South Australia leaps towards 40% wind and solar | RenewEconomy

South Australia leaps towards 40% wind and solar

The imminent completion of 270MW Snowtown wind farm will lift South Australia’s wind and solar energy contribution to 40 per cent.


(Note: See also The remarkable energy transition in South Australia – could renewables head to 70 per cent within a decade)

South Australia will in the next week reinforce its position as the leading mainland state on renewable energy as the completion of a major new wind farm brings its wind and solar energy production to around 40 per cent of its total generation.

130924 - Clarke SnowtownThe $450 million Snowtown 2 wind project, which as we reported last month is due to open several months ahead of schedule, will add 270MW capacity and estimated output of 985GWh per year.

That, in combination with nearly 550MW of small scale solar PV on the state’s rooftops, will take the state to more than 40 per cent renewables over the year, one of the highest penetration of “variable” renewables in the developed world.

Right now, there is little base-load coal-fired capacity operating in the state given the mothballing and seasonal closure of its two brown coal generators. Only one of the Northern Power station’s generating units is operating during winter. (Tasmania, of course, is close to 100 per cent renewables but relies on mostly hydro resources)

Most of the turbines being built at Snowtown by New Zealand company TrustPower have already been completed and are feeding into the grid. The last 5 turbines are due to be completed in the next week, with the formal handover brought forward several months to September.

The addition of Snowtown – which will operate at a capacity factor of around 42 per cent – will take total wind capacity in the state to more than 1,500MW and total output of wind energy to more than 4,400GWh.

This is equivalent to 34-35 per cent of the state’s electricity demand, and rooftop solar accounts for another 5-6 per cent.

South Australia has one of the highest penetrations of rooftop solar PV, with nearly 550MW of rooftop systems installed over the past few years, giving it a penetration rate of more than 22 per cent.

The growth of wind and solar over the last five years has forced the two major coal fired power stations to be mothballed and closed for summer months. Contrary to doomsday’s, it has helped reduce the state’s wholesale power prices, and lower emissions dramatically. And, of course, it has attracted billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs.

The state seems certain to head to more than 50 per cent renewables by 2020 as the interconnector with neighbouring states is upgraded, and presuming that the Abbott government does not completely wreck the renewable energy target, as the coal-fired generators owners, Alinta Energy, amongst others, is urging it to do.

Alinta,in fact, wants the renewable energy target to be brought to an immediate halt, with no new generation – wind farms or rooftop solar – receiving any further subsidy.

This graph is drawn from their submission to the RET Review panel, highlighting the amount of wind generation that has been built in the state in recent years.

wind SA



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  1. Beat Odermatt 6 years ago

    Anybody attending last nights community
    meeting of Solar Citizen in Adelaide would have seen the enthusiasm
    and pride South Australians have in regards to renewable energy and
    solar energy in particular. The fear that a Liberal State Government
    would try to turn the clock back was one of the factors in returning
    a Labor Government, despite all the polls and predictions. The
    comment by the formers opposition leader Isabel Redmond that “97%
    of people are subsidising 7 % with solar” did not help to gain
    confidence into the intentions of the Liberals.

    I think Alinta Energy is extremely
    hypocritical in its attitude towards renewable energy. One one hand
    people have an impression that Alinta Energy would support a solar
    power station at Port Augusta, but at the same time does a lot stop
    to further development of clean energy in South Australia.

    There is no reason why all States in
    Australia can be 100% renewable within 25 years.

    • Matthew Wright 6 years ago

      Alinta will only support Solar at Port Augusta if it is heavily government subsidised. Most electricity companies would take up a project that is derisked like that no matter what their existing generation mix is.

      • Ian Franklin 6 years ago

        I had a salesman knock on the door a month or so ago spruiking Alinta as an electricity retailer. As a long time owner of PV, I asked about their policy regarding solar power. The reply was that they would not offer retail power to owners of PV.

        • RobS 6 years ago

          Good, that’s 22% of SA households and growing rapidly, literally the definitIon of excluding yourself from the market, stunning shortsightedness on display but it favours a good outcome, so great I say

    • wideEyedPupil 6 years ago

      Allinta are pushing for a coal+solarCST-without-storage hybrid model which is an abomination as far as the benefits to local people of Port Augusta go. And Allianta want loads of govt moneys even for a hybrid. They don’t want a bit less pollution, they want zero pollution and clean green energy.

  2. michael 6 years ago

    “The state seems certain to head to more than 50 per cent renewables by 2020 as the interconnector with neighbouring states is upgraded” why is the interconnection with neighbouring states linked to amount of renewable generation in SA? Shouldn’t renewables mean the state become self reliant and not need to import energy. Or, does forcing other states to buy the renewable power subsidise the increased cost vs traditional generation?

    • Giles 6 years ago

      It’s called a grid, Michael, and the interconnection between this and other states allows a flow of energy. So when the brown coal generators in Victoria generate too much at night, and no one needs it in victoria, they can export to other states, and when those generators can’t respond fast enough to people switching on air-con, they can import peaking gas, and maybe now solar too, from other states. Bigger interconnector simply allows greater and more efficient flows.

      • michael 6 years ago

        understand that, I’ve maybe taken the wrong message from a lot of talk on articles within the newsletter around the death knell of grids and the merits of moving to decentralised (and I thought disconnected) power generation. Whereas this was putting foward the positives for grids in relation to wind power generation being able to be financed.

        • Giles 6 years ago

          It’s the economics of the grid that is under question, or at least the current business model. There will always be a grid of some form, but there will be a lot of distributed energy, and probably micro grids. How that fits together no one really knows

          • Matthew Wright 6 years ago

            The grid has a lot of capacity in terms of transformer capacity. The easiest way to shrink the cost of the grid is to eliminate excess transformer capacity by retiring older units without replacement or relocation of existing units that still have life on them. At this stage the full death-spiral hasn’t set in so it maynot be time yet but that time is coming soon. It means a shrinking of the network business so it’s not something they’ll be happy with. But best that it all happens in an orderly agreeable fashion. That’s why we advocate for true capacity charging during super critical peaks. Why should everyone have the right no matter what the cost to a 20 lane freeway to their front door whether they use it or not. IT would be best to pay for 1lane (1kVA) if you use it and if you’re an energy hog during critical peaks then pay for 10kVA or 20kVA yourself.

    • Matthew Wright 6 years ago

      Interconnection increases the market size and no matter what the generation mix is it always decreases the overall cost in the market.

      Renewables could easily goto 50% or 60% without an increase in the interconnector however there would be an amount of production curtailment (or production clipping) this means that a wind farm that is available to produce at a 40% capacity factor may only produce 35%. This effects the economics and a developer looking for the best return may decide that that loss in potential revenue makes it worthwhile to build a windfarm in another state with no clipping.

      Coal is copping clipping right now – it’s called Merit Order Effect. There is a lot of excess generation more than 8700hours a year so coal is withdrawn from service. An existing coal plant already has its capital spent so it will reenter the market based on the cost of production not on the cost of recovering capital which a new wind project must do to satisfry investors/bankers.

      • michael 6 years ago

        hadn’t heard the term clipping before, thanks for the reply!

        • Matthew Wright 6 years ago

          No problem. It’s difficult sometimes to see the difference beetween minor economic limitations and technical limitations. This is certainly a minor economic one as we already get our wind power for 50% of the cost of what they pay in Europe, so reducing production by 10% to allow 60% penetration would still have our wind power at a cost much cheaper than most countries especially Europe (maybe except NZ, Brazil and Chile)

          What should actually be weighed up is the cost of a transmission line versus the cost of some curtailment in the South Australian market (paying for the curtailment). I think this is difficult to achieve with the current market setup. So we would pay for curtailment upto the annual cost of a transmission line (a transmission lines annual cost would be capital cost financed over say 30 years + O&M return to investors/owners).

    • Tim Forcey 6 years ago

      Yes, if there is more renewables-based electricity production than the system (call it the grid) can handle, there are a few options, including (but not limited to): curtailing the production, expanding an interconnector, or… installing energy storage – large or small scale. Giles P emceed a seminar: “Energy Storage – What Scale? What Cost? What Impact?” (video available online) where we at the University of Melbourne Energy Institute presented on our pumped hydro energy storage research – quite pertinent to South Australia, and all the other states and territories as well….

  3. Ian 6 years ago

    Alinta is owned by TPG capital an american private equity company, they also own Inghams chicken business and through Newbridge capital, Myers. I find it very distressing that government supports such powerful foreign owned entities, when their own voters and compatriots attempt to cut down on their electricity bills by installing a few miserable panels on their homes generating only 5 to 6 % of the state’s electricity, Alinta calls for RET’s to be removed.

  4. Spodzilla 6 years ago

    “Contrary to doomsday’s”??

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