Will we have enough electricity if the wind doesn't blow today?

Energy Use Australia

The Aneriod website is a great near-real-time source of information on the Australian Energy Market for Eastern Australia.

Noting the recent issues in the South Australian energy market, this graph of a 24 hour period for South Australian wind farms (March 10, 2017) would seem to justify the concerns with variability between almost zero and 800MW in a 9 hour period, making the task of maintaining the grid seem very problematic.

However, the eastern states of Australia benefit from the largest integrated electrical network in the world, allowing for multiple states to share their grids for both surplus and deficiency. AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) is the central operator to which all generators both fossil and renewable bid energy into the market. As noted on the Aneriod website where a weather forecast map link is provided, forecasting is part of the predictive bidding process used by generators such as wind farm operators to estimate how much energy will be able from their asset during a future bidding period.

Of course the wind will never be constant and the sun will never shine all the time, however with multiple sources of base and peaking loads available to vary into the grid together with the increasing renewable assets (and in the near future battery storage), AEMO is able to maintain a stable supply at almost all times. The recent supply issues have had more to do with storm damage in South Australia (SA) and record peak demand in New South Wales (NSW) than supply availability. As there is a significant excess capacity in the grid, large coal fired stations such as Hazelwood (1,600MW) can be closed without the grid failing. AGL Energy has noted that large stations such as Bayswater in NSW (2,460MW) will rarely run at full capacity due to the increasing availability of additional solar and wind assets coming onto the grid. These additional assets include large numbers of roof top solar which provide an ever increasing distributed asset across the grid.

Putting it into perspective, the 800MW change in the wind availability noted in SA is the same as the turning on the SA Torrens Island B power station 100%, or a little more than the capacity of one of the four units of the Victorian Loy Yang A power station. As the availability of wind energy falls at any time, AEMO requests other generators to ramp up generation on other assets to make up the short fall. When the wind starts to blow again, AEMO requests generators to reduce their base load.

All of this equates to a very stable grid where the recent outages came to everyone as a shock because it is so rare to have outages these days.

Do you have an opinion on the recent issues in the Australian energy market?? Leave a comment below..