The Green Road to Blackouts

by Viv Forbes

California leads the way to electricity blackouts, closely followed by South Australia.

They both created this problem by taxing, banning, delaying or demolishing reliable coal, nuclear, gas or hydro generators while subsidising and promoting unreliable electricity from the sickly green twins – solar and wind. All supposed to solve a global warming crisis that exists only in academic computer models.

Energy policy should be driven by proven reliability, efficiency and cost, not by green politics.

Wind and solar will always be prone to blackouts for three reasons.

Firstly they are intermittent, producing zero power when winds drops or sunlight fails.

Secondly, green energy is dilute so the collection area must be huge. Both solar panels and wind turbines are old technologies and now close to collecting the maximum energy from a given land area of wind and sun, so limited technology gains are possible. Wind turbines generate nothing from gentle breezes and must shut down in gales. To collect more energy the green twins must collect from greater areas using a widespread scatter of panels and towers connected by a fragile network of roads and transmission lines. This expensive, extensive but flimsy system is far more susceptible to damage from cyclones, hail, snow, lightning, bushfire, flood and sabotage than a big, well-built, centrally-located, well-maintained traditional power station with strong walls, a roof and lightning protection. Green energy also requires far more investment in transmission lines and inter-connectors that consumers must pay for, and the energy transmission losses are greater.

Canberra Solar Panels after a hail storm.
Where do we dispose of defunct and abandoned solar panel and wind turbine waste?
Solar Generation after a Storm in Puerto Rico.
Greens also worship expansion of unmanaged forests which then threaten flimsy power lines with falling trees and raging bushfires

Tornados, Cyclones and Lightning also demolish wind turbines:

Thirdly, green energy is like a virus in a distribution network.

When the sun shines, solar energy floods the network, causing energy prices to plummet. Coal and gas plants are forced to operate at a cash loss or shut down. Erratic winds make this problem worse as they are less predictable and changes can be quicker. But when all green energy fails suddenly, like in an evening peak demand period after a still cold sunset, coal cannot ramp up quickly unless it has been kept on standby with boilers hot, waiting for an opportunity to generate some positive cash flow. Gas and hydro can fire up swiftly but who wants to own/build/maintain an expensive fair-dinkum power station that operates intermittently?

Currently hydro, or stop-start gas turbines on standby, or coal generators fired up but not generating are keeping Australian lights on during green energy blackouts. But no one will build new reliable generators to operate part-time. Soon we will have day-time where there is heaps of electricity producing no profit for any generator, and night-time when electricity prices will soar and blackouts will threaten.

Authorities have their solution – rationing. They will use a blackout crisis to grab the power to dictate rolling blackouts of whole suburbs, areas or factories or selective consumer blackouts using smart meters.

Naturally Green “engineers” also have a solution – “More Big Batteries”.

There are many contestants in the battery growth “industry” including pumped hydro, lithium batteries, compressed air, big flywheels, hydrogen storage, capacitors and molten salt. They all need to be able to cope with a few days without wind-solar, which makes them huge and expensive. And all are net consumers of energy as they go through the charge/discharge cycle.

Half-tonne Li/Co/Pb batteries are huge consumers of energy – energy for exploring/mining/refining metals and for concrete, battery manufacture, transport and construction; energy to charge them and absorb the inevitable losses in the charge/discharge cycle; energy to build battery warehouses and finally energy to recycle/bury worn-out batteries (which wear out far quicker than coal, gas, hydro or nuclear power stations).

Few people consider the extra generating capacity needed to maintain charged batteries. Solar energy at best delivers power for about 8 hours per day when there is no cloud, smoke or dust in the air. So a solar array needs batteries with a capacity of twice name-plate capacity just to cover the hours of darkness, every day. These batteries then need extra generating capacity to charge them during daylight hours.

But a solar system also needs to be able to cope with up to 7 days of cloudy weather. This needs 7 times more batteries plus the generating capacity to charge them.

The Big Battery in South Australia has a capacity of 150 MWh and cost $160m. It would supply South Australian electricity for between a few minutes maybe a couple of hours depending on demand. It would supply the East Coast grid for maybe 20 seconds.

184 Tesla Giga-factories would be required
to produce sufficient lithium-ion batteries
to power the world for one day.”

Australian Government, Office of The Chief Scientist, October 2016

No matter whether the battery is stored hydrogen or pumped hydro, the cost to stabilise 100% green energy would be prohibitively expensive. Before we leap over this green cliff, those who claim otherwise must be obliged to demonstrate a working pilot plant without coal, gas or diesel.

Wind power suffers the same problems but is far less predictable. Wind droughts are a common feature. At times wind turbines drain electricity from the grid.

To maintain grid stability, the generators must charge batteries which can then supply a steady stream of electricity to the grid. This requires many more transmission lines and battery connections.

At this point the maths/costs of zero-emissions with 100% solar/wind become preposterous. And the ecological disruption becomes enormous.

When Danish windmills stand silent, they import hydro power from Scandinavia. When German solar panels are covered in snow, they import nuclear electricity from France. And California can draw power from Canada.

But Australia is an island. When the grid fails, Tasmanian hydro or New Zealand geo-thermal are the closest reliable-energy neighbours.

The looming Covid Depression has no room for more green energy silliness. We cannot afford to mollycoddle an aging failing technology. A hard dangerous new world is coming. To survive we will need cheap reliable energy – coal, gas, nuclear or hydro.

Further Reading:

California Declares Blackout State Of Emergency:

Thanks to Green Energy Mandates, California’s Electric Grid Is Near Collapse:

Blackouts loom in South Australia:

Australians pay $1300 per family to prop up green energy:

Beginning of the End for Wind Industry:

Blackouts in Germany:

Shadows over Greentopia:

The Green Elephant in the Snowy:

Toxic Waste from Green Energy;

10 thoughts on “The Green Road to Blackouts”

  1. Viv
    Fourth reason:

    I’m no engineer but I understand that there is a synchronicity problem with ‘renewables’ in that the voltage is variable and upsets the grid creating instability, whereas a base load power station does not have these problems.

  2. Well summarized Viv. Says it all. The utter futility of the Green Energy ‘Unreliables’ of wind & solar technology that are driving up our energy costs whilst driving down our energy reliability.

    In the absence of empirical evidence proving the case against CO2 , Australia (& for that matter countries around the globe) need a new Energy Policy that’s;

    • Technology neutral (eg inclusive of fossils fuels, hydro, the ‘Unreliables’ of wind & solar, Bio-mass, batteries etc & must include the nuclear option.)
    • No subsidies.
    • Generators to employ their own technology of choice (ie; use what-ever they prefer in a free, fully transparent, competitive environment).
    • Market based. Generators simply contract in advance (24h bid) in response to offers from the AEMO to meet ‘next day’ forecast power demand at their best competitive price.
    • Substantial financial penalties to apply to generators for ANY failure to meet their contracted bid / offer that must meet clearly defined 100% QOS standards (not withstanding force majeure in the unlikely event of natural disasters eg earth quakes, floods & bushfires etc).

    If the power generating industry doesn’t like those T’s & C’s, tough. Just revert back to respective State Governments (where it was originally) & be done with it. Easy.

  3. Keep up the good work Viv. We need to keep challenging the insanity of the greens energy policies which impoverish the most vulnerable poorest citizens of the world. I’m a small but regular financial contributor.
    My great friend Ray Evans, sadly deceased would also have been proud of the work you do as would the Lavoisier society.

    Warmest Nicholas Finney

  4. Viv Forbes is correct as usual.

    Not only does South Australia ‘lead the way’ with blackouts, it now ranks as one of the worlds most expensive (and unreliable) electricity suppliers.

    This is madness, taking Australia from what was one of the cheapest suppliers of electricity, based substantially on coal, to one of the dearest now.

    Electricity is built into everything we produce making us significantly less competitive in the dynamic world marketplace.

    This at a time of rising tariffs and difficulties with our biggest trading partner, China, and an increasing desire as a result to become more manufacturing self-sufficient.

    This attempt will be seriously hampered by the unsubstantiated, populist mantra of renewables, wind and solar, that need to be exposed for the damaging, inefficient, expensive and wasteful sham that they are.

    Well done Viv.

  5. Quote:
    “Half-tonne Li/Co/Pb batteries are huge consumers of energy – energy for exploring/mining/refining metals and for concrete, battery manufacture, transport and construction; energy to charge them and absorb the inevitable losses in the charge/discharge cycle; energy to build battery warehouses and finally energy to recycle/bury worn-out batteries (which wear out far quicker than coal, gas, hydro or nuclear power stations).”

    Add in:
    Don’t forget the parasitic losses from air-conditioning systems designed to keep the industrial scale batteries cool so they don’t catch fire!

  6. Good article ; it focuses on the deficiencies and true cost of Wind and solar. Part of the current high costs of electrical energy is brought about by the Federal Government subsidising Renewables.. As with manufacturing, any business enterprise needs to be self sufficient; viable in cost/profit terms. The reality is that if subsidies were eliminated, then any provider based on Renewables must be obligated to provide power during null energy-producing periods. To underscore this, periods of prolonged rain and calm days are NOT rare events; meaning that provision of adequate power during these times requires backup facilities. Our communities have an expectation of reliable, continuous power.

    There is only one viable hybrid solution as I see it. That is Pumped Hydro. I envisage facilities where high level water storage capacity is such that on release, adequate power could be planned to cover a worst case scenario time-wise. The beauty of this is that any surplus energy from solar wind farms could conceivably could be expended pumping water up to the high level storage.

    There is a focus on developing more water storage infrastructure projects. Where possible if these included high level dams, it may be feasible to have a power production component as well as the prime use of water in irrigation for agriculture.

  7. A solar system needs to be able to cope with up to months and years to rebuild after a storm. Forget the 7 days of cloudy if you do not deal with the months and years after a storm or war or even damage by just one angry person.

    The assets are spread out over huge areas that cannot be protected.

  8. You should read Peter Lang’s work on this. From years ago, Engineering reality doesn’t change, just the BS justifying what can’t work in fact.


    I have done similar sums for the UK where hydro/pumped storage opportunities are very limited. Interestingly the cost of storing the energy is roughly the same, £50B /TWh on my numbers. But pumped storage lasts longer than batteries, 60 years vs. 8 for Li-Ion, say., so works out cheaper pa as an incremental cost. Because the stored energy is so diffuse the amount of material and space involved is massive. Lots of Sydney harbour sized lakes at the top AND bottom. All incremental cost added to the already expensive energy. You also need roughly 200% over generation when the sun is shining to cover the duty cycle when the sun don’t shine. And you could just generate all you need on demand with clean low CO2 gas cover for the variable demand and no CO2 nuclear for the base load, cheapest of all.

    Both have the added advantage that the steam turbines and geberators provide the grid with frequency stability due to their huge rotating mass, the exces demand literally has to slow the connected turbines connected to the grid to make the frequency drop. Renewables use more delicate solid state electronics with no inertia so don’t. They also have hair triggers as they are easilly damaged than the heavy metal. So you have to have batteries or inertia farms…… spinning masses, more expense to fix a self imposed problem you didn’t need to have to meet the energy need in real time at zero or low CO2.

    So an increasingly intermittently powered renewable grid (‘ceptin hydro) becomes very sensitive to perturbations and blackouts become much more likely. If some capacity goes off line suddenly and perturbs the grid solar farm thyristor controlled electronics will trip in a cycle, less than a heart beat, not the many seconds turbine inertia delivers, as the grid has to physically brake the massive turbines for the effect to reduce the frequency to a trip level. The stored energy in the spinning mass gives time to bring in short term back up back up and fire up a serious CCGT power station. I wrote a paper on this once, for the UK. The IET didn’t want to publish it in the Journal ofvGenration, Transmission and Distribution because it didnot have any original research in it” AS it is clear from its position on energy policy that the IET does not understand electrical engineering fundamentals this is a bit rich..

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