Thursday, October 6

A new kind of infrastructure required for renewables

The recent costly power failure in South Australia,during extreme weather conditions, highlights the need for a more supportive flexible transmission system able to accommodative fluctuating base supply arising from a greater use of renewables such as wind. The old system which was predicated on a steady base rate supply from coal and gas is ill suited to the current moves into renewables. Instead what is needed is a far more flexible system entailing a greater number of power stations, with back up storage and more transmission lines as we become more dependant on cleaner energy. 

Some days – at least in South Australia there will likely be a lot more solar in the daytime, quite likely up to 100 per cent of daytime demand on occasions. And there will be times when there is a lot less wind. On some days there will be little wind or solar, so the South Australia grid will have to rely on more gas (expensive) or more brown coal from Victoria (dirty and not so cheap) through the inter-connectors. Furthermore theses interconnectors were only designed for a regular flow of energy that could be met through the use of coal or gas and the transmission lines were built to a specification to withstand winds of up to 150kph. The recent extreme weather brought wind gusts approaching or exceeding these limits.

However it's not an insoluble problem facing the Australian states moving to increase renewables in their energy source mix. What is required is a system where base rate loads are spread across all the supply options with supportive infrastructure. Far too much reliance, it would seem, was placed on interconnectors which were never designed for the purpose to which they were expected to operate  under during these recent extreme weather conditions.
This is has been a wake-up call to plan urgently for a new kind of infrastructure required for renewables and to ensure we have in the process a more reliable cleaner energy future.

The fact our Chief Scientist now has to undertake an analysis of what is now needed aptly demonstrates the paucity of prior state planning.        


Tom said...

I note that you do not mention 'nuclear.'

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Tom,
Despite Australia having a long involvement in nuclear science and mining uranium (having the world's largest depositories of uranium) the country oddly enough has never developed a domestic nuclear power industry or a nuclear weapons capability.
We are now informed by the experts it would take several decades before any meaningful contribution could be achieved from the nuclear power plant option and public opinion continues to be against using nuclear. Nuclear does makes a lot of sense but the arguments against have centred on the radioactive waste even though the long term hazards I gather may well be grossly overstated. Australia currently holds only about 4300 cubic metres of waste. It is mainly intermediate and low level radioactive waste.
Best wishes