What’s happened to South Australia’s biggest and most modern gas generators?

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The biggest and most modern gas generation units in South Australia have been out of action for the past month.

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The biggest and most modern gas generation units in South Australia have been hit by major problems, with both units out of action for the past month, forcing the market operator to turn to older and more expensive units.

The 478MW Pelican Point power station, about 20km from the centre of Adelaide, is touted by owner Engie as one of Australia’s “most advanced, efficient and environmentally friendly power stations.”

But since April 23, it hasn’t been providing any power to the local grid. And we are not being told why.

As these graphs above and below show, one unit appears to have wound down for a scheduled outage – presumably for maintenance – from March 17, but the second unit also tripped on the same day.

It quickly returned to service, but on April 23 the second unit tripped again. Neither unit has returned to service since. (Graphs courtesy of Climate and Energy College in Melbourne).

This has had a major ripple effect through the grid. New requirements introduced by the Australian Energy Market Operator in the middle of last year mean that a certain number of gas (or diesel) units to be switched on depending on the amount of wind power.

The absence of Pelican Point has meant that AEMO has had to direct other older and more expensive generators to switch on when they might otherwise have chosen not to.

This table above shows that since the failure of the second unit in April, the number of interventions has doubled to an extraordinary 73 per cent of trading intervals, and an accompanying rise in wholesale prices.

A spokesperson for AEMO said in an emailed statement that Pelican Point “has bid out of the market and remains out due to outages “, but it could not comment on the nature due to “confidentiality” issues.

Engie did not provide a statement by the time of publication.

AEMO said the recent increase in directions are in line with previous system strength requirements for South Australia and are not unexpected during the shoulder seasons.

“Most recently, these directions are driven by low demand, high wind and the need for some generator outages to occur due to maintenance outside the peak demand period,” a spokesperson said.

Still, the interventions have caused some controversy (some think they are overly conservative), but they are likely to be a temporary phenomenon in any case, even as the state pushes well beyond its 50 per cent of wind and solar and new projects are added to the grid.

The state’s transmission operator ElectraNet has outlined plans to install three synchronous condensers at certain parts of the grid. It says this will eliminate the need for directions from AEMO, and also reduce costs to consumers by around $3 to $5 a year.

Pelican Point is nominally capable of providing 25 per cent of South Australia’s electricity needs, but it gained notoriety in February last year when one of its units stood idle as customers had their power switched off because of a lack of supply in the middle of a heat-wave.

That failure prompted the then Labor government to invest in its own energy security plans, which resulted in the Tesla big battery being built, as well as back-up generators that have been installed but so far never switched on.

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16 Comments
  1. Joe 6 months ago

    More evidence of…Unreliable Baseload FF Power.

  2. Andrew Lang 6 months ago

    So, does Engie own the alternative generators also?

    And while on the subject of ”things not running”, I have noticed that NSW Hydro has only supplied power about one day in the last three weeks – has the water frozen?

    • BushAxe 6 months ago

      Yes they have been using Mintaro(90MW OCGT), Dry Creek(3x50MW OCGTs) and Origin’s Quarantine PS to fill the gap.

      • Indra Mukherjee 6 months ago

        Hi could you please share where this information is available. I am doing some research on how gas generators are complementing wind (or at-least trying to) in South Australia and require information on which units have actually been generating power. Thanks.

        • Mick 6 months ago

          You could try here?
          http://opennem.org.au

        • Rod 6 months ago

          You can get two days worth of info here. Just narrow it to the region and select generators tab.

          http://nemlog.com.au/gen/region/

        • BushAxe 6 months ago

          Nemlog as Rod has said or the Aremi website-http://nationalmap.gov.au/renewables/

    • MaxG 6 months ago

      Price gauging then?!

      • rob 6 months ago

        ???

      • Calamity_Jean 5 months ago

        Did you possibly mean “price gouging“?

        • MaxG 5 months ago

          Yes; thanks 🙂

  3. Chris Fraser 6 months ago

    Even though Pelican Point is out, could this noted lack of generation be because we are in-between seasons ? (Neither too hot or too cold).

    • Rod 6 months ago

      Yes, i think he is saying one unit was out for shoulder season maintenance.
      I’m assuming it was too far along the strip down stage to get it back up when the second one tripped.
      If this (both units out) had happened during Summer it would not be pretty.

  4. Brunel 6 months ago

    What happened to Jay Weatherill’s plan to build a government owned gas power station?

  5. Patrick Comerford 6 months ago

    Can any connected contacts give an indication of what the issues are especially with the Second unit that tripped.

  6. ptrrajan 6 months ago

    Hello . I am doing some research on how gas generators are complementing wind in USA .I realy like .
    http://wecharg.com

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