By Brendan Godwin
The inclusion of unreliable energy sources such as wind and solar (“The Unreliables”) in our supply grids is causing massive fluctuations in electricity dispatch costs from $50-$100/MWh to $14,000/MWh and up to $60,000/MWh in South Australia in the Jan 2019 heat wave (Judith Sloan The Australian Jan 29, 2019) and see the graph below. This ultimately falls on consumer bills. Additionally, the locations for all of these unreliable generation sites are far from current transmission networks and new transmission lines have to be built and footprint cost and capacity factors have to be taken into account. People pushing for “The Unreliables” don’t factor these costs into their costings and neither do government pricing models. Nor do they include all of the subsidies paid to “The Unreliables” plus the state royalties on coal that forced Hazelwood’s closure.
Another major problem is the unreliability of wind and solar which causes these enormous cost fluctuations. On days when the wind doesn’t blow and the Sun doesn’t shine, which happens, the grid needs immediate backup power to cater for demand. Diesel generators and gas are not enough for required backup. In the absence of nuclear power, the only current solution is to have 24 hour coal power plants that cover the full demand, but these cannot be fired up instantly and have to be maintained permanently on ‘hot spinning reserve’. That totally defeats the purpose of having all the ‘The Unreliables’ in the system. This is confirmed in The Australian Energy Regulator’s Wholesale electricity market performance report – (http://catallaxyfiles.com/2019/01/09/the-australian-energy-regulators-wholesale-electricity-market-performance-report/) which states that we need to leave the coal plants running because they can’t be shut down and brought up in an instant. But the ‘must-run’ unreliables are given priority and first preference meaning that we are paying for two power sources just because we have the unreliables in the system. I.e. Unreliables need 100% backup. That’s an additional cost increase that never gets reported or included in any pricing models. Additionally the graph below shows peak demand falling in the lull period for wind and solar.
Coal is still the cheapest source of reliable and continuously available electric power to meet 24/7 x 365 consumer and industrial/infrastructure demand patterns.
An additional issue is the cost of blackouts. This is not just a cost to the residential consumer but businesses are forced to shut and workers lose wages and the huge hit to the businesses’ bottom line ultimately feeds through to a drop in tax take by the government. In 2016, South Australia saw a statewide blackout that lasted days. On the 24th and 25th of January 2019, a 40+ degree C heatwave in Victoria saw demand peak way more than supply. On the 24th at 6pm, the Sun wasn’t shining, the wind wasn’t blowing and one third of Melbourne’s suburbs were without power completely for 3 hours. With deception and without notice, authorities dropped the mains voltage to 192V which stopped most appliances from working. This lasted for 30+ hours. On the 25th, the climate alarmists leapt for joy as the wind blew and some wind turbines were able to compensate for one lost coal fired generator, but that still wasn’t enough to prevent 200,000 homes from total blackout. This 30 hour blackout by deception cost Victoria and South Australia an extra $1.1 Bn in energy costs.
These problems are not unique to Australia. A similar graph showing lowest supply timed with highest demand averaged over a year for Minnesota in the US is shown below.
The environmental footprint of wind and solar is something those pushing for “The Unreliables” never talk about. To replace the recently closed Hazelwood coal fired power station with a wind farm would require land area the size of up to 90% of greater metropolitan Melbourne. Even then it would still only produce power when the wind was blowing and its production low point is timed perfectly with peak demand. Wind turbines are also shut down when the wind speeds are too high. This happened when South Australia had a state wide blackout in 2016.
Storage. Batteries don’t work in an electricity grid. They don’t generate power and they can’t power a grid. SA has the biggest battery in the world but it can only power some of Adelaide’s suburbs for about 5 minutes. They are essentially an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). General computer UPSs provide power for 20 to 30 minutes until the power returns. In a major hospital they provide essential power for 30 minutes until either the mains power returns or the emergency diesel generators are fired up. You can’t fire up a gas generator in 5 minutes and it takes 2-3 weeks to fire up a coal generator. That makes batteries totally useless in an electricity grid.
Legislation. The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 is a piece of legislation that needs to be abolished. That legislation makes it a crime to tell the truth about climate science as per the following reference to the criminal proceedings under The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007. In particular Sect. 37, referring to the criminal proceedings of the Act:
37 Criminal proceedings after civil proceedings
Criminal proceedings may be started against a person for conduct that is substantially the same as conduct constituting a contravention of a civil penalty provision regardless of whether a pecuniary penalty order has been made against the person.
If a company fails to report their so called greenhouse gas emissions, the directors can be charged with a criminal offence. Telling the truth by saying you are not doing any harm to anything is not a defence. The term ‘greenhouse gas’ is misleading because it does not include water vapor under this legislation. Coal power stations emit far more water vapor than CO2 and that is far more active in absorbing infra red (radiated) heat. The term ‘greenhouse’ is extremely misleading. What happens in a greenhouse is not what happens in the atmosphere. Greenhouses work by blocking convection, not IR. Radiatively Active Gases or RAGs is a much more accurate term. This legislation is founded on lies and telling the truth will still get you convicted of a criminal offence.
Then we have all these Renewable Energy Targets or RETs enshrined into legislation at both state and federal levels forcing electricity generators to use more and more of ‘The Unreliables’.
All of these pieces of legislation provide onerous responsibilities upon electricity producers that comes at a cost to consumers which the politicians ignore.
Wind. The lifespan of generators is not factored into any costings. Wind Turbines are rated at 25 years, half that of coal plants. However in practice, the turbine blades require total replacement after as little as 10 to 12 years and the bearings need constant replacement.
Mass Blade Fail Means Early ‘Retirement’ for Hundreds of Danish Wind Turbines
Solar. Whilst solar panels can produce electricity for up to 11 hours a day, they produce effective power for about 6 hours per day. When the Sun is on low angles, their power drops off sharply and provides little input to the grid. This means that solar power is only available for one quarter of every day and that’s provided it is not an overcast or rainy day. Also there is very little sun in the southern latitudes during winter. The capacity factor for solar in the USA is between 13% and 19%.
The cost of “The Unreliables”. Businesses are forced to use energy sources that are intermittent and expensive. Businesses can’t compete when forced to run this way and job losses follow as businesses close down and move offshore.
The AEMO dashboard provides a daily demand graph and some useful information.
As a by the by, we are much closer to getting nuclear fusion working. This has no CO2 emissions. The loony lefties are even more against nuclear fusion because that is going to fire up industrialisation and the capitalist system. Their sole purpose for this climate change idiot-ology is to de-industrialise the world and kill capitalism.
“The Unreliables” such as wind and solar have major impacts on an electricity grid. There are a range of cost factors that are ultimately borne by the consumer.
- Massive government subsidies and preferential treatment are required to make “The Unreliables” viable. As the biggest investor in the world, Warren Buffett, said: “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”
- Government addition of coal royalties to make coal power unaffordable.
- There’s a 14,000% to 60,000% spike in intraday wholesale dispatch prices as the unreliables kick in and out.
- The huge cost of blackouts when we have peak demand and the Sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
- The cost to keep coal power stations going permanently but not used because the wind is blowing and the Sun is shining and these “must-run” unreliables have total priority.
- The highest demand for power is at the lowest supply from the unreliables. Legislated RETs force more unreliables into the system.
4th February 2019
Brendan Godwin was trained by the RAAF as an electronics and radar technician where he spent 6 years working on radar systems. He was trained by the Bureau of Meteorology BOM in weather observations and general meteorology for service at Mawson in the Antarctic in 1974 as a weather observer and radio technical officer. He spent 10 years as a computer engineer working on large computer systems. His last 30 years were in major account sales selling IT solutions. One such solution was remote monitoring of bearing vibration for the wind turbines as well as the SCADA networks for the solar and wind projects. 240VAC is part of electronics training. Most electronics equipment starts with 240VAC. He is well experienced with 240VAC. His current research into climate science is an extension of his previous work with BOM. Climate being the average of weather. He was motivated to conduct further research when the alarmist stories came out that made no sense.