Rafe Champion guest post. The failure of wind power in South Australia

Rafe Champion guest post. The failure of wind power in South Australia


SA was the pioneer wind state and the first to experience the rapid increase in power prices that hastened the demise of the local car industry. They literally blew up the last of their coal-fired power stations although they still have gas which is just as well because during wind droughts they live on gas and coal power from Victoria.

RE enthusiasts laud SA as an RE powerhouse, the wonder of the world and the shape of things to come across Australia. That is true but not in the way that they mean. Look at the situation in SA in the recent week from August 12 to Wed 18.

The chart below shows the amount of wind power generated in South Australia hour by hour through August to date. The dotted line across the chart at 219MW is close to 10% of the installed capacity of 2,100MW and it marks the upper level of supply that I regard as a “wind drought”.

From the 12th to the 18th the supply was mostly under the line and consequently they were importing power every day of that week at breakfast and dinnertime. They were importing at lunchtime on weekdays  as well during that period and this is unusual due to the amount of solar they have.

South Australia may be a net exporter over 12 months but that it practically beside the point because they depend on imports whenever they are in drought. When other states, led by Victoria, get rid of more coal power they will not have spare power during wind droughts to prop  up SA.

That is just about the end of the RE story until there is feasible and affordable grid-scale storage because there is no way to deny the reality of wind droughts. They are clearly visible in the AEMO records and Tony from Oz has been monitoring the situation for years. It is about time for more people to pay attention. See here for the introduction to his comprehensive wind generation series.

Mike O’Ceirin has an interactive site based on those records and this link takes you to a list of periods when the whole of the NEM was in drought (under 10% of installed capacity) during 2020. On 18 occasions the duration of the drought was ten hours or more and in June the drought on the 5th and 6th lasted for 33 hours. Other droughts in June lasted for 18, 16, 14 and 9 hours.

For more instructions on wind watching check out the addendum to this post from the Energy Realists of Australia.  But remember that wind watching can be time-consuming and habit forming so please watch responsibly. A Windwatchers Anonymous group has been established to support people who recognize a need for help with wind-watching dependence.

Pay attention to the low points instead of the high points!

RE boosters are excited by the high points of RE supply, but think about a flood protection levee or wall. You need to check the low parts where the water will penetrate and you you will not be impressed to see the high parts getting twice as high while there are still gaps in the wall. Windless nights are the gaps in the RE wall and there is no point in wasting more resources in RE capacity until the storage issue is resolved.


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August 25, 2021 at 05:50AM

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