The South Australia Labor Government purchased 9 diesel generators for an undisclosed amount to make up electricity supply in summer 2017, but these generators will lose approximately 25% of their capacity when the temperature goes above 40C – exactly when they are most needed to stop blackouts.
(Advertiser, “Diesel generators, promised in plan to save SA from summer blackouts, can’t run at full power on hot days”, 3 August 2017, written by Daniel Wills link).
Diesel generators, promised in plan to save SA from summer blackouts, can’t run at full power on hot days
THE diesel generators being rushed to South Australia in a desperate bid to save the state from summer blackouts can’t run at full power when the temperature goes over 40C.
The Advertiser can reveal that the nine “state-of-the-art” dual-fuel turbines that Premier Jay Weatherill has promised to have in place by December will lose about 25 per cent of their promised 276MW capacity in sweltering heat — exactly when they are most needed to stop forced blackouts.
Mr Weatherill on Tuesday announced the turbines would be split between Holden’s Elizabeth factory after the car industry shuts down, and adjacent to the mothballed Adelaide desalination plant.
After running on diesel for two years, the turbines are expected to combine at a single unknown site and be flicked over to gas, becoming the promised state-owned power station.
This week, Mr Weatherill boasted he was delivering more power with this new off-the-shelf turbine plan than the 250MW that was first imagined in the energy policy he released in March.
However, technical documents seen by The Advertiser show the maximum combined output from the GE TM2500 turbines collapses from 276MW to just 205MW on days of 40C or more.
The reduced capacity applies when the turbines run on diesel or gas. It is due to a phenomenon known as the “heat degradation curve”, an in-built limitation of the technology.
However, the Government insists that its generators will still provide enough power to help stave off the risk of more load-shedding, even when they are cut back to lower output levels.
The forced blackouts endured by SA in February came on a day of 41C temperatures and in a prolonged heatwave.
Official reports into the event found that the blackouts followed a sharp drop in wind and solar power, and a privately owned gas station also remained turned off.
The surge in SA’s power use typically comes as people return home from work and turn on airconditioners, often coinciding with lower wind and solar output at sunset.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis insisted that it was “standard practice” to describe generating units by their maximum output. However, the Opposition has accused him of misleading the public and says it fears other nasty details are buried in the deal.
The Government is yet to reveal the full cost of the emergency turbines.
Mr Koutsantonis said “most power plants have reduced capacity” on very hot days and insisted that the nine new turbines still had the power to help avoid a repeat of this year’s blackouts.
“Our advice is that the minimum backup capacity required to help prevent against load-shedding is about 200MW, less than the minimum output of SA’s new power plant,” he said.
“Even on days of extreme heat, this power plant, coupled with the Tesla-Neoen battery, will provide the capacity required to help protect SA households and businesses from unnecessary load-shedding.
Danny Salamon with daughters Aleisha and Mikayla at their Pennington home in Adelaide. The Salamon family bought a camp generator which has come in handy during the state’s frequent blackouts.
“There are also other circumstances when the state-owned power plant may be called on to provide emergency back-up to the grid, like on March 3 when there was an explosion at a power plant which took out two multiple generating units.”
Opposition energy spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan said Mr Weatherill had promised to deliver a gas generator of 250MW before summer that would reduce electricity prices.
“It’s now clear none of those promises will be fulfilled,” he said. “The Weatherill Government’s chaotic energy policy is reliant on dirty diesel generators with reduced capacity in hot weather.
“It’s staggering the Weatherill Government has bought generators that won’t do the job when they are needed most. Jay Weatherill’s chaotic energy policy has delivered the highest electricity prices in the world, repeated blackouts, increased taxes and hundreds of job losses.”
It comes as the Australian Energy Market Operator releases new modelling which continues to forecast regular energy shortfalls for SA, which start in November and continue through until the Thursday before the state election next March.
AEMO has also emphasised that market responses, which could include delays in repair work or the opening up of new generation, could further reduce the risk of forced blackouts in summer.
The worst low energy reserve conditions for SA are forecast to occur in February, when a deficit of 337MW is predicted.
Victoria is the only other state facing similar problems this summer.
Its blackout risk sharply increased following closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in March.
Price cut possible in energy target plan
IMPOSING a state energy security target is expected to have no immediate affect on rising electricity prices but may help bring them down in the long run, new modelling finds.
Leading energy expert Danny Price has carried out modelling for the State Government on one of the key planks in its six-point plan to fix the state’s broken grid.
The start date for the target, announced by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, has been pushed back to January 1.
It demands that energy retailers buy a set proportion of their energy from “cleaner” power sources in SA, as part of a move to ease SA’s reliance on the Victorian interconnector.
A round of community consultation on the plan also finished yesterday. Business SA’s submission said it was key the target didn’t add “to the cost burden on consumers, particularly interstate and export orientated businesses”.
The Australian Energy Council warned it could increase prices by adding extra red tape.
“We question whether the scheme’s perceived benefits of additional, synchronous dispatchable generation lowering SA’s wholesale costs will outweigh the compliance cost,” it wrote.
Mr Price’s modelling finds the energy target will deliver longer term reductions in power prices if matched with more market competition.
“Given the SA market is not purely competitive nor monopolistic, the price effects are likely to be somewhere in between these two extremes,” he finds. “As the government’s Energy Plan takes hold, the SA market will become more competitive.”