Guest post by Rafe Champion. Energy security on the edge of a cliff

We are approaching a tipping point in the electricity system where there will not be enough dispatchable power available to get through windless nights. When solar and wind power are both out of action at the same time, clearly the lights will go out unless there is 10%% backup from conventional power. Forget about grid-scale storage, there is none in sight for the foreseeable future that is feasible or affordable.

The RE enthusiasts get excited every time they record more penetration of wind and solar into the grid. They don’t appear to notice that the same AEMO data that record increasing penetration, , also show zero penetration on windless nights. That is especially clear in South Australia where there is always a deficit when the wind is low overnight. They depend on brown coal power from Victoria to keep the lights on, and no amount of additional RE capacity will help.

Those periods of zero penetration are like the holes in the wall of a dam, or gaps in the fence around a paddock of sheep or cattle, or gaps in a flood protection levee. If the dam has a gap in the wall it ceases to function as a dam, the holes in the fence allow the stock to get out and gaps in a flood protection levee eliminate the protective effect.

Building more installed capacity of RE does not help on windless nights because when next to no power being generated, increasing the installed capacity of the generators by a factor of five, ten or twenty still delivers next to nothing.

To see what that looks like in practice, see the chart from a paper by Paul McArdle who has been studying the low wind problem for many years. Jo Nova reproduced the chart in a recent post.


We are approaching the situation of a massive irrigation scheme with all the infrastructure in place, dams, canals, pumping stations, and the like. The crops are planted but when we get to the growing season we find we there is not enough water in the dams for the system to work so the plants all die. This irrigation scheme is actually an addition to the regular farming system that still exists to there will be enough food but it will be very expensive if you count the cost of the useless irrigation system that the taxpayers have funded.

The point is that nobody checked the rainfall figures to be sure that the dams could be filled and the works were built in hope, on the back of government subsidies, without due diligence to check the viability of the project.

Our RE system will soon be revealed as an irrigation scheme without water, we just need to lose another coal-fired power station or two and we will be travelling without spare capacity to handle peak loads. Indeed we may scrape along without Liddell but when the massive Eraring plant goes we will be in deep trouble every time the wind is low. Get familiar with the wind data and tell your friends and relations about the NemWatch widget!

The widget.

10 out of 10 based on 1 rating

via JoNova

April 14, 2022 at 05:10PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s