If you live in Australia, and you’re reading this post, you’re doing so thanks to coal. If you don’t like it, shut your device down now. The electricity that’s powering it, your home, the internet, etc, etc isn’t coming from sunshine and breezes. It’s coming from a coal-fired power plant. So, deal with it!
Over 20 years, after more than $20 billion in subsidies to wind and solar, their actual contribution to power demand in this Country remains risible. When power demand peaks, and supply really matters, the trivial amount of electricity offered up by wind and solar is little more than a rounding error.
All those windmills and all those solar panels rarely muster up one whole percentage point, when it counts. Coal-fired power, on the other hand, just keeps on keeping on. Delivering affordable power, whatever the weather.
Here’s a few hard numbers from Anton Lang on just what it is that keeps on powering Australia [for eco-zealots this post comes with a trigger warning: the answer is ‘coal’].
At peak time intermittent renewables often make less than 2% of total Australian electricity
Jo Nova Blog
25 July 2018
When power is required the most, wind and solar are missing almost entirely. This isn’t cherry picking of one time — peak time is the most important time on the grid, when the most power is required. The almost non-existent contribution from renewables is so common it has occurred now for seven days out of the last 14 days.
I’ve been doing a series on the Australian generation and demand curves on a daily basis for seven weeks, the totals are settling down, so that now the percentage changes are only in tenths of a percent, and consider that when it comes to total power and coal fired power, a tenth of one percent is 600MegaWattHours, so at that end of the scale, small is actually large, if you can see that.
At the moment, after 10 weeks, coal fired power is delivering 72.37% of all power, and wind is delivering only 6.16% of all generated power. I have all the percentages, but those two are the ones of most importance. Wind power has just had a very good week (for wind), but in the end, coal fired power is still delivering more than 3 times the total for every renewable power source in the country.
You might wonder why I haven’t mentioned solar power here, because ALL the solar plants, (not rooftop solar) only generate 0.38% of the required power, so just a tick above nothing at all.
The main evening peak occurs at 5.30 to 6PM, when power consumption is always at its greatest when people come home, cook dinner, throw on the washing and have showers. (Note here the time, 5.30/6PM, so the Sun has set and there is ZERO power from any solar power plant, and also ZERO power from any rooftop solar installation as well). It’s that one point in time when a large supply of power is at its most critical, so now look at this data for seven days of 14 days in the middle of winter. Wind has had a poor time of it lately, due to those High Pressure weather systems hovering over the area where there is the largest concentration of wind plants, hence very little pressure gradients for wind, and they are in South Australia and Victoria.
Here’s a sample of seven of those 14 midwinter days at 6pm peak power time:
- Wednesday 20 June – Peak power – 29680MW. Wind power – 500MW. Total from wind and solar – 1.7%
- Thursday 21 June – Peak – 29950MW. Wind – 100MW. Total from wind and solar – 0.33%
- Monday 25 June – Peak – 30870MW. Wind – 170MW. Total from wind and solar – 0.48%
- Tuesday 26 June – Peak – 30600MW. Wind – 340MW. Total from wind and solar – 1.1%
- Wednesday 27 June – Peak – 30480MW. Wind – 340MW. Total from wind and solar – 1.1%
- Thursday 28 June – Peak – 30400MW. Wind – 450MW. Total from wind and solar – 1.5%
- Sunday 01 July – Peak – 28190MW. Wind – 200MW. Total from wind and solar – 0.7%
There were three other days when it was between 2% and 3%, but these are the seven lowest. This is all wind, as the Sun has set and in winter, solar is useless at 6pm.
So, when power is required the most, wind and solar are missing almost entirely. The point here is that even though the country is consuming the most electricity it actually can consume, on those 14 days, almost ALL OF IT was actually being delivered from coal fired power, natural gas fired power, and hydro power.
From the low point of 0.3% (100MW of that Peak) to the high point of 2%, (600MW) is between one and three units at a gas plant just waiting for the call already to ‘fire up’. The fact that those three main sources have already proved they can handle it is an indictment on the total and utter uselessness of wind power, solar power, and rooftop solar power.
Coal power just keeps going, while hydro and gas are volatile depending on wind generation
There was something I noticed after a week or two of doing it, and that was that whatever wind power did, up, or down, it had no effect at all on what coal fired power was supplying. At first I thought it may have been an anomaly or a short term thing, but after seven weeks now, it is in fact the case.
Wind power varies wildly on a daily basis, but coal fired power just kept delivering within its close range of power generation, no matter what.
What they were using as an ‘adjustment’ factor was natural gas fired power, and also hydro power as well. So, if wind power was up, then those other two were down, and when wind power was down, then those other two were up. And coal fired power stayed (virtually) the same. You might think that (keeping in mind that I said earlier that with coal fired power, big can ‘look’ small) any change would be subject to ‘scale’, but here I’m talking of wind varying by sometimes hundreds and more MW, and the other two the same also, but coal fired power only changed by perhaps one hundred MW up or down, so nothing really. The confirmation came on two days last week, the Thursday and Friday, and look at these figures, and these are the average power delivery per hour across the day.
Thursday coal fired power – 18600MW and wind power – 710MW
Friday coal fired power – 18500MW and wind power 2450MW, and overall power generation was 300MW lower at an average of 25200MW per hour.
So, while overall power consumption was ever so slightly lower, wind power was up by 1740MW , and coal fired power only changed by 100MW, and while this one is the most obvious, all the other changes also reflect very little change for coal fired power when wind power varies so wildly on that daily basis.
TonyFromOz series on daily Australian power supply and demand. The Latest week results, (week 10) and there will be a new one next Monday.
Jo Nova Blog
When Anton Lang talks about “wind varying by sometimes hundreds and more MW”, he flatters it. Wind power output frequently surges in magnitudes of 1,000-3,000 MW across the Eastern Grid, and collapses, without much warning, by equally precipitous magnitudes (see the graphic at the start of this post).
The pathetic performance of Australia’s fleet of whirling wonders, detailed above, relates to the Eastern Grid (which excludes WA and the NT).
On the Eastern Grid, Australia’s wind farms are located in 4 States – Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and NSW – and spread from: Hornsdale in the Mid-North, west to Cathedral Rocks on lower Eyre Peninsula and south to Millicent in the South-East of South Australia; down to Cape Portland (Musselroe) and Woolnorth (Cape Grim) in Tasmania; all over Victoria; and in New South Wales, at Broken Hill in the far west, and right up to Glen Innes in the New England Ranges.
There are over 1,800 turbines in 80 odd wind farms (which range from 20-30 turbine clusters right up to the largest collection of 140 at Macarthur in Western Victoria) – that are spread out over a geographical expanse of 961,335 km².
That’s an area which is 4.19 times the combined area of England (130,395 km²) Scotland (78,387 km²) and Wales (20,761 km²) of 229,543 km². Or 1.75 times the 551,394 km² covered by France.
With the help of Aneroid Energy, we’ll finish up with snapshot of their performance over the last few months. As you read on, bear in mind that 200 MW amounts to a trifling 4% of total capacity.