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Casualties on the road to Net Zero Emissions

INDEX

20.1 The Choke Point – when the wind fails and the grid dies.
20.2 Four Icebergs in the Path of Renewables – Titanic
20.3 The Island Effect
20.4 This is a warning to all leaders.
20.5 Lessons from the Californian Blackouts
20.6 Planning the Green Energy Transition. The AEMO Integrated System Plan
21.1 A Review of the CSIRO Gencost study
21.2 Environment Destruction – The Dark Side of Renewable Energy
21.3  Australia is Probably a Carbon Sink
21.4 Firming Wind Farms with Batteries

 

These items were originally written as briefing notes to politicians, with the format used in the NSW Department of Health to provide concise advice to the Minister. There is a short facing page that signals the purpose of the communication, the background, the critical issues and the recommendation. The briefing note proper follows, with a maximum length of three pages to convey essential supporting information to justify the recommendation. This could be as simple as “Note the information” or as significant as “Start planning a new hospital”. More supporting papers could be attached in the rare event that a major input of detailed information was required.

The first note 20.1 was sent in March 2020  and 21.1 is the first note in 2021.

Introduction

Why Wind Power Won’t Work

 The road to net zero is a road to ruin of the environment, family budgets & the economy. Butchered wildlife, blackouts and bankruptcy.

All is not lost, the champions of energy realism are on the job

We are not from the government but we are here to help. We have people with lifelong experience in the power industry and related disciplines to offer informed advice to politicians as an alternative to the instructions that they take from green bureaucrats, industry lobbies and the wreckers of radical environmentalism.

In Australia we are uniquely situated to demonstrate the futility of the rush to unreliable energy. We are leading the world in the rate of growth of our solar and wind facilities but we have crippling disadvantages in the race to net zero emissions..

We have system planners committed to decarbonization regardless of other considerations.

We have no nuclear power and there is strong resistance to it in the Labor Party and the Greens.

We are an island nation so we cannot run extension cords to neighbours. We cannot offload excess power some of the time and obtain extra power at other times when we are short.

We have serious and prolonged wind droughts, but they are invisible to the planners who work on the average delivery from intermittent systems.

South Australia is the jewel in the crown of the Renewable Energy movement (RE). They set a new standard in virtue signalling by blowing up their last significant coal power station to show the world that they are serious. They are looking forward to generating more than 100% of their local demand from wind and solar power and to becoming a powerhouse in the hydrogen revolution.

South Australia is the wind leader, “the RE powerhouse of Australia.”  And the result? Practically every morning and evening they import power from Victoria where there is still enough coal power to provide over 60% of their requirements. Hot breakfasts in the wind-leading state depend on spare conventional power in Victoria and considerable local capacity from gas.

 A fire in a South Australian gas-fired power plant on the evening of Friday 12th of March 2021 provided a glimpse of the future for Australia without reliable conventional power.

 The Heywood interconnector, which links South Australia to Victoria, had only half of its supply available due to a planned week-long outage, while the combined contribution from wind and large-scale solar fell as low as 2 per cent of the state’s installed capacity.

 Several emergency generators were called into action and a hugely volatile period of pricing ensued over the following six hours to midnight, with 28 pricing dispatch intervals exceeding $10,000/MWh, according to data from consultancy GlobalRoam. The Australian, 15/03/2021

South Australia is bailed out by power from Victoria practically every day but the threat of early closure of the brown coal power plant at  Yallourn has advance the day of reckoning by some years. No doubt that is why South Australia is desperate for an interconnector to NSW to provide access to Queensland coal power. NSW is of little help because most of the time they have to import from Victoria and Queensland.

The Mission of the Energy Realists

Our mission is to explain why the rush to zero emissions in Australia cannot work with existing storage technology.

It really comes down to the reliability of wind power because the sun is off duty more than 12 hours out of 24. In the evening the power supply depends on the intermittent wind and the dwindling supply of conventional power as the coal plants reach the end of their working lives and are phased out.

At present South Eastern Australia has enough conventional power, overwhelmingly from coal, to meet demand almost all the time. But the situation has been precarious since Hazelwood power station closed in 2017. That was the latest  in a series of closures that progressively reduced our coal-fired power capacity by 25%. The situation will become critical when Liddell, a coal fired power station in New South Wales closes early in 2021. Then, for the first time the unreliable twins of wind and solar power will be required to make a serious contribution to meet peaks of demand on a daily basis.

Providing power at the peaks of demand

When there is no longer enough conventional power to serve the peaks of demand at breakfast and dinnertime the critical question is, can solar and wind power step up to keep the lights on? Little or no solar power is available at the start and end of the day, so it is essentially up to wind power to deliver.

There are several reasons why wind power cannot be guaranteed to provide the necessary contribution. We describe these reasons as “icebergs” in the path of the “Renewable Energy Titanic.” These are wind droughts, the “choke point problem”, our lack of nuclear power, inadequate grid-scale storage and the fact that Australia is an island.

Those issues and others including the environmental impact of carbon mitigation strategies and the rapidly emerging crisis of grid stability are being treated in a series of briefing notes for politicians, journalists and anyone else who is interested in the cost and security of our electricity supply.

Wind droughts

Everyone knows that no solar power is generated at night, except for a period in Spain when enterprising solar “farmers” shone powerful lights on the solar PV panels at night because the price of the solar power was greater than the cost of diesel generation to power the lights.

The phenomenon of wind droughts is less well-known. But the evidence is clear in the wind power data collated by AEMO, the Australian Energy Market Operator. Windless or near windless conditions can last for 24  hours or more. And of course when there is little or no wind in the night, there is next to no renewable energy supply.

In June 2020 the wind power generation across SE Australia dropped to a critically low level (under 10% of the potential or maximum production) on numerous occasions with the longest periods lasting 33 hours, 18 hours, 16 hours and 14 hours respectively. At the very lowest points the supply was less than 2% of the installed capacity of the wind fleet.

Wind energy production during June 2020

The “choke point” at the minimum level of wind supply.

Advocates of wind power talk all the time about the installed capacity of wind farms because we are leading the world in the rate of increase in the installed capacity of wind and solar power.

That is seriously misleading because the sustainability of RE depends on level of supply when the sun is off duty during a wind drought.
Think about the way our lungs need a continuous supply of air and when that is interrupted by choking or drowning then the result is usually fatal in five or ten minutes.

Similarly the electricity grid needs a continuous and reliable input of power to match demand and if the input is interrupted or seriously reduced the result if likely to be fatal for the grid or parts of it. That in turn will be catastrophic and in some cases fatal for people who depend on the stability of the power supply for facilities like electric trains, traffic lights,  lifts, ATM machines, petrol bowsers and supermarket checkout terminals.

The amount of installed capacity of wind power is a very misleading indicator because at the low point of a wind drought it is irrelevant, like the size of the petrol tank of your car when there is no petrol in it. Other images to capture the significance of the lowest point are the flood protection levee and the castle wall. In the case of the levee the water will enter the lowest point and similarly the enemy will walk through a hole in the wall instead of attacking the higher parts of the defences. As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

No nuclear power.

Whilst nuclear power is “green” and we have massive reserves of uranium for export , Australia does not use it to produce power. The worldwide campaign against nuclear power in the 1970s and ‘80s was particularly successful in Australia and it was banned by Government legislation. Public opinion is moving towards acceptance of nuclear power but there are still misguided concerns about the safety issues in parts of the community. In any case it will be decades away even after it becomes legal.

The island effect.

We have no neighbours on the end of an extension cord to help when the wind is low and the sun is off duty. It tends to work office hours like most people😊. We are almost unique among developed nations because we have no nuclear power and no access to neighbours with mixed supplies of power, including nuclear power, to supplement our local supply.

Inadequate grid-scale storage.

So-called big or even humongous batteries are supposed to provide storage but their capacity is trivial compared with the amount of power required to fill the troughs between the peaks of RE generation. Pumped hydro is on the way but the Snowy2.0 is not a generator, it just recycles 60% of energy that is generated by other sources.

Modelling indicates that input from 8GW of wind power (the amount of capacity we have at present) could enable Snowy2.0 to almost replace one large power station with a steady flow of power. However that is only a very small step towards replacing all the coal power stations and there is nowhere that is suitable for another project on that scale.

Environmental impact.

This is not an obstacle like the icebergs but it should be a consideration if the people who want to save the planet with RE are prepared to demonstrate their credentials as environmentalists. For some strange reason the catastrophic damage that “carbon mitigation” strategies are inflicting on the planet is mostly “off the record”, downplayed or ignored. It took the renegade leftist Michael Moore and his associates to produce the searing indictment of RE in the highly controversial 2019 documentary The Planet of the Humans.

Overseas there is a growing number of high profile people who have turned against renewable energy on account of the environmental impact. The leading figures include Patrick Moore who was a co-founder of Greenpeace, Robert Stone (Pandora’s Promise on nuclear power), James Lovelock (father of Gaia), Judith Curry and James Hansen (leading climate scientists) and Bjorn Lomborg the environmental cost/benefit analyst. So far there does not appear to be any comparable movement among self-proclaimed environmentalists in Australia.

The Energy Realists

We are a team of independent experts and professionals with experience in the power industry and related areas. We are generating short, incisive and well documented briefing notes to circulate to 835 state and federal parliamentarians from coast to coast. These notes and the discussion papers that support them will ensure that no elected member can claim that they were not warned about the threat to energy security and the environmental damage that will result from the reckless pursuit of  zero emissions.

We are providing alternative advice to the instructions from commercial lobby groups, radical NGOs and green activists in the government service. This is a resource for journalists, commentators and the general public.

20.1 The Choke Point – when the wind fails and the grid dies

Purpose: To signal the critical situation for power security and the implication of the lowest “choke point” level of input from the sun and wind.

The Critical Issues:

(1) After the loss of several coal fired power stations  we have virtually no spare baseload capacity. We are “running on the rims” with no spare tyre.

(2) Many times a year when the wind supply is critically low the system will “choke” unless  conventional power sources (dominated by coal) can provide 100% of the demand for electricity.

(3) That situation is rare at present but it will be a constant danger when Liddell closes in 2023 taking almost 2GW of supply out of the system.

(4) We are told that wind and solar power can replace  coal-fired power stations as they go out of service.  Due to the choke point problem that will not work until massive amounts of power can be stored. Batteries and pumped hydro are not feasible solutions in the foreseeable future

Recommendations.

That all politicians be advised of the critical threat posed by the choke points.
That pundits on TV, radio and print media be advised and provided with supporting information so they can pass the message to the public.
That news and weather reports include the % of demand for power being supplied by wind at the time.

20.2 Four Icebergs in the Path of Renewables Titanic

 Purpose. To explain that the transition to renewable energy will be very difficult in Australia with existing storage technology

Background. All the major parties are in favour of increasing the supply of electric power from wind and solar energy.

Critical Issues.

Four features of the Australian situation will make the RE transition very difficult and impossible with existing storage technology.

  1. Wind droughts. There are frequent and prolonged “wind droughts” when there is next to no wind across SE Australia for many hours and even days at a time.
  2. The “choke point” factor. The grid needs a continuous input of power and the critical value of the input from intermittent sources is the lowest level. The RE transition is limited by the lowest points in the supply of wind, not the installed capacity, the high points or the average performance of the wind fleet.
  3. Australia is an island. Almost every other place in the developed world has access to neighbours to supply power from many sources when domestic RE is in short supply.
  4. The Chief Scientist has advised strongly that batteries do not have the capacity to store the amount of power required to even out the peaks and troughs in the supply of wind and solar power.

Recommendation.

That these critical issues be discussed in the party rooms, in the media and among the public.

SUPPORTING INFORMATION

Wind Droughts 

Records from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) show the amount of wind power delivered to the grid from every wind farm in SE Australia. Every month there are periods when the input is less than 10% of the installed capacity of the wind fleet and the input can fall below 2%.

In June there were three long periods  with the wind fleet under 10% of capacity   – 33 hours between the 5th and 6th, 18 hours on the 11th and 16 hours on the 17th.

The lowest points during those periods were 3.4%, 1.1% and 2.3% for the whole system.

Individual states experienced long periods at zero or even negative numbers when the turbines drained power from the grid instead of contributing to it.

The source https://anero.id/energy/wind-energy

Wind energy production during June 2020Real time  http://www.nem-watch.info/widgets/reneweconomy/

The choke point factor

This means that the grid needs to receive enough input to supply 100% of demand 100% of the time. We are in the same situation because we need a continuous supply of air to our lungs.  If the supply is cut off by choking or drowning, we are dead in a few minutes.

At present wind droughts do not threaten to cut off the electricity supply because we have enough conventional power for our needs (almost all the time). This situation will change when more coal-fired power stations are closed, starting with Liddell in NSW in 2023.

Isolation from neighbours. As an island nation we do not have neighbours to assist with power when we have a wind drought. All the European nations and the states in the US can tap into massive continental grids with input from all the different sources of power including nuclear energy.

Wind power in Denmark can supply almost all their electricity on windy days but over the year they import almost half of their power. Similarly Germany can produce up to 70% of their electricity from wind power but over the year the average capacity factor of their 28,000 turbines is less than 20% and they recently opened a new coal mine to cover the impending closure of their nuclear facilities.

Limited capacity of batteries

Batteries like the Elon Musk Tesla facility in South Australia are supposed to even out the peaks and troughs in the supply of wind and solar power but they have virtually no capacity compared with the demands of the grid.  They are not used for storage, they are used as bandaids to counter the chaotic flunctuations in the voltage caused by the intrusion of expensive and unreliable wind and solar power. The Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel issued a very clear statement “…Maybe 20 or 30 years from now we’ll have new kinds of batteries, vastly powerful, more extensive batteries and we can do it with batteries.”  https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2020/05/28/chief-scientist-says-big-batteries-are-not-ready-to-fast-track-energy-transition/

Moore’s law does not apply to energy storage. When people first started to talk about using batteries to support intermittent power there was a general expectation that the storage capacity would expand in the way that data storage increased by “Moore’s Law” – doubling every couple of years. This will not happen due to the fundamental difference between storing electronic data and storing energy.

The first Musk battery attached to the Hornsdale No 3-wind farm occupies a hectare, with a capacity of 129MWhrs and a $100Million price tag. The demand for power in SA ranges from 800 MW to 2500MW and the amount of power that the battery can deliver is negligible by comparison. It is not even regarded as storage; it is used to stabilize the supply from one wind farm for a few minutes while gas turbines pick up the load when the wind dies.

Recommendation 1: This this information be filed for reference when RE becomes a live issue again after the pandemic.

Recommendation 2: That everyone monitors the state of the wind supply.

YOU ALSO CAN BE A WINDWATCHER

Anyone can access these sites to become a windwatcher in their own right and monitor the wind supply  daily or even minute by minute. The information on wind resources in this brief should not be controversial because it is readily available on the site of the Australian Energy Marketing Authority (AEMO) and in a processed form on the Aneroid site and the Nem-Watch Widget.

The Nem-Watch Widget conveys the nationwide situation at a glance. http://www.nem-watch.info/widgets/reneweconomy/

The length of the bars signals the amount of generation in each state and the green segments show how much the wind is contributing at the time. The cursor can be moved along the bars to find the precise value for each contributor (48MW for Wind in Victoria in the example shown). The total for the state can read on a scale below the bars (6,271MW) and the Demand is show at the bottom of the table (7046MW).

The difference between the production (6271MW) and the demand (7046MW) means that Victoria was importing power at the time, most likely from Tasmania. The 48MW of wind production was less than 1% of the demand at the time.

No solar energy appears because the time was 7.25pm, well after sunset at this time of year.

For the situation in SE Australia (the NEM) see the AEMO Data Dashboard and the Aneroid site that draws on it to provide a rolling 24-hour picture. Also be sure to visit the site of Tony from Oz to see how a real wind watcher does it. See the link below!

The Data Dashboard https://aemo.com.au/en/energy-systems/electricity/national-electricity-market-nem/data-nem/data-dashboard-nem

The Dispatch Summary indicates the amount of demand and generation in each state. It also shows the amount of power flowing across state boundaries. It is updated at five-minute intervals.

The Fuel Mix is particularly interesting. There are several options, ranging from a scan of the year to the current situation. I like the 48-hour display to obtain pictures to display how quickly the wind can change from a high level to a choke point level.

Rooftop solar does not register in the fuel mix because the rooftops are not connected to AEMO data base like the registered generators and that means a lot of the power generated on rooftops during the day is invisible on the display.

Be warned that the AEMO fuel mix shows wind is the blue band at the top and hydro is a green band lower down. The Aneroid display shows the wind in green and the hydro in blue.

Aneroid Energy  https://anero.id/energy

The entry page of the Aneroid site is a rolling 24-hour display showing the sources of supply in various categories – coal, gas, water, wind, and sun.  It shows the daily demand cycle with twin peaks at breakfast and dinnertime.

On the entry page are buttons to access more detailed information about each source. Windwatchers of course go straight to https://anero.id/energy/wind-energy

This shows the supply of wind with a rolling 24-hour display. There are buttons to access the % of installed capacity and the volume (MW). There are figures for each state and there are displays for whole months and an archive for past days and months.

Tony from Oz is a veteran wind watcher. He provides very helpful daily and weekly summaries of the power situation.

https://papundits.wordpress.com/?s=OzWindPowerGenerationTFO

This is the Introduction to his comprehensive wind generation series. https://papundits.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/australian-daily-wind-power-generation-data-introduction-with-permanent-link-to-daily-posts/

Warning. Wind-watching can be time consuming and habit-forming.

Watch responsibly!

20.3 The Island Effect 

Purpose of this note: To explain why Australia, being an island, is seriously disadvantaged in attempting to achieve ambitious renewable energy targets.

Background. A previous briefing note described four obstacles in the path of ambitious RE targets (The Four Icebergs – attached).

Frequent wind droughts.

The need for 100% of demand to be met 100% of the time.

The island effect.

No grid-scale storage available from batteries or pumped hydro.

The Critical Feature of the Island Effect:  We cannot run extension cords to other countries to obtain power when we are short.

All the other places that have major RE installations either have access to power from neighbours with conventional power to spare or they have ideal topography for hydroelectric power (New Zealand, Norway)

What if California were an island? They import 30% of their electricity!

No state imports more.

A third of the Californian power mix is natural gas (10% imported). A third is renewables with. 20% of solar power is imported and a large amount of windpower is imported.

Imagine their situation if they did not have extension cords.

During the recent blackouts the states that export power to California were themselves experiencing the same weather conditions that slashed California’s domestic production of wind and solar power. Consequently they could not make up the shortfall of the power supply in California.

If those states run down their conventional power assets under the incentives of the Green New Deal then they will have even less capacity to support the Golden State. Household generators will become very popular!

Consider some of the other “wind-leading” nations.

Denmark can produce up to 80% of their electricity from the wind on a good day but over 12 months they import 45% of their power.

Germany has made a massive investment in the green energy transition and wen the wind is blowing strongly she exports power, often at negative prices.

Germany was a net exporter for many years but when the wind is not blowing she turns to nuclear power from France. In June 2019 she became a net importer for the first time since 2014.

The Netherlands has carpeted the countryside with wind farms and solar panels, but these  provide just 2.7% of final total energy consumption.

For electric power, wind provides 10% and solar 5%.  When the wind is off duty, power is imported from Germany and France.

Britain exports power when the conditions are favourable, (hence the French threat to undermine the trade by cutting the interconnector, but she also imports during the periods when there is little or no wind.

There is a power crisis across the whole of Western Europe at present thanks to a long spell with less wind than usual and France started to fire up some old coal power stations.

OTHER ISLANDS

Small islands do not have smelters, heavy industry or electric trains.

Thursday island invested heavily in RE but still depends on diesel backup during the low-wind months of the year.

King Island. The Clean Energy Authority announced that some 20 million dollars were spent on King Island (population 1,600) for a “fully functioning RE microgrid”  with integrated wind, solar, biodiesel and battery storage. That is over $10,000 per head. Diesel generators still provide a third of the power on the island.

Flinders Island installed RE facilities but the 40% shortfall is covered by diesel. The Mayor is optimistic that the tidal power might be used to make the power supply 100% RE.

Rottnest Island is another showpiece for the Clean Energy Authority and as usual diesel backup is necessary.

Recommendation.

  1. That the island effect be explicitly acknowledged as a major obstacle to progress towards RE targets.
  2. That planning agencies explain how the balance between supply and demand for RE in Australia can be achieved without the capacity to exchange with neighbours


20.4 This is a warning to all leaders.

The world depends on modern shipping travelling from country to country to support international trade delivering cargo. The ship in Figure 1 in 2019 was the largest in the world with a cargo capacity of more than 200,000 tons but even so it achieves a speed of a constant 21 kn. It is diesel fuelled which many claim should be curtailed because of CO2 gas emissions, but our modern economies cannot go back to sail.

It used to be that cargo was carried place to place by sailing ships. This all but ceased in the 19th century and it is obvious why. First there is the size, see figure 2 “County of Peebles”. It was launched in 1875 and was one of the very last sailing ships. At the time it competed with steamships which then were quite small. Its cargo capacity was about 1600 tons so to be the equivalent of the modern ship in figure 1 it is necessary to have 125. Certainly, this is not the only problem. Even at sea, wind is unreliable and frequently stops and this for the sailors of the 19th century was a massive problem. It was in this period the phrase Horse Latitudes was coined. The sailors on becalmed ships would throw the horses overboard since they consumed the water that was desperately needed.

History shows amazingly fast times for sailing ships up to 25 kn but that is variable, and the average is more like 8 kn for the fastest of the Clipper class. Sailing straight into the wind is not possible. You must tack. So, it is well recognised that sail was unreliable and slow. They were totally reliant on the vagaries of the wind, either that was too little or too much and it has not changed!

We are now in the 21st century and after 100 years wind as a source of energy has had a revival. It is quite possible the reasoning goes, to use wind to replace electrical energy generation. The wind varying from becalmed to a gale in very short periods of time is inconsequential apparently. Wind has an extremely low energy density and that too no longer matters. Surely this is a delusion so if you are a leader and have an interest in your legacy be warned that if you support wind as a source of electrical energy you will be damned for it.

The deficiencies of wind mattered very much in the past and it does matter now so you had better understand. “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything.

You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”
― Michael Crichton

Already leading lights of the environmental movement see this and have abandoned it as a folly.

• Jim Hansen the founder of the climate change action initiative.
• James Lovelock author of the book Gaia which argued to save the natural world from humanity.
• Michael Shellenberger founder of “Environmental Progress”.
• Michael Moore a prominent filmmaker and activist who is very much concerned with climate change.
• Patrick Moore Greenpeace founder.
• David Mackay Chief Scientific Advisor of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, United Kingdom

This chart figure 3 shows the output of Loy Yang B and all wind stations on the eastern grid at that time.

Loy Yang B is a Brown coal station and has a capacity of 1070 MW. The wind stations at the time was a combined capacity of 4335 MW. The coal efficiency was 98% and the wind 15% for the whole month. Or another words 650 MW on average for the whole month. Loy Yang B output an almost unvarying 1070 MW except for a dropout on the 12th day. The wind oscillated between zero and 60%. There were many times it was near or at 0 MW.

To achieve a plate capacity of 4335 MW 1032 turbines each of a capacity of 4.2 MW are needed. To build that costs $8.67 billion. The modern coal-fired power plant of 1 GW capacity are $2.5 billion and will last for 50 years. Wind will only last at a maximum 25 years, so the comparable cost is $17.34 billion. Even at that huge cost wind is still not a replacement because of its variability. This is shown in the chart.

On the left we have Loy Yang B figure 4. True there are the open cut coal mines that need to be included. They are a few square kilometres. On the right is a photograph figure 5 of one of Australia’s latest wind power stations. In the picture you can see about 16 turbines of 4.2 MW each. Ever wondered why it is never the whole lot? The answer is wind power stations cover a very large area of land. In 2017 the area covered by wind electricity generation covered was nearly 2000 km². The average output over a year is 29% of the plate capacity. Every time 1 GW of fossil energy is closed another 1677 km² of suitable land is needed. At the end of 2019 fossil energy power stations had a plate capacity of 34.9 GW. To replace that with wind 120 GW covering an area of 54700 km² of suitable land is required. Or another way to think about it, an area five times the size of Sydney Australia. The installation cost for that will be $265 billion. These last 25 years so $530 billion across 50 years. A coal power station lasts that long.

Unfortunately, that will not be enough. Go back and have a look at the chart. Notice the line for wind. It is by no means steady. It varies from 0 to 60% and to have a whole grid which varies like that is untenable. What is shown is all the wind stations over an exceptionally large geographical area.

Modern civilisation must have electricity that is available on demand. That was the whole point of Snowy Mountains 2.0. Modelling it is a complicated process, but it has been done for the 7 GW of 2019 by hypothetically assuming it exists and computing whether it would support wind for that year and produce a dispatchable energy source. If it does produce reliably 336 GW hours as designed, then yes it will support 7 GW of wind. That is using 7 GW of wind with it is equivalent to a 2 GW fossil station. The last estimate of cost I have seen was $5 billion. If this were applied to all extra wind needed that is 120 GW, then 17 replicas at least of that pumped storage facility would be needed. If you could do that that would be $85 billion. Snowy Mountains 2.0 is pumped storage so the upper reservoir must be a considerable height above the lower one. Suitable terrain would have to be found or constructed. That means a lot more than $85 billion.

So, this is what my warning is about. If any leaders of our nation managed to achieve such a thing or even only a substantial part, their immediate reputation and legacy will be damned for it as time passes. Wind energy was abandoned in the 19th century for exactly the same reasons as it should be now. It is unreliable and because it has low energy density it is just not fit for purpose.

This folly comes from the belief in climate change. The case is renewable energy is not fit to change anything about the climate. In fact, it is quite detrimental environmentally in many cases.

Mike O’Ceirin

20.5 Lessons from the Californian Blackouts

Heatwave conditions in the USA and wildfires in California have recently precipitated a state of emergency with rolling power blackouts. California’s conventional power capacity has been run down in recent years while they promoted renewable energy from the sun and the wind.
California will not go completely black because they have extension cords running into several adjacent states.
In Australia we cannot turn to neighbours for power when we are short. This means we will have to maintain 100% of our conventional power sources to avoid outages whenever the wind is low and the doesn’t shine.
This applies especially at dinner time when the demand for power peaks. The NemWatch widget shows that hot dinners depend very much on conventional power supplies.
On the evening of Thursday 23 July the contribution from the wind (green) was very small in South Australia and almost invisible in Victoria. Wind power was providing less than 3% of the demand across the whole of SE Australia.

The picture tells the story: RE is not sustainable with existing storage technology, as explained in the “four icebergs” briefing note (attached).

The Federal Opposition and most of the states have ambitious targets for the penetration of RE into the grid. As explained in the briefing note, this cannot possibly work in the near future but the Labor Environmental Action Network has called for an end to gas to decarbonize the power supply! This is not good news for all the people who use gas for hot water, cooking and heating.

The Labor leadership has a golden opportunity to serve the nation by adopting a bipartisan stance with the Coalition to keep Liddell power station in service until there is an adequate substitute to provide baseload power.
Depending on the sun and wind to provide baseload is suicidal in our island situation.
PS. A fifth “iceberg” is the environmental damage inflicted by the wind, solar and biomass industries that are being developed to decarbonise the power supply.

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20.6 Planning the Green Energy Transition. The AEMO Integrated System Plan

Purpose: To explain the purpose of the ISP, its scenarios and assumptions

The Critical Issues:

  • Scheduled retirement of scheduled generators (coal, gas, battery), with construction of intermittent wind and solar:
Period Retired dispatchable MW Built dispatchable MW Intermittent MW
2010-2020 2,500 7,100 built
2020-2030 5,800 2,400 (incl Snowy 2) 10,500 underway
2030-2040 14,000 39,000 announced
2040-2050 12,000

(2) The ISP is the official National Electricity Market transmission network plan. It requires network operators to begin planning the transmission projects that AEMO wants. It is designed to encourage more wind and solar into the network.

This is central planning at its worst – many network companies are privatised with foreign ownership. Because of the regulated cost recovery, network companies earn more from more assets. Every km of network adds to Australian consumer power bills and makes the country less competitive.

(3) Despite the massive amounts of wind and solar being built, the grid still requires investment in dispatchable generation. The ISP cost benefit analysis for transmission projects relies on modelling that includes a carbon price (CSIRO GenCost) and assumptions that are unfavourable to coal and gas. The taxpayer funded Snowy 2.0 is the only dispatchable generation planned apart from AGL‘s 250 MW gas peaker in Newcastle and some minor upgrades to existing plant capacity. Much more will be needed.

(4) No allowance is made in the ISP for replacement of coal fired power stations, despite Australia’s ready access to high quality thermal coal as fuel. This can only be described as ideology, not economics or science.

Key features of the situation. (Briefing Paper follows)

Recommendations.

That all politicians and media be advised:

  • The National Electricity Market network is becoming centrally planned, with accountability being removed from the states
  • The ISP assumes massive amounts of wind and solar will be built, and is planning to build new networks not only to accommodate wind and solar, but to expand it beyond the bounds of open market competition
  • The ISP deliberately applies unfavourable assumptions to economic modelling of coal and gas
  • A larger more complex network costs more to build and maintain – foreign owned transmission network companies recover these costs at regulated profit margins – this is incentive to build more transmission networks
  • CSIRO GenCost mentions “renewables” 70x, “carbon price” 52x, “reliability” 1x, “intermittent” 0x 


21.1 A Review of the CSIRO Gencost study 2018

Purpose : To challenge the view that electricity generated by wind farms is less expensive than coal fired generation.

Background: Governments and other agencies have generally accepted the advice in the CSIRO publication GenCost 2018 (updated in 2020) that the cost of wind and solar power is less than that of coal fired power stations.

Critical Issues:

1.The GenCost study does not include the costs to ‘firm’ (balance) wind farms when the intermittency of wind causes their power outputs to reduce dramatically.
2. Wind farm output intermittency is currently masked by the availability of coal fired or gas fired power stations to compensate. These coal fired power stations will be progressively decommissioned, which means that alternative firming generation must be constructed to prevent NEM wide blackouts.
3. The cost of electricity generated by wind farms is marginally less than coal fired plants. However, when the cost of firming generators is taken into account, the cost is greater than coal fired generation.

Recommendations:

Governments:
1. Should review their electricity strategies and immediately implement a life-extension program for, for example, the five operational NSW coal fired power stations.
2. Should immediately implement construction of additional units at existing coal fired power stations where these were to be provided at a future date. For example, Mt Piper in NSW.
3. Should plan to replace coal fired power stations with modern HELE coal fired plants at the completion of their extended lives.
4. Should ensure all renewable energy (RE) generators must be dispatchable at nameplate rating and be economically viable without subsidies and/or preferential treatment before being
connected to the transmission network.
5. Should ensure transmission infrastructure required by such a connection must be funded by the RE Generator prior to connection.

Supporting Information

Wind Farm Intermittency
It is well known that the total output of all wind farms in the National Electricity Market (NEM) rarely approaches their nameplate rating and is often less than 10% of capacity that we regard as a wind drought. Weather dependent wind power is unreliable and non-dispatchable.

CSIRO Admission that Firming Costs are not Included in GenCost 2018

Section 4.1 of GenCost 2018 states;

‘While the capital cost projections are primarily designed to be included in Australian electricity modelling studies as scenario inputs we recognise that some stakeholders require access to levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) data for comparing technologies outside of models. On the other hand LCOE estimates, in their current form, can be misleading if they apply the same discount rate regardless of exposure to climate policy risk and inherently do not recognise the additional balancing technology that is required by variable renewable generation as its share of the generation mix increases. Given the variable renewable share is expected to increase in most Australian states, towards or beyond 50%, this is an issue that needs to be solved. This report provides some advice on what comparisons are and are not appropriate using current methods and describes a process
by which future updates will seek to solve this issue with new approaches.’

Section 1.4 of GenCost 2020 states:

“In 2020, we have prioritised extension of Levelised Costs of Electricity (LCOE) estimates to include the costs of balancing variable renewable energy. This research is not included in this report but will be shared with stakeholders during 2020.

NSW Coal Fired Power Plants Commissioning

As an example of the need for immediate action, the following table illustrates the age of the existing fleet of NSW coal fired power stations.  It is evident that action must be undertaken to replace them to ensure that NSW continues to generate reliable, affordable and dispatchable electrical energy.

Plant Commissioning period Age
Eraring 1982-84 36 years
Bayswater 1982-1984 36 years
Liddell 1971-73 47 years
Mt Piper 1993 27 years
Vales Point B 1978 42 years

Costs per MWh for Firmed Wind Farms

An analysis has been undertaken where the capital, operating and maintenance costs were calculated for a scenario consisting of a HELE coal fired plant, an independent wind farm (not firmed), a wind farm firmed with open cycle gas turbines and a wind farm firmed by combined cycle gas turbines.  The analysis was conducted for a 50-year period which is the expected life of a properly maintained HELE coal fired power station.  The results are tabulated as follows.

Generator Cost per MWh
HELE coal fired plant $53.10
Windfarms unfirmed $48.87
Windfarms firmed with OCGTs $121.15
Windfarms firmed with CCGTs $70.53

It is evident from the data above that the energy generated by a modern HELE coal fired plant is
significantly less expensive than energy produced by firmed windfarms. Whilst the electrical energy
generated by unfirmed windfarms is less expensive than coal, unfirmed wind is not an option unless
blackouts are accepted as routine.



21.2 Environment Destruction – The Dark Side to Renewable Energy

Clearing a park for a solar farm in Spain

 Purpose. To indicate that the expansion of RE will have serious environmental impacts.

The Critical Issue. All the major parties are in favour of increasing the supply of electric power from wind and solar energy but the environmental impacts of wind turbines and solar farms have not been adequately taken into account.

Extracts. 

“Most of the world’s rare earth ores are extracted near Baotou, Inner Mongolia by pumping acid into the ground, then processed using more acids and chemicals. Producing one ton of rare earth metals releases up to 420,000 cubic feet of toxic gases, 2,600 cubic feet of acidic wastewater, and a ton of radioactive waste.”

“This report documents the hazardous conditions in which artisanal miners, including thousands of children, mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

– Amnesty International Report – 19 January 2016, pdf page 92)

“Throughout the solar PV manufacturing process all of the materials and products must be shipped to and from more than a dozen countries around the world in large barges, container ships, trains or trucks – all powered by non-renewable oil.”

“Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic. Solar power requires even more cement, steel and glass—not to mention other metals.”

“The destructive nature of renewables is illustrated by the abandonment, on environmental grounds, in 2017, by Michael Schellenberger, 2008 Time magazine Hero of the Environment, of his previous support for solar and wind power and the rejection, on environmental grounds, of solar and wind power in Michael Moore’s 2020 “Planet of the Humans”.

“The problem of solar panel disposal “will explode with full force in two or three decades and wreck the environment “because it is a huge amount of waste and they are not easy to recycle.”

 “The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast that Australia will have one of the most significant accumulated PV waste streams in the world.


Recommendation.

That these critical issues be discussed in the party rooms, in the media and among the public.

21.3  Australia is Probably a Carbon Sink

Purpose.  To pose the question, do we need to pursue “net zero” if we are already a carbon sink?

Background. According to the Climate Council “Net zero emissions refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.”

Proposal. It is time for the Government to stop playing the “net zero” game for two reasons.

  1. Australia is probably already a carbon sink.
  2. The push to eliminate fossil fuels in favour of RE is not sustainable with the storage technology that is available at present or in the near future.

By comparing Australia’s annual CO2 absorption with the total Australian emissions, we may conclude that Australia has negative emissions of 523,800,000 tonnes per annum (940,800,000 – 417,000,000) which means that Australia is a CO2 sink.

The data and calculations.

  1. Australia contains approximately 147 million hectares of Natural Forests (addition to this we have 1.82 million hectares of planting estates and around 440 million hectares of grasslands. With an estimated 4% of the global forest estate, Australia has the world’s sixth-largest forest area and the fourth-largest area of forest in nature conservation reserves.  https://web.archive.org/web/20110604211106/http://www.daff.gov.au/brs/publications/series/forest-profiles
  1. The mechanism for carbon sequestration in trees and plants is photosynthesis, the conversion of atmospheric CO2 into plant material using energy from the sun, releasing oxygen in the process. A single hectare of mature trees absorbs approximately 6.4 tonnes of CO2 per year. https://www.sfmcanada.org/images/Publications/EN/C02_Sink_EN.pdf.

A simple calculation demonstrates that the total CO2 absorption is 147,000,000 * 6.4 which equates to 940,800,000 tonnes of absorbed CO2 by Australia’s forests per year.

  1. According to ‘Our World in Data’, CO2 emissions in Australia in 2017 due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy production and the industrial production of materials such as cement were 417MT. https://ourworldindata.org/co2/country/australia?country=~AUS#what-are-the-country-s-annual-co2-emissions.

Caveat. These calculations will be contested by people using different assumptions about the treatment of grasslands and forests. We will modify our conclusion if convincing evidence and counter-arguments are presented.

 Conclusion. Given that we generate less than 1.5% of the worlds CO2 emissions and we are already doing better than “Net Zero” does the Government still need to impose policies designed for carbon mitigation and “decarbonization” of the economy?

  21.4  Firming Wind Farms with Batteries 

March 2021

Purpose. To explain that battery storage is not a feasible method to “firm” or support the intermittent energy from wind farms.

Background. The NSW Roadmap towards green energy includes a Renewable Energy Zone in New England with a capacity of 8GW that matches the current capacity of all the wind farms in SE Australia combined.

Critical Issues.

Wind droughts. There are frequent and prolonged “wind droughts” when there is next to no wind across SE Australia for many hours and even days at a time.

Firming. To maintain the supply of power that is required to match demand, the intermittent input from the wind has to be firmed, that is, supported by “dispatchable” power from reliable sources that can be switched on as required.

The main kinds of firming power are gas, pumped hydro and battery storage

Gas is not acceptable to Greens and pumped hydro will not be available in bulk for some years.

The cost of battery storage.

This study explains the cost of battery storage required to firm up the power supply from a typical wind farm. The cost is astronomical and this means that battery storage  cannot be expected to provide feasible and affordable firming power to support the Australian wind industry.

Recommendation.

That these critical issues be discussed in the party rooms, in the media and among the public.


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