine capacity onto the grid and not have to worry about paying for grid capacity.

      Better to spend available capacity on renewables at first and grid second.

      Matthew

    • David Osmond

      Hi Peter,

      SA is connected to Vic via the 220 MW Murraylink and 460 MW Heywood interconnectors. They’ve recently had approval from the energy regulator (AER) to upgrade Heywood to 650 MW.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-31/approval-given-to-upgrade-sa-victoria-power-interconnector/5356404

    • sean

      it is only connected by victoria, which makes it harder to transfer energy to nsw and qld. evidence of this is shown by the price of energy when SA has large amounts of wind. I wonder if anyone has proposed a HVDC link to SE qld.

      • Gordon Waldmann

        In an interview with channel 7 in 2007, I asked the same question about a HVDC interconnect for all of AUS. Added benefit would be short term storage. Maybe the utilities and engineers could comment.

  • michael

    I hadn’t heard the talk of increased transmission costs associated with wind, what was the basis for that? thought it was always just based on needing back up baseload power, hence why adding wind to a system won’t cost more due to the back up already being there. if starting from scratch, I’m not sure consumers would be ahppy with say 100% wind and the chance of blackouts during calm days, hence a minimum of either storage or guaranteed power supply is always required

    • Martin

      Where does this obsession with renewables causing black-outs come from? Here in WA Western Powerless is quite capable of causing twice-weekly multi-hour black-outs without that much renewable capacity on the SWIS.

      • michael

        obsession? isn’t it fact that without battery back up, you cannot currently have an all wind supply of baseload power unless it is massively over capacity? (ie 150% of the max load after taking into account utilisation, not even just nameplate). Interesting about WA having multi-hour blackouts every week, which area of the state is that?
        very strange that isn’t making headlines

    • Gary

      Gas capacity is very cheap to build. It only adds around $10/MWh (1c/kWh) to the overall system costs to completely back up with gas. SA already has large amounts of gas capacity anyway. No blackouts.

  • Albery Moray

    I’m not sure why we all have to believe the party line that coal, gas or nuclear are the only way to provide reliable power. Wind and solar with pumped hydro storage can do it. The technology is mature and isn’t particularly expensive. No problem supplying reliable power. Easy. Unless you own shares in a coal mine or own a few old power stations or find wind turbines somehow more offensive that massive chimneys and coal dust and gigantic holes in the ground?

  • ChrisEcoSouth

    Transmission costs for wind, heres some thoughts: Wind farms are typically placed at the extreme edges of the grid (electrical poles and wires network). Large power capacity cables must be provided from the wind-farm to presumably the nearest equivalent (large) capacity point, on the grid. This may well be many, many kilometres away, ie it can’t connect to the nearest small town, as the poles and wires are way undersized. So, a transmission-building specialist like Electranet, has to build many kilometers of high-power transmission infrastructure for each wind-farm (lucky them!). It is perhaps fortunate that the economics of placement of wind-farms in SA allows the funding of such transmission costs. A corollary is that if transmission costs were reduced, it would allow other proposed wind farm sites to become viable.

    • Jules

      Not sure about SA, but the windy regions in NSW (Orange, Goulbourn, Yass, etc) are actually quite close to the 330kV main system backbone and significant 132kV lines. They are not at all at the edges of the grid and can be fairly easily integrated into the grid.