Ever wonder why Western Australia is host to the two biggest wind and solar hybrid project proposals in Australia, and quite possibly the world? The simple answer must be: its wind resources are excellent, and as good, or if not better than its excellent solar resource.
Earlier this week we published a couple of tables showing the best performing wind and solar sites in Australia for the month of May, and the wind component stuck out because the top-10 list was dominated by wind farms in W.A. We went back to David Dixon at Rystad Energy for a list of the country’s best performing wind farms over the full year, and the results reinforced the trend.
It shows that over calendar 2019 the best performing wind farm – with an average capacity factor of 46 per cent – was the relatively new Badgingarra wind farm owned by APA and located near Cervantes, about 180kms north of Perth. It was one of four W.A. wind farms in the top eight in the country – two others were in Tasmania (Woolnorth and Musselroe), and one each in Victoria (Kiata) and South Australia (Hornsdale).
But here’s the interesting bit. The 137MW Badginagarra wind farm is located right across the road from the 80MW Emu Downs wind farm, which is also owned by APA, giving unique insight into how one wind farm compares with another.
Emu Downs ranked eighth in 2019, so the area has clearly got a good wind resource, but a comparison between the two shows how improvements in wind turbine technology have lifted their capacity factors.
Badgingarra, which came online in December 2018 and was complete in early 2019, features 3.6MW Siemens turbines with 65 metre blade lengths and a hub height of 85 metres. Emu Downs, which came online in 2006, has 1.65MW turbines with blade lengths of 41 metres and a hub height of 68.5 metres.
And, according to APA, the Badgingarra turbines feature “uniquely curved, aeroelastic blades” that “allows the blades to bend and twist in order to reduce the structural load” and boost efficiency (see picture above).
And Badgingarra won’t be the last word on capacity factors. In nearby Dandaragan, the 212MW Yandin wind farm is under construction, featuring 4.2MW turbines and 75 metre blades that its owner, Alinta Energy, predicts will deliver capacity factors of around 50 per cent.
This graph above shows a comparison between Badgingarra and Emu Downs over the past year. It shows that in November, Badgingarra delivered an extraordinary capacity factor of 70 per cent. That’s more than many coal-fired generators, and a multiple of most gas generators.
The other two W.A. wind farms to make the national top eight for 2019 – Mumbida and Walkaway – are located about 200kms further to the north near Geraldton.
Both the Badgingarra and Emu Downs wind projects are paired with adjoining solar farms, and this is the same model being adopted by the Asia Renewable Energy Hub, backed by Vestas, Macquarie Group and CWP, which plans to build a 15GW (gigawatt) facility in the Pilbara in the state’s north to export cheap power to Asia, either via hydrogen or a sub-sea cable, and to support local manufacturing.
Most of it will be wind energy because the wind resources are so good.
Siemens is also involved in a 5GW proposal for a renewable hydrogen facility near Geraldton, featuring both wind and solar, while BP is looking at a mixture of wind and solar for a 1.5GW renewable hydrogen project of its own.