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SA Blackout: a grid crippled by complexity

South Australia suffered it’s fifth blackout in five months last week. The AEMO report on that incident came out today. There are lots of faults, errors and small problems, and one overriding theme — it’s too complex:

  1. AEMO (Grid market managers) thought they’d have more wind power. It fell to only 2% of “total output.”
  2. There was a computer glitch which “load shed” more people than necessary. Oops. SA Power Network apologized today.
  3. Demand was higher than expected.
  4.  The gas plant generators at Port Lincoln were ““not available due to a communications system problem”. (Whatever that means.) That was 73MW out of action.
  5. One turbine at Torrens Gas plant was out for maintenance (120MW gone). Another was running 50MW low because of the heat. (Seriously, these machines operate at hundreds of degrees and work at 35C but not so well at 42C? (Or whatever it was). Color me skeptical. Perhaps some grid engineers can comment and tell us if this is normal?

So in a modern renewable grid we have variations in supply and demand that are of the order of the average grid load and at the whim of The Wind. What could possibly go wrong?

Finally the SA Liberals are talking about maybe, possibly, could be, saving the old coal plant:

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said on Friday the Government must do everything it could to “press the pause button” on the demolition of Port Augusta’s Northern Power Station and take nothing off the table in its quest for energy security.

“Maybe the infrastructure at Port Augusta can be used for new technology, what we’re saying is don’t take anything off the table,” he said.

The SA Energy Minister is still promising “dramatic intervention” but not saying what that will be.

The SA Premier is blaming AEMO – the market operator.

“Mr Weatherill said on Thursday he had concluded the state had been abandoned by the national electricity market and he was preparing plans for SA “to take control of our own future”.”

The Solution?

The word is the solution might be an interconnector (hands up who has a spare billion dollars?) but the SA gov is still hoping for a a new gas plant and has offered the carrot of a bulk deal with the public sector for who ever wins that tender.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said the State Government must underwrite a new gas power station to deliver energy security and lower prices for consumers.

Why should taxpayers have to pay for the energy and also pay for the investment risk? It doesn’t have to be this way. Gradually the complex, fragile grid “needs” more and more centralized control. Pretty soon the government will set supply, demand, pay for generation (and compensate for non-generation), and underwrite the investments — it’s that creeping communist-style takeover of our energy.

Weatherill talks about “controlling their own future” but even Malcolm Turnbull can see the absurdity of that. SA is more dependent than ever on brown coal in Victoria.

AEMO:  full report on the SA Feb 2017 Blackout

h.t Pat, David B

BACKGROUND to the SA Electricity crisis (all the links).

People saw The South Australian black out coming. There were warnings that the dominance of renewables made it vulnerable. Then when it came, it all fell over in a few seconds — read the gruesome details of how fast a grid collapses: Three towers, six windfarms and 12 seconds to disaster. Ultimately the 40% renewable SA grid is crippled by complexity.   The AEMO Report blames renewables: The SA Blackout was due to lack of “synchronous inertia”.  The early estimates suggest the blackout costs South Australia at least $367m, plus their normal electricity is twice the price, and there are reserve shortfalls coming in January 2018 (pray for a cool summer). Welcome to the future of unreliable electricity: Rolling blackouts ordered in SA in 40C heat. And  more bad luck for South Australia, yet another blackout, 300 powerlines down, 125,000 homes cut off.  See all the posts on and  .


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