South Australia: Where was gas generation when it was needed? | RenewEconomy

South Australia: Where was gas generation when it was needed?

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The blame for SA blackout is focused on wind, but most gas capacity was unused, off-line or unusable during the blackout. And why the secrecy over which generators failed to deliver critical re-start procedures?

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The report from the Australian Energy Market Operator has triggered the usual response from all the usual suspects, with the role of wind energy being the major focus of the Coalition, and their backers in the Murdoch media, Fairfax and the ABC.

Strangely, the role of the gas generators has been given little scrutiny, but the AEMO report – and you have to read between the lines to get the full picture – does not paint a flattering view of the gas fleet before, during and after the blackout.

Pelican Point power station. Source: Wikimedia Commons

South Australia has more than enough gas capacity to meet any demand situation, but on September 28 most of it was either not running, not available, or it failed – particularly when highly paid services were called in to action to restart the grid.

It is a critical point. Much of the media response has focused on wind, particularly the Murdoch media and the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann, who, quite bizarrely, is now painting himself as a victim, saying he is accused of being a “heretic” for daring to lift the veil on wind energy. Remember, it was he who predicted the whole of Australia might get blacked out if Australia continued to invest in renewable energy.

But this is what he said on Thursday: “If those who claim to be friends of renewables continue to respond to any criticism with hysterics, then they will be responsible for ensuring the budding renewable industry suffers irreparable reputational damage.”

No, it’s about facts. And on Thursday, Uhlmann was at it again, promoting another classic fossil fuel lobby line: “(Wind) is intermittent so all of it has to be backed up by baseload power for those days when the wind does not blow.”

Actually, all generators need back-up, be they coal, gas, nuclear or renewable. Most studies show that renewable energy, particularly when distributed, needs less redundancy than fossil fuel generators. AGL Energy boss Andrew Vesey says if you want the most secure grid, you go for distributed energy, and that means renewables.

The reasons why there is so much gas capacity in South Australia – and was all built well before wind and solar came along – was the need to support the coal generators, and to provide the variations and the mid-day demand that coal cannot meet.

Solar has filled in much of the daytime demand, stuffing the profits of the gas generators, and forcing them to spend a significant amount of their money into an intense and rather successful media and lobbying campaign.

But on that afternoon and evening on September 28, the gas generation fleet was remarkable for its absence, and there are some critical question raised by the AEMO report: Why did gas fail when it was called upon to restart the grid? And why the secrecy? AEMO has no hesitation identifying which wind farms stopped generating and when?

But it refuses to identify which fossil fuel plants – which are paid millions of dollars (costs past on to consumers) to deliver an essential service – failed to deliver when asked.

Electrical expert Trent Deverell sent in a detailed email to RenewEconomy this morning after going through the AEMO report in great detail.

He says there are key questions to be asked of South Australia’s usable gas capacity, particularly the role of the providers of SRAS (System restart ancillary services) capability and the obvious weaknesses in legacy gas generation, and is dependency on procedures that were written before the era of distributed power generation.

But Deverell wonders why, if as AEMO said it was in a heightened state of alert and had brought emergency measures into place, why it didn’t think of either reducing demand on the interconnector to give it more capacity to respond to any unexpected incidents, or to wake up the gas generators.

Here’s the rest of his email, with some minor editing:

Nearly all the state’s gas capacity was not available:

AGL’s Torrens Island [Gas Thermal]

– Units A1, A2, A3, A4 and B2 – All cold (480+240MW unused capacity)

– Units B1, B3, B4 – Running at roughly 33% capacity (delivering 250MW of 600MW spinning capacity)

Engie’s Pelican Point [Gas Turbine]

– Units A & B + CGST – Both Cold (160+160+165MW available capacity)

At 16:18 Transmision Towers get flattened, SA generating capacity & Victorian Interconnector overloads and trips – SA grid collapses.So, let’s start with Plan A of the Back Start procedure.

At 16:32 SRAS #1 (Presumably Origin’s Quarantine PS Unit), black-start capable with multiple units (216MW in total), ordered to power up with ElectraNet switching to facilitate power to auxillaries and main units at Torrens Island PS next door.

At 17:13 SRAS #1 starts supplying power to Torrens PS to enable auxillaries, but by 17:55 it is diagnosed they can’t supply enough power to enable any Torrens PS main unit restarts. [Suspect one of the Quarantine PS units not available].

Oops …. let’s go to Plan B

SRAS #2 (Origin’s Osborne PS), black-start capable, but advised they can’t deliver power to Torrens PS due lightening strike to their plant. Would also require ElectraNet to facilitate HV route to Torrens PS to enable a power-up. Plan ditched…. Ditto 210MW of Gas capacity

Oops again. Let’s go to Plans C (D & E)

At 17:23 Torrens PS restart from Victorian supply initiated requiring 275kv route switched from Heywood thru South East, Talem Bend, Cherry Gardens, Mt Barker South, Magaill, Torrens Island bulk substations.

At 18:36 Engie, which owns Pelican Point Point Station, offer to make their “off-line” units available with 4 hours notice.

At 18:43 Torrens Island PS auxillaries switched from Quartantine PS power to Victorian Interconnector supply, and Torrens PS begins main unit power ups procedures at 18:54.

At 19:00 Adelaide CBD commences limited re-connection via Victorian Interconnector and to provide load for Torrens (& Pelican Point re-connections).

At 19:50 Pelican Point PS has auxillaries connected to Victorian Interconnect power, and prepares for start-up.

At 19:55 Quarantine PS quoted as on having only 4 (of 5?) gas units on-line

At 20:58 Torrens Island PS gets “A2” unit on-line. Capable of 120MW… Hang on, all the “A” units were cold at 16:18!!!

At 22:02 Torrens Island PS gets “A4” unit on-line Capable of 120MW… Hang on again, another “A” unit, what about the warm “B”‘ units..

At 22:05 Pelican Island PS gets “GT #1″ unit on-line Assume GT-stage only delivery of 160MW

At 22:08 Snuggery Point PS quoted as being on-line Assume Delivery 63MW (Diesel) [still running at 00:005]

At 23:31 Torrens Island PS gets ‘B1” unit on-line…. Capable of 240MW

Confirming the NEM Watch chart captured at 00:05 – SA Gas & Diesel providing >800MW + Victorian Interconnector

South-East Wind zone 100-250MW reconnected before 03:50, releasing diesel & some gas capacity to return to reserve.

Okay at this point some questions…

1) What happened to Torren’s Island B3 [240MW] and B4 [240MW] Units… did they get broken during outage event, and B1 which was an operational unit, but took five (5) hours to return to service.

Additionally, why were these SA Gas units NOT used…..

* Torrens A1 [120MW], A3 [120MW], B2 [240MW]… unused cold = Total 480MW

* Pelican Point #2 & CGST capacity [160+165W]… unused cold = Total 240MW

To sum up, the best part of 1.2 – 1.5GW of gas generation capacity remained unused, off-line or was outright unusable for various reasons.

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  1. MikeH 4 years ago

    The gas generators were not much help ten years ago when an almost identical situation minus wind turbines (with 40% of the state blacked out) occurred on March 14, 2005.

    “A fault on the Playford to Davenport 275kV line on Monday, 14 March triggered the breakfast blackouts which cut power to about 40 per cent of South Australia on Monday, 14 March, the National Electricity Market Management Company (NEMMCO) said in a preliminary report on the incident.”

    Three power stations and interconnector affected: NEMMCO said the fault triggered a series of events including:

    • the offloading of the two 265MW capacity coal-fired Northern Power station generating units;

    • the loss of the AC interconnection between Victoria and South Australia;

    • the tripping of the 478MW capacity gas-fired Pelican Point power station; and

    • the tripping of the two 40MW capacity gas-fired Ladbroke Grove power station units. ‘

    The only reason that they avoided a full statewide blackout according to Nemco who ran the grid back then is that “automatic under-frequency load shedding” kicked in

    NRG Flinders, the owners of the coal fired Northern Power Station were fined $300,000, 50% suspended for not meeting performance standards.

    The full incident report can be found here –

    • Analitik 4 years ago

      All those failing systems and just one third of the state was blacked out.

      As for why those big gas generators weren’t online last Wednesday, the NEM is a market driven system. So there needs to be a market rule to keep the gas generators running when it is not economical for them (ie when the wind farms are generating lots of power).

      Are you advocating capacity payments for the larger gas power plants, Giles?
      I think that’s the only way to achieve what Tom Koutsantonis was trying to get the AEMC to push on to the AEMO.

      • MikeH 4 years ago

        Actually 40% and a state wide blackout only averted because of load shedding, not because the gas generators kicked in.

        Your appear to be somewhere between denial & bargaining. Good luck with that.

      • JeffJL 4 years ago

        Giles questioned why AEMO did not get some additional capacity ready (ie paying the generators for spinning reserve). It is there in the article. Please read it again.

    • Malcolm M 4 years ago

      Why did under-frequency load shedding not happen last week ? The systems of 2005 are likely to be still in place, but not tested often enough to ensure they work when needed. Only about 300 MW (equivalent to the wind farms that had been tripped) needed to be shed to keep the remainder of the system operational. Nearly 300 MW of demand would have been shed anyway with the tripping of the power lines to the north of the State.

      • Alex E 4 years ago

        This is best explained with the data from the AEMO report. A stable grid comes in part from a stable frequency. Our standard frequency is 50Hz and generators apply or remove energy when the Hz falls or goes above that figure.

        For the event last week, the Rate of Change of Frequency (which is the velocity of deviation from 50Hz) went up to -6.25Hz/second. This is a very extraordinary event. This caused the gas generators to trip for protective measures. If the RoCoF was 2-3Hz/sec we may have had some load shedding before more generation was made available, similar to the event in Nov 2015.

        That RoCoF was in part due to the Victorian Heywood interconnect tripping because, as the northern lines faulted and wind went offline, there was an instantaneous increase in demand from the interconnect which exceeded its recommended maximum. The interconnect’s rated maximum is 600MW. During the faults it went up to 850MW and immediately initiated protection measures.

        All of that info can be found in the preliminary AEMO report.

  2. Rod 4 years ago

    I’m a bit out of the loop. Has Dry Creek been mothballed?
    I think given the chaos happening all around them the Electranet system operators deserve some kudos for going from black to back (for me anyway) in four hours.
    And yes if the TIPS A units were cold they wouldn’t be up in 4 hours

  3. Hermann 4 years ago

    Just studying the preliminary report. I have an electrical engineering background with experience in power generation and transmission as well as supply fault issues.

    Wind and solar power adhere to the forces of nature, since we cannot command the wind to blow at a certain speed or the sun to stop hiding behind thick clouds, therefore an about 100% backup generating power by conventional and reliable methods would be required. This obviously was not available when it was needed and the backup via the connection to Vic tripped due to, you guessed, simply overload as the SA power grid tried to make up the loss of generation from the Vic. grid.

    It started with the loss of a large amount of wind power which makes sense since the glorified windmills, to my knowledge, won’t operate beyond a wind speed of 90km/h. This massive loss of generation, 315MW, would have caused severe stress on the rest of the system. To fire up and restart a gas power station takes hours due to technical issues, such as synchronization with the rest of the grid, as every electrical engineer would know. Coal fired power station could take days. Several transmission lines failed due to earth faults and simply being blown over, which makes one question the quality of the installation in the first place. Some transmission infrastructure was damaged after the blackout and therefore did not contribute to the blackout, however made it more difficult to restore power.

    To make it clear, the blackout was not caused by renewable energy, but was made worse by the reliance on wind power to an insane amount, 40+ percent is no joke!

    Now what I’m worried about is that that event might set the development of alternative power generation back quite a bit, because, to express it politely, ideological, not practical reasons were responsible for an unholy and world first power generation mix and resulting mothballing of coal fired power station. The issues are complex and I do hope that after the dust has settled we will have a serious discussion about the reasons for the total blackout and how to response to rather than treating any critic as heresy. Most certainly they will have to take some of the mothballed power plants out of retirement.

    • MikeH 4 years ago

      Is that you Chris?

      The following claim is nonsense.

      >It started with the loss of a large amount of wind power which makes sense since the glorified windmills, to my knowledge, won’t operate beyond a wind speed of 90km/h.

      I would suggest that you read the AEMO report but I doubt there would be much point.

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        Page 5, Executive Summary, Event, 3rd paragraph, and page 17, 3.3 Generation Response, Table 4.

        “In the events leading up to SA region Black System, generation reduction occurred at six wind farms.
        There was no reduction in thermal generation.
        Each reduction coincided with a drop in voltage
        observed at the wind farms’ connection points. Details of the generation reduction and the observed voltage levels are shown in the following table:” [Table 4]

        Any questions?

        • Terry Leach 4 years ago

          Yeah, what caused those six wind farms to reduce generation? If one transmission line outage caused havoc on 14 March 2005 with coal, gas and i/c, then is it reasonable for more havoc to be wreaked by 3 transmission lines failing in the middle of once in 50 year storm with 10 000 lightning strikes. Just a reminder that one of the SRAS gas generators was unable to provide contracted services due to lightning strike.
          And who would have thunk it, just like wind turbines, gas power requires electricity to start as well.
          Seems to me a lot of people yelling their lungs out with their fingers stuck in their ears.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            “Cut-out speed.
            As the speed increases above the rate output wind speed, the forces on the turbine structure continue to rise and, at some point, there is a risk of damage to the rotor. As a result, a braking system is employed to bring the rotor to a standstill. This is called the cut-out speed and is usually around 25 metres per second.”

            25 meters per second is 90km/h. I would suspect the wind speed was a tad higher than that when transmission lines are pulled out of their foundations…

          • Terry Leach 4 years ago

            You are clearly an agent provocateur, otherwise known as a troll. You’re certainly not an electrical engineer or you would blush at the nonsense you write. An entire wind farm doesn’t instantaneously stop producing due to high wind. Certainly not two within 6 seconds, in the vicinity of the downed transmission lines coincident with the voltage drop. A similar thing happened in the large blackout last October, after the interconnector tripped. One wind farm immediately stopped producing, which was unexplained at the time.
            Wind was producing 880MW at the time of the line faults, indicating that the damaging winds were very localised, consistent with the reports of two tornadoes.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            Two of Snowtown wind farms reduced their output (around 200 MW) about 30 minutes before the blackout. This was well before the strong winds hit Snowtown, so it was clearly planned. (They use wind forecasting.) The interconnectors and Torrens Island picked up the lost supply. It would have been dispatched. Snowtown was coming back online when the loss of transmission occurred. None of the other wind farms tripped due to high wind speeds. There was a report in the Australian that suggested that at least the four AGL wind farms may have had insufficient low voltage ride through capability – apparently the settings were too conservative and this has been changed. (Some of their wind turbines stayed online.) The other two wind farms would have tripped due to low voltage, but it is not clear whether they also had the setting too conservative. See article here.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Sorry, the story is behind a paywall 🙁

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            Conservative farm settings blamed for SA energy shutdown
            HEDLEY THOMAS
            The Australian 12:00AM October 6, 2016

            Energy insiders believe the settings on software control systems for up to six key South Australian wind farms were “too conservative”, causing them to shut down unnecessarily in last week’s storm when they should have continued to operate and generate power.

            These wind farms suddenly disconnected 315 megawatts of wind generation in an “uncontrolled ­reduction” at 4.18pm last Wednesday, leading to a statewide blackout, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator’s initial report yesterday.

            Another report by AEMO will be released after its exhaustive ­investigations are completed. But industry insiders say they expected AEMO to find that the six wind farms stopped operating because their control systems were inappropriately set to ­execute a protective shutdown after a relatively few number of faults, such as lightning strikes, in a couple of minutes.

            As the number of faults surpassed the “too conservative” settings, the wind farms failed, triggering an increased demand on the Victorian interconnector, which overloaded and resulted in an “automatic-protection” shutdown, or statewide “Black System”, in a second. An industry expert said yesterday that, in the days since the storm, the control systems of the wind farms which failed had been reset at more ­realistic levels to ensure they did not fail unnecessarily in future.

            “Whether the energy generation is from wind or gas or coal, there are performance standards that have to be met, and in this case they were not met because the ­settings were too conservative,’’ the senior source said.

            “These turbines should have ridden through the faults and met the standard, and they didn’t. They have not performed the way they were meant to in the storm. This will open up questions of liability.”

            He said that if the control ­systems had been set more realistically before the storm — for example, to ride through as many as 50 separate faults in two minutes — there would not have been the sudden loss of 315MW from the six wind farms at a time when there was about 1895MW of ­demand.

            The preliminary report yesterday confirmed that four wind farms — North Brown Hill, Bluff Range, Hallett and Hallett Hill, operated by AGL — went off at 4.18pm, resulting in the first ­reduction of output (123MW).

            Six seconds later, the Hornsdale wind farm went out with a reduction in output of 86MW at the same time as the Snowtown 2 wind farm failed with a 106MW reduc­tion. One second later, supply to all of South Australia was lost.

            “Additional analysis is required to determine the reasons for the reduction in generation and ­observed voltage levels before any conclusions can be drawn,’’ the ­report says. The market operator also flagged that for its upcoming more detailed report it will conduct modelling and ask market participants for more data and inform­ation.

            The severe weather from an intense low-pressure system last week inflicted widespread thun­der­storms, destructive winds, damaging hail and severe cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in South Australia.

            AGL Energy chief Andy Vesey hinted at a control systems scenario on Tuesday when he told a Melbourne energy conference “the situation that needs to be examined is whether the protection system could have been different, which would have then limited the outage and you would then never have had this cascading effect”.

            An AGL spokesman told The Australian yesterday: “AGL continues to review the AEMO ­interim report. We believe the issue is more likely to be about grid protection settings than any particular type of generation.”

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Thank you for that Andrea. I have done some more googling on wind turbines regarding limitations, cut-in and cut-out speed and stuff. There seems to be a universal standard/agreement that the cut-out speed is about 90km/h, 56 mi/h, checked some American websites too. So this led me to suggest that the turbines cut out when the wind gusts, up 110km/h, reached and exceeded that speed to protect the internal mechanics. Now of course we don’t know what settings they would have applied, whether too conservative and which parameters, but hopefully we will find out soon. I would assume that the cut-in and cut-out speed would be part of the settings.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            Hermann, the article referred to faults. This means low voltage. It had nothing to do with wind speeds. The wind turbines may not have had sufficient low voltage ride through capability. It’s not about wind speed! You seem insistent on this point, despite all my posts explaining what happened and the AEMO report.
            Wind turbines have cut-out in the past due to high wind speeds, but this was not the case here. Moreover, when wind turbines cut-out due to high wind speed, they don’t do it all in one instant. These wind turbines are spread over vast areas and they experience different wind speeds. If you are interested in the issue of extreme wind speed cut-out, then AEMO has more info on its website.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Well, the fact that several transmission towers were pulled out of their foundations also led to my conclusion. What kind of storm would have caused that? But I will check the AEMO website to find out more.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            I think you are making too many assumptions and not looking at the data. The transmission towers that failed were also not at the same place as the wind farms. Wind speeds differ significantly in different locations.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Had a look at this, quite interesting


            Page 5-11, 5.4 Active power control, indicates a cut-out speed of between 20–28 m/s, 72-100km/h

            Since we had high wind and storms in the area it is not so inconceivable that they cut out due to high winds. My point is that we had wild weather with strong wind and storm that managed to uproot whole transmission towers and as such might well have been outside the parameters of the turbines.

            But again, we will have to wait until we know more.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            It is totally inconceivable that in a matter of a few seconds, over a hundred wind turbines at widely dispersed locations would have suddenly all have shut down at once due to high wind speeds.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Why not? What else could have stopped the turbines from working. The wind speed would have been more or less the same within the area in question. The cold front hit the entire state, not just pockets here and there. Note the low voltage at connection point, which would be the point where wind turbines are connected to the grid. Low voltage at a generator connection point means that the generator is no longer generating power or insufficient power. That wold have been picked up by the voltage, frequency etc sensors reporting to the monitoring and control system SCADA there and then, not at some transmission lines me thinks. I’m telling you, when a massive cold front hits the place it does not discriminate.

            We just cannot discuss away the fact that wind power depends on nature’s whims, just like the old windjammers did. No wind, no move. Too much wind, ship might sink.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            The wind farms that shut down were 100 km apart. It is inconceivable that these high winds would have hit them all in less than 2 seconds

          • Kenshō 4 years ago

            You really are so entrenched in your logic, you forget coal generators depend on coal to produce output, whereas wind generators depend on wind. They are different with different strengths and weaknesses. The fact is wind is renewable and so we will be finding ways to add storage to it – not moving backwards into your historical era.

        • MikeH 4 years ago

          Your own quote rebuts your claim that the turbines stopped because of high wind speed

          >Each reduction coincided with a drop in voltage

          … caused by the downing of the transmissions lines.

          see the timeline on p10. Transmission line drops -> wind farm output drops.

          You are clueless troll pretending to play an engineer on the internet – go back the IPA or the Minerals Council or wherever normally hang out.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Ideology and religion have 2 things in common. Both end up in name calling and a serious and informed discussion is nigh impossible.

          • MikeH 4 years ago

            Lying and trolling also make discussion impossible.

          • Kenshō 4 years ago

            You are projecting ideology onto others and why others are annoyed with your pro backward stepping towards old technology.

          • JeffJL 4 years ago

            Mike. You are right to call Hermann out on his claim about high wind speed but the ‘clueless troll’ comments are way out of line.

            He appears totally genuine (read his full post) but has not analysed the report correctly.

            You could be a lot more diplomatic.

          • nakedChimp 4 years ago

            If someone is genuine and not a hot-head and got some experience, one usually doesn’t post absolutes and drivel on a RE site.
            Examples that set off the fire alarm for FF trolls on this site:

            “Wind and solar power adhere to the forces of nature, since we cannot command the wind to blow at a certain speed or the sun to stop hiding behind thick clouds, therefore an about 100% backup generating power by conventional and reliable methods would be required.

            “It started with the loss of a large amount of wind power which makes sense since the glorified windmills, to my knowledge, won’t operate beyond a wind speed of 90km/h.”

            “To make it clear, the blackout was not caused by renewable energy, but was made worse by the reliance on wind power to an insane amount, 40+ percent is no joke!”

            Hermann started this. He’s responsible for the tone and has to bear the consequences.
            No one starts a discussion like that if he intends to stay on the topic.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            I won’t even bother to reply here…

    • JeffJL 4 years ago

      Well Hermann, you seem to have copped a lot of flack with that post. I very much doubt that you are a troll and to all those who have suggested it I say – Poor form.

      Having said that Hermann the report makes it clear that the loss of wind production occurred immediately after line faults (within one second). Why? The report does not say so, but it is highly unlikely that the wind speed was the reason.

      As I write it appears that wind is currently supplying over 90% of SAs power. Is some form of mass storage required? I think so.

      • Hermann 4 years ago

        There is discussion and there is name calling and that’s why I’m no longer interested in any discussion here. I have posted relevant links, especially the link about limitations of the windmills in regards to strong winds. I believe that the storm would have exceeded 90km/h. Whatever the reasons, the windmills dropped tools and that would have had an impact on the rest of the grid which resulted in the trip of the interconnection to Vic due to overload. No generation loss from the thermal power generation at that time was reported.

        If the physical limitations and danger of an excessive reliance on wind power are not understood then there is not much one can do apart from waiting for the next blackout. I live in WA and so far I’m glad we don’t have this obsession with beating the world in the race of the extreme renewable power insanity. Let’s face it, SA relies on the interconnection line with Vic and the rest of the eastern states to sustain their dreams of 100% renewable, which the ACT is about to achieve… until you turn off their interconnection with the grid! But I presume our massive Black Hole, the federal parliament, has emergency power sources available…

        My concern is indeed that the ideological excesses in SA, and ACT, could set our very worthwhile renewable energy development back big time.

        • nakedChimp 4 years ago

          And another attack.. ideological excesses.
          Who is name calling who here please?
          Pot calling the cattle black much, yes?

        • Andrea 4 years ago

          Hermann, you may have missed it but I posted below about the two Snowtown wind farms which reduced output due to high wind speed. (From 248MW to 36MW). It was about 30 mins before the blackout, it was undoubtedly planned (as it was well before the high wind speeds reached and other generators were undoubtedly dispatched. Snowtown output was increasing when the blackout occurred. I initially thought this may have contributed to the high load on the interconnector, but actually most of the supply was taken up by Torrens Island. Indeed, the fact that Snowtown was not generating at full capacity might have actually helped because it meant that when Snowtown was lost (for whatever reason) the total loss of generation would have been even more. (In the end it made no difference.)

          The upshot is that, as I see it, excessive wind speeds were not a contributing factor to the blackout. The main thing was that the interconnector went down, and there seemed to have been no FCAS in SA. If wind power contributed in any way it COULD be due to insufficient low voltage ride through capability.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Well, no FCAS, hmmmm…
            Stable frequency and phase sync together with voltage match are vital for a grid to perform. Any major deviations in the above would cause uncontrollable current flows in all directions and cause generators to act as power drains in extreme circumstances. That’s one of the reasons complex protection devices are in place.

            I can only go what is in the Preliminary Report.
            According to the report Snowtown went out at 16:18:15.2
            Snowtown II WF 104 -2 together with the other wind farms, see Table 4, Reduction in generation during the event, Preliminary Report. It indicates that Snowtown 2 was actually drawing power from the grid,, indicated by -2MW, so some kind of back-flow seems to have happened here.

            In any event, the place went dark at 16:18:16 and stayed that way for an extended period.

            The reported wind speed were above 90km/h, 104km/h at Snowtown and since that is above the cut-out speed for windmills one could reasonably assume that’s why the windmills cut out at that time, as indicated in Table 4.

            Maybe eventually we will know the exact reasons. Network stability should be paramount above all for the damage to industry can be quite substantial. Just imagine being stuck in a lift due to massive power cuts…

            Hopefully something worthwhile comes out of this –

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            Hermann, you have not understood what I was trying to explain. You need to look at the AEMO data for at least half an hour before the blackout. That is not in the AEMO report. The drop in Snowtown from high wind speeds commenced at 3:50 (AEST). From BOM data you can see that wind speeds peaked in Snowtown at 3:58 (AEST). By 4:15, much of Snowtown was back online.
            This is completely different to the event at 4:18 (AEST). The one at 4:18 was undoubtedly due to a fault caused by the loss of transmission lines. It was not about wind speed. Indeed, Table 4 clearly states: “Each reduction coincided with a drop in voltage observed at the wind farms’ connection points.”

            The lack of FCAS in SA is of concern. I would be asking the market operator about this. Wind farms are not required to provide FCAS.

          • Hermann 4 years ago

            Andrea, thanks for making me aware of this. I only looked at the preliminary report. There might be more to this and I think it’s better to wait for the final report.

          • Kenshō 4 years ago

            The chief problem is the poor ability of fossil fuel generators to supply synchronised AC due to their inertia. You think their inertia is a strength. No it cuts both ways. Smaller generators have less inertia and more of them distributed around a state will be far far superior than the old centralised paradigm. Face it. Your identity and past career is falling away into history. Technology marches on.

        • Coley 4 years ago

          “My concern is indeed that the ideological excesses in SA, and ACT, could set our very worthwhile renewable energy development back big time”
          “My concern”

          By the buggery, “nakedChimp” had you nailed to a T, carry on with your hurt feelings (and semi informed trolling)-:)

        • Kenshō 4 years ago

          Read more and listen or yes go elsewhere. Begin placing the environment before your own comfort, investments, career and addictions. Frankly it is only possible to maintain your level of intellect while you are maintaining significant addictions. These addictions result in you have no feeling for the environment and less capable reasoning in a bigger arena of causes. Start taking some personal responsibility.

    • Hermann 4 years ago

      In any event, the concerns about the large part of wind power in
      relation to total available generation are not all that unfounded me
      thinks and needs to be reassessed. Let’s face it, SA does rely a bit on
      the interconnected coal fired generation from Vic and the rest of the
      grid, as will the ACT in their drive to become 100% renewable by 2020.

      Don’t care what anyone else says here but I do believe that we
      should face reality and the fact that renewable energy, as technology
      stands today, is most unreliable and needs reliable backup by means of conventional generation. At this stage 100% renewable is a most dangerous pipe dream which we as an industrialized country simply cannot afford.

      Power supply reliability is paramount and should not be sacrificed by the
      drive to become world leader in renewable energy lest we become the laughing stock of the world and our economy, especially manufacturing, totally goes to the dogs!

      Maybe something worthwhile comes out of this –

      • Greg Wilkins 4 years ago


        all power generation needs backup. That’s why there are gas generators in SA that were built long before the wind farms, there were there to backup the coal generators.

        Coal has the opposite problem of not being flexible, so it cannot handle sharp peaks in demand, hence the gas generators were built to take those peak demands and to provide supply when the coal generators were offline for maintenance or unexpected event.

        The problem now is that wind and solar are meeting a lot of the peak demands in SA, so the gas generators are not kept at the ready as much as they once were. This is an economic problem and not a technical problem.

        Note also that while the winds during the event almost certainly were over 90km/h, it is extremely unlikely that they were so for every turbine in every windfarm. There is no indication that there was significant capacity loss from too much wind.

        Obviously SA energy system needs improvement (as probably does the entire planets). But it is just too simplistic to say that because some times the wind blows too little or too much it is the fault of the wind generators.

      • Kenshō 4 years ago

        You are a conventional thinker stuck in old reasoning processes and there is no soft way of putting it. Why have you not considered adding storage to renewable energy???

      • Nick Thiwerspoon 4 years ago

        At this stage 100% renewable is a most dangerous pipe dream which we as an industrialized country simply cannot afford.

        Not so. We can use batteries to help stabilise the grid and also–as their costs decline–for longer-term storage. We can use CSP (concentrated solar power with storage) which can provide power 24/7 or (better than coal!) when it’s needed. There are no technical barriers to 100% renewables in the grid. There are just inertia and opposition from fossil fuel interests.

  4. John Saint-Smith 4 years ago

    When I watch our so-called leader drop his bundle and retreat to the coal bunker the moment things get a bit tricky, I think of all those brave pioneers and soldiers who have dug in and fought for this country and for what they believed in.
    It makes me wonder what Mr ‘Turncoat’ will do when we really have a real catastrophe, and the way the climate is changing, we can bet that it will.
    Can we afford to find out?

    • Kenshō 4 years ago

      That’s right, there is going to be more catastrophe because the rate of change of voter awareness is too slow to deal with environmental challenges. I’m preparing my own property to be more self sufficient. The “catastrophe” will be experienced differently by different people.

  5. David leitch 4 years ago

    Very interesting analysis. I suspect that the full truth, or most of it will become available over time. In some ways though I think the renewable industry plays into the opposition’s hands by even discussing it. That simply gives people oxygen to say what they want. We are going to get more carbon free energy one way or another, its really just a question of managing everything to deliver it cost effectively and keep industry, commercial and household running.

    • Kenshō 4 years ago

      No this is highlighting the “inertia” of fossil fuel generators is a sword that cuts two ways. Batteries fire up inverters in microseconds.

  6. Ian Fordham 4 years ago

    PP#2 is mothballed. Engie have previously stated approx 3 months to bring back in service and expect it to be mothballed for the next 10 years. PP output without #2 is ~240MW.

  7. Coley 4 years ago

    I follow reneweconomy and cleantechnica etc as guide to where the RE revolution is going, but looking at this article, I really despair, with the greatest wind and solar resources on the planet, RE still struggles in AU.
    A perfect demonstration of the power still remaining in the hands of the FF incumbents (and the pockets of their elected lobbyists)

  8. Bob 4 years ago

    Osborne Power Station was on a routine shutdown/overhaul, it couldn’t have restarted even if it wanted to. It is offline for several weeks.

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