Doomed Planet

No Gusts, No Glory

Imagine a massive irrigation project to make the deserts bloom with a gigantic network of headworks, dams, irrigation channels and pumping stations to encourage farmers to move in and reap a bountiful harvest of food and fibre from a vast expanse of well-watered countryside. The food will be cheaper too! After all, the water and the land are free.

But there’s is a problem. With the burgeoning infrastructure well advanced, very visible and much bally-hooed by an eagerly unquestioning media it turns out that there isn’t enough water much of the time and the freshly planted seedlings die. The people will not starve because food is still being produced from the farmland that was there before the irrigation scheme started. But now that food is costing twice as much.

Tragically this is not a hypothetical scenario because it applies to the Wind Power Project that was launched to achieve the (upwardly mobile) Renewable Energy Target.

Wind Droughts

There are frequent and prolonged “wind droughts” that we can measure using the output  from some 70 wind farms and over 2000 turbines across South Eastern Australia, all connected to the grid of the National Energy Market and monitored by the Australian Energy Market Operator.

The chart atop this post shows the percentage of the installed capacity of the system that was delivered hour by hour over the month.  The line drawn at 10 per cent indicates the periods when the supply was a tenth or less of the 7.8 Gigawatts of installed capacity.

The low points lasted for 33 hours on the 5th-6th18 hours on the 11th, 16 hours on the 17th, 14  hours on the 26th, 11 hours on the 27th and nine hours on the 28th. There were several other lows of shorter duration, giving total of  13 episodes and much of the time during the low spells the supply was well below 10 per cent,  with lows of 3.4 per cent, 1.1 per cent and 2.3 per cent during the most prolonged “wind droughts.” All the monthly records are available at https://anero.id/energy/wind-energy

Choke Points

Wind droughts cause “choke points” in the supply of electricity to the grid. Consider the supply of air to our lungs. We need a continuous supply of air and when this is interrupted by choking or drowning we are soon dead. The electricity grid also needs a continuous input of power or it will die, at least in parts.

The reason for talking about choke points is to drive home the fact that the critical indicator of the wind supply that we need to monitor is the low points, not the high points, not the total installed capacity and  not the average delivery.

What has happened here?

The “failed irrigation scheme” scenario suggests that ‘someone has blundered, as Tennyson famously wrote in The Charge of the Light Brigade. Was information on the frequency and duration of wind droughts available before the  government decided to back wind power and RE at large with subsidies and mandates to use power from intermittent sources?

Still, regardless of this discovery, all the Australian states are pressing on with ambitious plans to put more resources into the windpower equivalents of irrigation headworks, dams, channels and pumping stations.

Why in Australia, of all places?

Australia is leading the world in the rush to “clean energy” but this is a serious mistake for two other reasons in addition to the problem of wind droughts. First, Australia is an island. Practically every other industrialized country in the world has neighbours to provide power when wind and solar power are in short supply.  European countries can turn to France for nuclear energy, the Scandinavian states for hydro, Poland for coal and Russia for gas. Every kind of power feeds into the North American grid, but in Australia we are on our own.

Second, we have no nuclear power. Isolation would not be such a problem if we had nuclear power.

Please don’t mention batteries and pumped hydro

Elon Musk created a media sensation when he installed a big Tesla battery in South Australia in record time. The big battery has been hailed as a great contribution to the green transition but it is important to realise how small it is compared with the demand of the grid.

It is a remarkable piece of technology, occupying a hectare of space and carrying a price tag of $60 million. It is attached to the Hornsdale No 3 windfarm (100MW rated capacity) and it stores 109 megawat Hours (MWh) of power. That means it can maintain a flow of 100MW from the farm for a little over an hour after the wind stops.

By comparison, the SA grid requires a flow ranging from 1000Mw to 2000MW depending on the time of day. So if the wind stops for an hour the grid needs at least 1000MWh.  How far does 109MWh support the grid in that situation?

Pumped Hydro is the other great hope for storage and the showpiece is Snowy 2.0 that is planned to deliver 2000MW of power continuously, matching a large coal-fired power station such as Bayswater in NSW. In the real world this offers no more  hope than big batteries. For a start, Snowy 2.0 is not a primary generator because  the power that flows from it will come originally from a fleet of  solar and wind farms. It is designed to regulate the lumpy RE input and deliver a steady supply. Unfortunately, between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the original power is lost in the pumping and pipe resistance. The projected cost is enormous, far beyond the original estimate and it may never be built due to the expensive, unforeseen problems in the construction and the damage to the national park.

And if Snowy 2.0 is completed, along with the extra wind turbines to go with it, just 2,000MW of our existing 20,000MW of coal-fired capacity will be replaced. All we need is a few more mountain ranges with reliable rainfall — nine of them, to be precise — to replace the other 18GW of coal power.

In perhaps more urgent need of replacement is a political class as useless as the renewable energy it champions.

12 comments
  • Rafe Champion

    Very nice!
    Someone had to say it:)

  • RB

    I read that the purpose of the battery in SA is not to provide back up power but rather to store energy during the troughs and deliver during the peaks (price-wise) thereby saving money. Seems legit until one acknowledges the costs need not be as high as they are and that they are that high because of inefficient methods of generation. Dodgy as comrade Dan the lot of them.

  • Rafe Champion

    Here you read that it is abuse of language to described the battery in SA as grid scale storage.
    Look at the numbers.
    They claim to be making money by charging the battery at the low point of the price cycle and selling when the price goes high.
    The punters in SA shell out 60 million and the money is “repaid” out of the inflated power price during high demand periods.
    Please stop calling it storage!

  • Helen Armstrong

    Rafe, how long does Snowy 2 provide power after the water runs out down the hill and where does the power come from to pump it back up the hill again?
    Does all this happen at the same time – are there two tunnels one for down and one for up or does it have to take turns in the same tunnel? If the latter surely it would require more than nine such devices to replace all the 20 GW of 24 hour power lost?

  • Elizabeth Beare

    I wonder if Covid-19 might not at least induce a little more scepticism about some of the warmist modelling projections and a political desire to pedal back on the energy-deficient initiatives of CO2 abatement. I take a little heart on this because I do know some in the younger generation, raised on these lies, are now looking at articles questioning the Covid-19 models and asking why some have been so bad. Yes, it’s rather like the global warming hoax, I say to them with the wisdom of age, adding my tuppence worth (which was all it was worth in my youth anyway).
    Some action on coal fired power would be very good to see soon.

  • Rafe Champion

    Good question Helen, I should know the answer but don’t off the top of my head. It will not be hard to find but I have to be dedicated to windwatching right now!

  • T B LYNCH

    Archea figured out that life depends on electricity 3 billion years ago.
    Making a living deriving 1/10 volt from inorganic molecules.
    Like N2 H2 and CO in the hydrothermal vents.
    One day a daughter entrepreneur invented a antenna to harvest 2 volts from light.
    Escaped to the ocean surface and multiplied enormously.
    But there is no light at night.
    So a granddaughter experimenter invented RUBISCO to STORE the electricity.
    As sugar [coal oil etc] and oxygen.
    This had the side effect of depleting the air of carbon dioxide.
    Ensuring the 3 billion year survival of life on Earth, the only living planet.
    By getting rid of the 200,000 times as much volcanic CO2 on hellhouse Venus.
    But RUBISCO is running out of carbon dioxide.
    In response RUBISCO has become the commonest protein in the Universe.
    And is struggling to process 3 molecules of carbon dioxide per second.
    RUBISCO needs Humans to help by getting CO2 back up to normal.
    Ten times the present level.
    The same level as on frozen Mars.

  • T B LYNCH

    If Archea could speak English
    Then they would say
    Get with it folks
    There are 200,000,000 volts available in Uranium
    As discovered by Hahn and Meitner in 1938.

  • ianl

    >” … it [Snowy 2.0] may never be built due to the expensive, unforeseen problems in the construction …”

    Not unforseen. The geology of metamorphosed, intruded, faulted, jointed, folded mountain ranges with high annual rainfall is well known as complex and presenting difficult engineering conditions. No surprise – the geological reports and experience from Snowy 1.0 have been in the public domain for some time now (understatement).

    Sorry Rafe Champion, but scientifically illiterate articles simply do not help, despite the very best of intentions. Doubtless we will suffer from a badly impaired power grid (we do already), but the aim of the RE agenda is to reduce demand, not increase supply.

  • Rafe Champion

    Of course, demand management is rationing in disguise.
    Increasing the cost and reducing the supply when we could have the most abundant and cheapest power in the world.
    I am not sure where you stand on this issue ianl, would you like to elaborate?
    Do you see Snowy2.0 as a worthwhile project, I can’t tell from your comment.
    Of course there is information in the public domain, the question is, how well has it been used in the planning? Old Snowy hands who were involved in some preliminary discussion walked away shaking their heads. Their experience was not welcome at the table.

  • T B LYNCH

    Dear Rafe, I wouldnt worry about ianl. He is a geologist who makes his money consulting to Communist Chinese Mining Companies. In the comments section of Darryl McCann on “Emperor Xi has no Clothes” of 2 May 2020, he labelled me “scientifically illiterate”, in relation to my opinion on the probability that Wuflu escaped from the Wuhan virus lab [as a biological warfare bungle]. I was shocked. So next day I replied, demonstrating that ianl is one of Xis Useful Idiots, and a master of condensing an enormous amount of misinformation into one short jumble of big words.
    In reality, I discovered the cure for amoebic meningitis, in 1971, in a real aboriginal boy from Mount Morgan, using a pore forming antibiotic, intrathecal amphotericin B. This was one year after the New England Journal of Medicine, published a review of amoebic meningitis, stating that it was “Uniformly Fatal and without Hope of Therapy”. Just shows that experts cant predict the future [or the past in Wuhan].
    For an encore, I discovered the 32 base pair frameshift deletion, in the Chemokine Family of Cellular Receptors, in a homozygous caucasian patient from Barcaldine, as the result of screening my 4 million patients for novel cellular antigens, and thus made the Scientific Breakthrough of the Year for 1996. This mutation is the basis of natural immunity to HIV, and the only certain cure to date, Timothy Brown in Berlin a decade ago.
    Dr T B Lynch.

  • gardner.peter.d

    I read some technical reports by engineers following the blackout in South Australia. The gist was, if I recall correctly, that the modifications to the grid required to enable it to support large fluctuating inputs from wind and solar were very high indeed. The policy to go green was got through government and parliament only by ignoring these costs. So they weren’t budgeted and thus the Feds had to bail out SA.
    A point on Europe. UK is going insanely green. Nobody in government or parliament bothers to ask the engineers but again it is clear that the required changes to the electricity grid have not been taken into account. the grid is simply incapable of supporting a green energy policy committed to zero CO2 emissions by 2030, 2050 or any other date. Some of it is simple. Domestic supplies will not support green vehicles in every home. New cables will be required to every household. All driveways will be dug up to install them. The main distribution grid lines can’t support the demand from nearly every household charging one or two vehicles every night. The various safety and regulatory devices and controls built into the grid will need to be upgraded. Then there is the question of materials. The known reserves of the rare earths needed to make batteries, motors, generators etc are insufficient to meet UK’s demand let alone the rest of the world’s. UK sits atop a huge reserve of gas that could be released by fracking. Coal under UK gave it the industrial revolution. Fracked gas could give it a second industrial revolution. But it is not politically correct and virtually banned.
    Every infrastructure project has to align with this insane policy. Any that arguably do not do so completely or have not adequately applied EU and UK climate policies and objectives, are denied planning permission or, if permission were granted, struck down in the courts.
    I voted for Boris despite his green religion, believing Boris was just saying all this stuff to please green voters and that he accepted it would not actually materialise and nothing would come of it. Alas, non, mes amis. UK is now committed by law to achieving something that is impossible by all the laws of physics and engineering infeasibility, no matter how much dosh is poured into it.
    Just possibly a new generation of nuclear reactors could be developed. But the greenies will be persuaded to accept this after the point when the damage caused by wind and solar is so bad even they will have to admit it doesn’t work.

    As for Europe, or more accurately the EU which is NOT Europe, It has a great problem. It is utterly dependent on Russian natural gas. Putin has it by the short and curlies. this is a result of the failure of germany’s Energiewind. Merkel not only stuffed up over Ukraine and the Crimea and mass immigration but also over green energy. In order to spite the USA under Trump the EU also sides with China against the USA and with anyone against Israel. So far the UK has broadly followed EU policies because it has no choice as a member. Likewise during this so called transition period lasting until 31 December 2020 – longer if the Remoaners/Rejoiners get their way. China has UK by the short and curlies as supplier with France of its nuclear power generation projects and at least for a while, 5G telecoms.
    The utter incompetence of governments that seem wholly unconnected with reality is beyond belief. Too many Western governments now are a danger to democracy and to world peace. they rarely do good. Most of their activity actually does more harm than good. the big question is how to cut their budgets. In UK more people are net beneficiaries of the state purse than pay their way, so the battle is all but lost – the majority will now almost always vote for more government spending and interference and control. In Australia this is not yet the case. It is up to Australia to curtail government even further and show the way.

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