Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ah, Yes, The Insanity Of Wind Energy -- October 4, 2016

Normally I don't devote a single stand-alone post on a non-Bakken story, but this is too good to pass up.

This is a story about the recent blackout in one of Australia's six states due to:
  • over-reliance on wind energy;
  • sudden volatility in wind energy production; and,
  • resulting grid chaos.
It is also a great lesson for those who do not understand macro-electricity grids.

This was sent to me be a reader, which is much appreciated. One can google the issue and find numerous examples of this craziness. For example: another statewide blackout -- South Australia's wind power disaster continues.
The state of South Australia is more dependent on wind and solar than any other state in Australia. It has about 1,580 MW installed wind capacity. Shortly after 1500 (local time) on September 28, wind energy production went to zero and South Australia suffered from a state-wide black out. The finger-pointing continues. As Paul Homewood (based in England) relates:

“SA’s 18 wind farms have a combined (notional) capacity of 1,580MW.

On 28 September (aka ‘Black Wednesday’), as the wind picked up, output surges by around 900MW, from a trifling 300MW (or 19% of installed capacity) to around 1,200MW.

As we explain below, electricity grids were never designed to tolerate that kind of chaos, but it’s what occurs in the hour before the collapse that matters.

From a peak near 1,200MW, there are drops and surges in output of around 250-300MW (equivalent to having the Pelican Point Combined Cycle Gas plant switched on and off in an instant).

At about 2:30pm there is an almost instantaneous drop of 150MW (1,050 to 900MW), followed by a rapid surge of around 250MW, to hit a momentary peak of about 1,150MW.

Then, in the instant before the blackout, wind power output plummets to around 890MW: a grid killing collapse of 260MW, that occurs in a matter of minutes (it’s all happened before, as we detail below). That 260MW collapse was the deliberate result of an automatic shutdown of the wind farms based in SA’s mid-North, located in the path of the storm front: the final and total collapse in SA’s power supply follows immediately thereafter.”

Will those who advocated wind production stand up?
South Australia's population is about 1.7 million (wiki); it's capital is Adelaide. With about 400,000 square miles, the population density of this state is 4.5 people / square mile. (Compare to North Dakota: 10.7 people per square mile -- this does not include the ever-growing population at Standing Rock Reservation now living in teepees). With only 4.5 people per square mile this state-wide blackout -- if it included Adelaide -- was, at most, I assume, a nuisance, similar to the earthquakes in Oklahoma. 

The interesting thing is that if this occurred during a natural and a national emergency, this is when electricity might be needed most -- like recharging cell phones for emergency personnel responders, and electricity needs for hospitals handling the casualties. If you are on vacation and camping, maybe you don't need electricity, but during natural and national emergencies, in the 21st century, it would be nice to have dependable electricity.

[I did not realize it, but I have a tag for "wind-Australia" suggesting we've covered the Australian wind experience before. LOL.]

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