Tell ‘Em They’re Dreamin’: Why Wind & Solar Can Never Replace Nuclear, Gas & Coal-Fired Power

Australia is not the only country in the grip of the grand delusion that sunshine and breezes will soon completely replace nuclear, gas and coal-fired power.

With another large capacity coal-fired power plant signalling its exit from the market place, the renewable energy ideologues are rejoicing.

The engineers that built and ran those plants – and the grid that delivers the power generated – can only shake their heads in mortified disbelief – their only consolation being that when the whole thing collapses in a mass blackout, they will be able to say “we told you so”.

But, for now, the delusionists will keep proclaiming the “death” of coal and encouraging us to believe that we’re well on our way to an all wind and sun powered future.

In the Australian cult classic, The Castle – when faced with the nonsensical – the phlegmatic patriarch, Darryl Kerrigan’s default response was: “tell him he’s dreamin’.”

Where Dazza’s standard retort was pointedly directed at someone offering a pair of jousting sticks – at a price Darryl considered to be somewhat over the money – it can be applied with equal force to those that consider Australia can keep closing its coal-fired power plants and somehow remain in business.

On average, coal-fired power accounts for around 75% of the electricity pumping through Australia’s Eastern Grid. After sunset and during spells of dead-calm weather, it accounts for a whole lot more.

The reason for the exit of coal-fired power plants is simple: the Federal government’s Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target and its domestic cousin, the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, which is the slush fund that supports domestic rooftop solar.

Between them the LRET and SRES will channel more than $60 billion in subsidies to wind and solar over the life of the schemes.

They were designed to make intermittent, unreliable, costly and, therefore, naturally uncompetitive wind and solar, ‘competitive’ with reliable, conventional generators – particularly coal-fired power plants.

When we say ‘competitive’ we use the term loosely. Unless, that is, you consider gluing Usain Bolt’s shoes to the starting line is a way of making the next international 100m sprint ‘competitive’.

The subsidies to wind and large-scale solar mean that the owners can readily undercut (unsubsidised) coal-fired power plants, relegating them to also-rans in the National Energy Market. For details on how the NEM has been corrupted by the subsidies to wind and solar see our post here: Fixing Australia’s Power Pricing & Supply Crisis Means Cutting Subsidies to Wind & Solar, Right Now

Among mainstream media commentators, few get it. One of them, The Australian’s Terry McCrann does. Terry has graced these pages on numerous times. Here he is again an article that could have been titled with a nod to Darryl Kerrigan: Tell ‘em They’re Dreamin’.

Wind and solar can’t replace coal-fired power
The Australian
Terry McCrann
13 March 2021

When I wrote last week about our utterly unworkable — if entirely woke — future, I most certainly did not anticipate we would in the coming week rush to get there some four years earlier.

That is the simple bottom line of Energy Australia’s decision to close one of Australia’s biggest and most reliable power stations, Yallourn, in 2028 instead of the previously planned 2032.

In a few words, goodbye Yallourn, hello brownouts and blackouts, at least for Victoria and South Australia. It’s certainly posing the question for NSW and Queensland, and, in a dry year, Tasmania as well.

Ah, Tasmania, we on the mainland tend to forget about the Apple Isle — but not our Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, I might add, who wants to flood Devonport, Launceston and even Burnie with “northern foreigners”.

As I’ve been writing for about 15 or 20 years now, “when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine, the power don’t flow”; let me now add: “and when the rain don’t fall, the hydro don’t spin”.

Now, I’ve used the word “reliable” in the old-fashioned meaning of the word; that you can rely on it to do what power stations are supposed to do but these days is considered at least quaint if not positively gauche — you know, generate electricity.

Let me hasten to say I cannot in the least fault the logic and indeed the imperative of the EA decision. Indeed, if it was me, I’d probably be closing Yallourn in 2023 — to make it a grand two-fer with Liddell in NSW.

If it’s such a “great future” why not get there soonest?

In closing Yallourn — and, more pointedly, ceasing to spend the $300m-plus a year, or well over $1bn over those extra four years, to keep it “reliable” — EA is only doing what the “woke elites” and more potently the policy framework is instructing it to do. I even admire the honesty, so to speak, in its statement.

It’s closing Yallourn, which can generate 1500MW of electricity, pretty much 24/7 year-in and year-out — programmed time-outs and the odd mishap aside, not only when the wind ain’t blowing and the sun ain’t shining, even when it ain’t raining and even when it is — and replacing it with … the world’s biggest battery: all of 350MW of storage. Wouldn’t you like that in your smartphone! That was it; that’s what we’ll get to keep the lights on.

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All those quaintly named “turbines” that pollute the landscape and slaughter birds will give you the rest.

Hmm? 1500MW hour-in, hour-out, 24/7 365 days a year, versus a 350MW battery that’s gone flat in four hours and looking for a real power source to recharge from?

The EA statement made an interesting contrast to what AGL came out with, back in 2017, when it announced the closure of Liddell.

AGL felt the obligation to at least pretend it could replace the power that Liddell had generated every year for 50 years.

And I quote from the AGL statement: “a mix of high-efficiency gas peakers, renewables, battery storage and demand response”.

Let me translate:

“Demand response” — you turn on that light switch, you get no light.

“Battery storage” — when the battery goes flat, you turn on that light switch, you get no light.

The only credible part of generation to replace 2000MW when Liddell closed was a 500MW gas plant. The “major” generation replacement was a joke — so-called 1600MW of renewables — which from day to day can be exactly zero at the whim of the wind and clouds.

In contrast, EA didn’t even bother with the pseudo-nonsense. We are turning off 24/7 1500MW and we are — very partially — replacing it with a big battery. When it goes flat, you better hope that the wind is blowing. Straight, simple, honest.

As I detailed last week, the central problem with wind (and solar) — problem? Like rendering them utterly and irredeemably useless, whether you’ve got 100 “turbines” or 10,000 or even 100,000 — is that they simply do not work.

On paper, Britain has wind-generating “capacity” to supply all its power at periods of off-peak national demand — some 26,000MW — and indeed, even close to two-thirds of the 40,000MW or so demanded at peak.

It of course never gets close — the most wind generates is around 13,000MW. But as I detailed, for two whole days the previous week wind was generating just 500MW to 800MW.

There is no way even 100 of EA’s big batteries could make up the difference for two days.

The lights in Britain would literally have gone off but for burning a lot of gas and two Yallourns of the phony renewable woodchips and nuclear and power cords into Europe and firing up an old coal-fired power station bigger than Yallourn.

That’s the central problem of an all-renewable future. You better have expensive alternatives on standby or prepare to turn the lights off.

The problem identified by EA, forcing it to close Yallourn, is the more insidious corrosion of when the wind does blow.

All that literally free — zero marginal cost — power comes flooding into the grid, temporarily forcing prices down, and driving out coal-fired power.

That would be fine, we would be into a Dark Green free lunch future, if it could be sustained. It can’t.

You cannot build enough batteries. Do we really want to have a whole shadow power generation industry which gets turned on when and only when the wind ain’t blowing?

It would be insane. But it’s even more insane to keep lurching into the future identified by EA — closing all the coal-fired power stations, with our ability to keep the lights on left blowing in the wind.

The very minimum that must be required of anyone wanting to feed wind or solar power into the grid is that they guarantee a minimum level of despatchable power 24/7 365 days a year.

Then you get closer to the true cost of “free” wind and solar.
The Australian

yallourn cartoon

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March 15, 2021 at 01:32AM

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