South Australia Proves You Can Go Off-Grid With A Million People

South Australian renewable energy transition

In November 2022, South Australia experienced a ferocious storm that decoupled us from the rest of the electricity grid and felled many local power lines. Functioning as an island, we couldn’t export to the bigger national network, so without that safety valve, SA Power Networks (SAPN) was obliged to pull out all the stops to maintain stability.

They used a pretty blunt instrument. By running the network controls at some substations up to 260 volts, all the solar systems (properly) installed since 2015 tripped off in those areas.

Despite breaking national electricity rules around maximum supply voltage, the blunt instrument worked well.  SAPN broke a few eggs to ensure we could all still cook omelettes. I’d argue that’s much better than giving the noisy regressives any reason to clutch their pearls about rolling blackouts1.

I remember when troglodytes claimed more than 5 or 10% renewables would cause the wires to melt and the sky to fall.

In reality, SA has generated over 70% variable renewable energy for 12 months, and the lights are still on. Unfortunately, good news doesn’t sell copies of The Awfultiser.

Australia Learned From SA’s 2016 Big Blackout

In retrospect, the 2016 system black was probably a blessing. The electricity industry has learnt a great deal. Large-scale generators updated their procedures to be more resilient, and small-scale generators benefited from resulting updates to the Australian Standard for solar inverters: AS 4777.2. That standard was updated in 2020 along with SAPN connection requirements to make our renewables-heavy grid more robust.

Frequency Control Is Critical

While the spot market is bought and sold in 5-minute intervals, grid electricity cycles 50 times per second. It must be kept stable from one fraction of a second to the next. Traditionally this has been done by running the generators, literal tons of metal, in large steam-powered plants at 3000 revolutions per minute.

The inertia in these machines provides what the industry calls Frequency Control & Ancilliary Services (FCAS). This system inertia holds frequency within a couple of points of 50 Hz. This is important to keep the pump in your coffee machine happy and make the clock on your oven hold time.

Synchronous Condensers Installed

The modern grid in SA now creates inertia with smaller lumps of metal. Some are conventional generators like those at Pelican Point Power Station, but the most recent are four synchronous condensers (AKA syncons) installed at three different points on the network. Now they’re installed, AEMO allows the system to run with just 80 MW of conventional gas-fired inertia, (down from 300 MW). Wind farms and big batteries are now permitted to enter the FCAS market too.

When the 2016 system black occurred, wind was doing half the work, and the Heywood interconnect from Victoria was doing another 30%.

As the towers fell and lines short-circuited, the disturbances caused wind farms to disconnect. Their settings were too fussy, and they jumped off to protect themselves, leaving the network no option but to overload the interconnector, which threw the towel in 7 seconds later. Our gas generation fleet was perfectly capable, but they were mainly stone cold, offline or out for maintenance.

In one case, the newest gas generator was mothballed, and the gas contracts sold off. AEMO had taken their eye off the ball, and the benign hand of the free market had failed.

November South Australia storm electricity infrastructure damage

November 2022, and no network on earth will withstand this sort of onslaught. SAPN are reminding people that you need to stay at least 10 metres from fallen power lines and always assume they’re live.

So, the settings have been changed, and now wind and solar power are obliged to hang on longer and generally be more flexible in emergencies. They will ride through disturbances and recover wherever possible, something a battery-backed inverter is the best at. Tons of spinning metal just isn’t as fast and accurate.

New Solar Inverter Standards For A New Grid

Since forever, the grid has worked as a hub and spoke network. The big thermal plants in the middle spinning power out to the extremities with fairly predictable losses cascading down through the whole system.

Now that we have democratised electricity, with millions of little solar generators pushing back from the bottom, there can be times when there’s too much energy. Left unchecked, the voltage and frequency would climb, driving the generators into overspeed and blowing up other things along the way.

The Smarter Solution: Dynamic Export Control

To combat this, SAPN has launched new requirements for new connections so they can, (via third-party agents and an internet connection) assume control in limited circumstances. Initially, this is a matter of putting out what I call the bat signal, a notice which causes large solar farms and many smaller systems to shut down or limit output to zero export.

The next step will be dynamic control, where your solar export limit will be higher (up to 10 kW)  but dynamically throttled by the network when necessary. Dynamic exports have been successfully trialled, with broad adoption starting in July 2023.

Forced Shutdowns Via High Voltages Still Required

Although all new rooftop solar systems will have the necessary controls to switch off in grid emergencies, we’ll still need the aforementioned blunt instrument of forced local voltage rises for the foreseeable future – to deal with all the systems installed between 2015 (when the voltage-cut-off standard became law) and now.

SA Power Networks solar power system disconnection announcement

Have you tried switching it off and back on again?

 

Grid voltage rise graph - solar disconnection

Proper solar monitoring can show what really happened to this residential system. The green line shows SAPN upping the grid voltage suddenly at midday. 15volts is a pretty significant boost and by 3 pm it’s hit 258 volts and this 3kW Fronius has had enough. It takes a siesta until 4:15 pm.

By kicking lots of solar systems off the network, there is a compound effect. Getting rid of the excess generation means they can simply burn gas in conventional plants, which offer conventional control (plus conventional gas profits too no doubt?). The secondary benefit is it creates more load because solar customers become consumers again.

Now, this rubs some people up the wrong way, but it’s a measure of the idea that we’re all in this together. Solar customers take a small hit, voluntarily in many cases, to help keep the lights on for everyone.

Another example graph of grid voltage rise disconnecting solar systems

Two days later, we have another example. This might vary by locality, but at Lewiston the same thing happens. SAPN voltage boosted from 12:45 to 5 pm, during which time the solar power system cuts out for a little over an hour.

How To Insulate Yourself From Forced Solar Switch-Offs

If you spend a good deal of money on a very particular off-grid style solar and battery system, you can island yourself from the network and continue to run on your own solar.

I recommend the Selectronic SP Pro, but it’s an expensive way to assume full control. Most grid hybrid systems will not disconnect when the grid voltage goes too high: they’re programmed to stop generating and standby until either the grid disappears altogether, in which case they operate under “blackout protection mode” or resume operation once the utility supply returns back to normal.

Grid voltage rise graph

An almost perfect solar bell curve in blue, but this time the rise in voltage from 10 am to 5:30 pm hasn’t been enough to trip the inverter, which uses older AS4777.2015 settings.

New Solar Standards Good, But Could Be Better.

The new solar standards have had interesting effects. The more onerous compliance issues have begun to drive some of the blowflies out of the solar industry, which can only be a good thing. Customer WiFi connectivity and commissioning issues have become the bane of many electricians’ existence, so the less able are just going back to ceiling fans and air conditioners.

Personally, I think there could be improvements to make the data connections we are now relying on more robust and easier to install. For example, Victoria uses meshed networks of smart meters that even include street lights. It’s not much of a leap to realise solar and electric car charging need to be managed, maybe air conditioning and pool pumps too.

SA Power Networks solar exports announcement

This is how SAPN summed it up for the punters.

It is great to see that the system has worked despite some enormous challenges. South Australia is arguably at the bleeding edge of the world’s energy transition, running a gigawatt scale grid on ever larger shares of renewable energy for longer and longer periods. Things are genuinely looking up and what we need now is much more long-duration storage, and electrification of transport, which will reduce gas use further.

Legacy solar systems shutting down for a few hours per year after severe storms is a small price to pay. After all – whether it’s an individual house or an entire state – when you go off-grid, you have to make a few compromises until the grid connection comes back online2.

Footnotes

  1. Lots of people went without power for days – but that was due to downed power lines – nothing to do with renewables or rolling blackouts
  2. Yes – if you spend enough money on your off-grid system, you can go off-grid without compromise. For the rest of us – we have to watch our power and energy use
About Anthony Bennett

Anthony joined the SolarQuotes team in 2022. He’s a licensed electrician, builder, roofer and solar installer who for 14 years did jobs all over SA - residential, commercial, on-grid and off-grid. A true enthusiast with a skillset the typical solar installer might not have, his blogs are typically deep dives that draw on his decades of experience in the industry to educate and entertain. Read Anthony's full bio.

Comments

  1. Malcolm Davies says

    They should allow me to match my solar to me load during these events. Preventing me having my solar run my load and forcing me to purchase power amounts to sanctioned corporate theft.

    I have microinverters so matching load to solar output should be configurable.

    • Finn Peacock says

      When solar is remotely shutdown gracefully (using the functionality in all SA solar systems installed since October 2020), there are 2 ways:

      #1 Kill power to the inverter via contactor in smart meter
      #2 Request your inverter to go into zero export

      Obviously, #2 is better and does what you want.

      Unfortunately, this goes out of the window if SAPN has to raise your voltage.

      • Greetings Finn, it seems in the interim, while all the ‘smart & powerful power folks’ figure out what best to do, just turn off all exports from home solar. The amount being paid for exported power is so low it can no longer be used in a ‘payback equation’ rationale. Home owners could work on using all their generation themselves – it’s just too complicated sending it to the grid with all the rules and regulations and capacity restrictions … what a lot of humbug we are permitting ourselves and enduring as a society.

        We need much smarter thinking than just fix upon fix upon fix. New ideas and bold ones are required. And while we are at it, get all the power lines underground!

      • SHAUN BECK says

        Every arvo I turn off the grid from my Schneider XW + as I don’t want to leak any grid power into the loads. Yeah, I’m a skin flint, but by doing this I’m completely islanded and can’t be hurt from grid disfunction, as an added bonus.

        98% approx of the year I use no grid power at all, nice yeah!

        • Anthony Bennett says

          Hi Shaun,

          I’ve never installed a schnitzel myself but I hear they’re ok. The problem that many punters don’t realise is that an off grid and a hybrid machine are different animals. Many on grid hybrid systems won’t have a warranty if you turn the mains supply off for more than 20% of the time. Storage certainly is what we need, especially as transport is electrified.

          Cheers

          Anthony

      • SHAUN BECK says

        We simply need more large scale storage to soak up the R/T solar. Powering water heaters during the day will help along those lines.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Sadly Malcom the theft has been going on for a lot longer than just November, but in this instance it was an emergency measure.

      I’m thankful that SAPN are dealing with it in a constructive way with flexible exports. (That’s the configuration you need going forward) The Queenslanders are just normalising “NO” as the easy answer by installing extra equipment at your expense to turn your solar off instead of throttle it.

      SAPN have been gouging us for years, it was refreshing to have their application for a special $100pa charge aimed at solar customers knocked back under national electricity rules.

      The silver lining is that after ETSA was privatised, and the promised reduced prices of power actually panned out into a doubling, people developed a keen interest and a desire to spend economically irrational sums of money on solar, thereby paving the way for the revolution we see continuing now. The privateisers have sown the demise of their golden goose, they just have to spend some of their profits on upgrades now.

      https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/sa-power-networks-owned-by-billionaire-li-kashing-makes-four-times-more-profit-out-of-us-than-its-uk-group/news-story/d00954c420ee1173a7549360eac879b7

  2. Geoff Miell says

    Anthony Bennett,
    I remember when troglodytes claimed more than 5 or 10% renewables would cause the wires to melt and the sky to fall.

    I’d suggest the only way to shut the naysayers up is to shame them with inconvenient evidence/data – like the emerging trend that RE will likely overtake coal within the next few years as the single biggest energy source for electricity generation in the NEM…
    https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/2022-greenhouse-gas-emissions/#comment-1519069

    …and the world.
    https://twitter.com/fbirol/status/1599997739617914880

    Things are genuinely looking up and what we need now is much more long-duration storage, and electrification of transport, which will reduce gas use further.

    Yep, IMO it can’t come fast enough, to mitigate:
    * the worsening climate crisis – see: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/2022-greenhouse-gas-emissions/#comment-1518193
    * the worsening liquid fuel (particularly diesel) supply crisis: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/fuel-efficiency-standards/#comment-1517396

    • Randy Wester says

      Namecalling anyone who’s concerned about the long term outcome might be an effective P.R. or bullying tactic, bur it doesn’t make those future problems go away.

      At the time those early systems were built and rules were set up there was not the faintest possibility that solar PV would overwhelm the local grid before new rules could be put in place. And it didn’t.

      There is an ongoing need to deal with such rapid change as solar PV is deployed, and that is not where bureaucracies shine. And some utilities are slow to react as well.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Randy Wester,
        Namecalling anyone who’s concerned about the long term outcome might be an effective P.R. or bullying tactic, bur it doesn’t make those future problems go away.

        I’d suggest ignorance (inadvertent, or worse, willful) “doesn’t make those future problems go away” either.

        I don’t think being ignorant about these important existential issues and the available, timely solutions for mitigating them is helpful at all for humanity’s worsening predicament.

        There is an ongoing need to deal with such rapid change as solar PV is deployed, and that is not where bureaucracies shine. And some utilities are slow to react as well.

        I’d suggest it’s about time bureaucracies, and society in general, begin ‘shining’ – the evidence/data I see indicates the future of human civilisation (& perhaps even the survival of the human species?) depends on it.

        IMO, South Australia is leading by example by being well on its way to decarbonising its electricity generation assets. Other jurisdictions should be learning from this example and work towards catching-up.

        • Randy Wester says

          “IMO, South Australia is leading by example by being well on its way to decarbonising its electricity generation assets. Other jurisdictions should be learning from this example and work towards catching-up.”

          In my opinion, other regions’ answer to ‘The Coal Question’ was a better and a faster one. Ontario, Canada eliminated the use of coal for power generation back in the 1980’s by building nuclear plants, Alberta switched from coal to natural gas.

          In looking at Open NEM graphs of Australia’s national power usage, it’s easy to imagine replacing the ‘bottom’ coal power with some of Canada’s 13,000 MW of nuclear power. Until one looks at Aus’ geographical maps, the population and load distribution, and the high initial cost of nuclear in comparison to coal.

          The people who can’t see your vision of a solar-powered Australia shouldn’t be characterized as ‘troglodytes’ in any case. Ontario solved the ‘Coal Question’ 40 years ago, in a different way. And also solved the subsequent summer aircon peak rotating blackout problem, with rooftop solar, LED lighting, and better construction.

          There might just be a lot less ignorance and a lot more careful analysis going on, than you appear to think. There isn’t just one easy answer, any more than in Jevons’ day, and ‘othering’ those who disagree is not productive.

          Australia appears to now be reaching the market for energy storage, more than anything. Getting enough electricity from the sun per year is a solved technical problem, but obviously, getting it at the right time is still a work in progress.

          And maybe, if all else fails, lets try to do that in a spirit of co-operation and healthy competition.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Randy Wester,
            In my opinion, other regions’ answer to ‘The Coal Question’ was a better and a faster one.

            How “better”, Randy? Evidence/data?

            Data I see indicates to me it certainly wasn’t “a fast one”, with Canada’s nuclear build program that apparently spanned through the 1960s, 70s, 80s and into the 1990s.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commercial_nuclear_reactors#Canada

            Ontario, Canada eliminated the use of coal for power generation back in the 1980’s by building nuclear plants, Alberta switched from coal to natural gas.

            Canada operates 19 CANDU reactors with a total capacity of 13.6 GW. Bruce-6 and Darlington-3 are currently being refurbished, leaving 17 reactors operational. In 2021, these produced 86.8 TWh that constituted 14.3 percent of total electricity generation in Canada. Eighteen out of the 19 nuclear reactors are located in the province of Ontario, where nuclear power constituted 34% of installed capacity and contributed 58% of the electricity generated in 2021. Most of Canada’s electricity comes from renewable sources (66% in 2021). See the World Nuclear Industry Status Report-2022, pages 313-316.

            The people who can’t see your vision of a solar-powered Australia shouldn’t be characterized as ‘troglodytes’ in any case.

            I’d suggest people who can’t see a wind & solar + storage energy-dominated Australia are likely ignorant of the overwhelming evidence/data. That ignorance may be unintentional, IMO thanks to most of our energy ‘illiterate/blind’ media, or worse, it may be willful. IMO, there’s no excuse for being willfully ignorant, in denying the overwhelming evidence/data.

            …‘othering’ those who disagree is not productive.

            IMO, opinions that are contradicted by compelling evidence/data are not productive.

          • Randy Wester says

            No ‘transition’ from one energy source to another is ‘fast’, but Ontario has had more non-hydro, zero carbon electricity generated than Australia, since their nuclear buildout.

            Canada does have a lot of hydro in total, but the supply is limited, there is always an environmental impact in building out the remaining sites, and of course there is also the cost and resource use of building long-distance transmission networks to get electricity from Labrador to New York.

            Australia is much more suited to year-round solar generation than Canada, of course, but that brings with it a need for storage that has barely begun to be filled. And of course there’s also a tremendous opportunity for electric transport that has only barely got started.

            Anywhere a coal power plant has run 24×7 for six decades might be an opportunity for a nuclear power plant. Or maybe a ginormous flow battery. Regardless, this overvoltage event highlights a problem/opportunity that might need other solutions than just ever more solar panels.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Randy Wester,
            No ‘transition’ from one energy source to another is ‘fast’, but Ontario has had more non-hydro, zero carbon electricity generated than Australia, since their nuclear buildout.

            Transitions can be faster, if the appropriate technologies/resources are selected & there is the will & talent to proceed at pace.

            In 2011, renewables provided 20.55 TWh of electrical energy (9.9% share) to the NEM in Australia. In 2018, the renewables contribution grew to 41.48 TWh of energy (20.3%); then grew further to 72.70 TWh of energy (34.9%) in 2022.
            https://opennem.org.au/energy/nem/?range=all&interval=1y

            In 2021, Canada’s 17 operating nuclear reactors produced 86.8 TWh – see my earlier comment above.

            If Australia’s renewables growth trend continues, then I’d suggest Australia’s renewable energy production will overtake Canada’s nuclear energy production contribution within the next few years.

            Canada does have a lot of hydro in total, but the supply is limited…

            Randy, everything is limited – we live on a finite planet.

            Australia is much more suited to year-round solar generation than Canada, of course, but that brings with it a need for storage that has barely begun to be filled.

            From little things, big things grow! I see at least 14 GWh-scale BESSs in development or under construction, & numerous sub-GWh-scale projects in development or operational.
            https://reneweconomy.com.au/big-battery-storage-map-of-australia/

            And there are more than a few PHES projects in development.
            https://reneweconomy.com.au/pumped-hydro-energy-storage-map-of-australia/

            Anywhere a coal power plant has run 24×7 for six decades might be an opportunity for a nuclear power plant.

            I’d suggest only if you want more expensive energy (3x RE), & are willing to wait more than a decade for new capacity!

  3. Lawrence Coomber says

    SA You Can Go Off-Grid With A Million People

    Thanks Anthony – a well-researched and correlated looking backwards snapshot.

    Looking back is largely research; contrasting with looking forward which relies on applying the science of mathematics to topics.

    Only the most experienced and skilful Demographers on earth would tackle analyses relating to predicted global standards of living of all people well into the future, around let’s say for example: Year 2500; 478 years hence. Yet the most experienced and skilful Historians on earth have presented us all with “High Precision” details about global standards of living in the years around 1544 [478 years past].

    Might there be any anecdotal connection between what will be going on in every Power engineers office globally in 2500 and what happened in 1544? Yes for sure:- Michael Stifel, a famous German mathematician [1487 – 1567] published his most important work in “Arithmetica Integra” (1544) and was the first to use the term “exponent” and also defined the rules for calculating powers. All engineers today would accept that without understanding the principle of “powers” there is no science of mathematics.

    I wonder how many people there will be in SA in 2500, and what their “Electricity Generation Technology Systems” will look like?

    478 years hence. Is it even remotely reasonable to forecast with any confidence, that the key “Electricity Generation Technologies” in place now that you have identified in this SA Million People Off Grid article: might still be the key Electricity Generation Technologies in use, but simply “Scaled Up” for an increased SA population [in 2500]?

    1. Gas fired Turbines
    2. Solar PV Panels
    3, Wind Tower Generators
    4. Batteries

    The answer will predicate and dictate the appropriate forward thinking and planning for the subject.

    But focussing entirely on the mathematics; physics; the energy sciences is my suggestion.

    Lawrence Coomber

  4. Dominic Wild says

    One hopes the power supplies in PCs manage to handle voltages up to 253VAC when my Fronius would switch off as I just managed to lose one 8GB DDR4 memory stick out of two – one survived.

    Worse was to come as such a change, the drop in memory capacity, confuses the BIOS and led to no booting and the purchase of a new motherboard. Later on my son told me all it would have needed was to hold the power button on OFF for five seconds and that would have restored the BIOS and allowed a boot.

    • Randy Wester says

      Hopefully there weren’t a lot of electronics damaged by the overvoltage.

      A lot of North American electronics is autoswitching 120 / 240 volt supply, so if our supply went to 260 volts the half-secondary wall plug V would have gone to 130 volts and hopefully the stuff would be alright if the grid operator had to do that maneuvre here.

      I wouldn’t have expected a supply voltage variation to cause a problem in a computer other than damaging the power supply. The various ouput voltages are usually unaffected by mild voltage surges.

  5. Ian Thompson says

    Interesting, Anthony.

    WA’s WEM has been ‘running off the (NEM) grid’ forever – and I’ve never experienced 260 Vac as far as I can recall, to trip out our rooftop PV inverters.
    And, WEM is very often integrating a higher % of VRE than the NEM, without syncons.

    Although, voltage rise was causing voltages approaching our legal limits at our house when we got rooftop PV 6 years ago, which probably explained the measurable increased dissipation in much of our household equipment (running hot, therefore decreasing lifespan). Also the extremely short life of led ceiling lights (< 1000 hours, vs the advertised 25,000 hours).

    Fortunately, under some political encouragement Western Power were finally able to drop these high voltages to more reasonable values.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Thanks Ian,
      I’m not intimate with all of the sandgropers machinations but they certainly are getting on with it, albeit with a few hiccups, like limiting customers to 20amp supply in some rural installations. The thing with SA is that we’ve always been a part of the bigger network so it’s interesting to see how things cope when we’re forced to go it alone. The wheels stayed on thankfully.

      • Ian Thompson says

        FYI – our (older) house has incoming fuses rated at 100amps each. 3 of them, as we have a 3-phase installation.

        240x100x3 = 72kW capacity? We should have no problem with an EV fast-charger, once we get one.

        • Anthony Bennett says

          That’s a really stout supply Ian. What’s interesting is that SAPN are currently running a trial where they will pay you a bung of 30cents/day if you’ll agree to them being able to throttle the car charging when the grid is struggling. It’s a perfectly sensible arrangement that I expect will become standard practice.

  6. Fascinating, thanks Anthony. So am I reading right, generally houses wired with battery backup tend to avoid the high-voltage shutdowns?

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Actually Nick I think it varies from model to model but the only inverter I know for sure will disconnect and island itself from the grid on high voltage is the Selectronic SpPro. There have been a number of complaints from customers who noticed their battery and solar system basically stood aside and laid idle. They let the high grid voltage through to the customer loads without generating or disconnecting.

    • So they broke the Safety rules to keep the lights on due to renewables failure is what your saying, 70% is not 100%

      • Ian Thompson says

        Interestingly, I don’t think 70% is 70% either.

        IMHO, while SA is using brown coal energy from Vic to keep their lights on (at night), calling this green (because they exported green energy during the day) is little more than green-washing – it doesn’t represent a system-wide sustainable renewables system.

        Once Vic no longer wants to import green power, or even needs to export their excess, then the 70% becomes impossible until a REAL SYSTEM is implemented. One with adequate storage spead grid-wide, with adequate but therefore mostly underutilised transmission lines, and with grid-wide dynamic control (on the untold hundreds of thousands of individual systems).

        The fact that SA was ‘surprised’ by recent events strongly points to an inadequacy of system knowledge all around. A lack of planning and understanding – the solution of which presently appears to be (I paraphrase Ronald here) – just keep throwing money at the problems, rather than to analyse the system aspects as others have done. Ignore science, engineering, rationality…!

        At least the EU appears to be uncovering the BS.

        • Anthony Bennett says

          Hi Ian,

          Speaking of inadequacy of knowledge I thought you’d be interested to see the sources.

          Renewables have captured 68% contribution to demand and 70.9% to generation.

          Victorian imports amount to 10% and exports to Victoria are 5.9%

          https://opennem.org.au/energy/sa1/?range=1y&interval=1w

          • Ian Thompson says

            A very interesting set of data, Anthony – and from a quick review I think my point is made. The only reason SA can keep ‘the lights on’ at many times (particularly at night, and during gloomy winter days), is that SA’s grid is ‘propped up’ with NG and dirty brown coal-sourced energy during this extended period of transition.

            Plus, it is abundantly clear why SA had to use such a ‘blunt instrument’ – the bulk of their energy is from essentially uncontrolled rooftop PV (and, on the colour graphs I actually had to search in fine detail to find the almost negligible contribution of batteries).

            It also looks like Wind is being very heavily curtailed during the day in these summer months – for similar reasons – maybe not so much in winter.

            With respect Anthony, I did not use the word ‘knowledge’ in the sense of availability of data – I was thinking rather of the ability to use that data, and general systems knowledge (dynamics, stability, control), for the implementation of a competent system.

            Here’s a link to the comments of a geopolitical strategist – the type of person who might worry about energy security (e.g., the outcomes of Russia’s attack on Ukraine) – but also about security & ramping up the availability of Lithium batteries and solar cells (e.g., most being processed and manufactured in China).

            https://www.firstlinks.com.au/electric-vehicles-elon-musk-serious-problems

            To quote him ‘…(EVs) and why they are not going to be an appreciable part of our transport future for at least the next decade, probably closer to three’.

            In my humble opinion, SA have only ‘scratched the tip of the iceberg’ in terms of the ultimate capital, and ongoing costs of a competent VRE-only energy supply and distribution system. Whilst I also agree that Australia has great VRE (but not so much Hydro), it continues to amaze the hell out of me that we will not even consider, or at least seriously review, a well known and extremely low GHG source of energy into the mix.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Ian Thompson,
            So where are abundant, affordable petroleum fuel supplies coming from while we wait for EVs “to be an appreciable part of our transport future for at least the next decade, probably closer to three”, Ian?

            Data I see indicates Russia, the world’s 3rd largest crude oil producer in 2021, has seen its 2nd & final production peak.
            https://twitter.com/crudeoilpeak/status/1613704701488529408

            At 10 Mb/d (=3.65 Gb/y) Russian proven oil reserves are the equivalent of 12 years, & 2P reserves at 21 years. Resources are pure speculation.
            https://twitter.com/crudeoilpeak/status/1613739808446369794

            Global conventional peak oil mode began in 2005. Only US ‘tight’ oil forestalled a global oil production decline, until it too peaked in 2019. US ‘tight’ oil is a light oil, deficient in the longer-chain hydrocarbon compounds suitable for refining into heavier products like diesel/gasoil & bunker fuels.
            https://twitter.com/crudeoilpeak/status/1612964157468598272

            Meanwhile, Hansen et. al. rank the tenth warmest years in the instrumental record, based on GISS temperature analysis, as follows:

            #_1 _ 2020 _ +1.29 °C (relative to 1880-1920 global mean)
            #_2 _ 2016 _ +1.28 °C
            #_3 _ 2019 _ +1.24 °C
            #_4 _ 2017 _ +1.19 °C
            #_5 _ 2015 _ +1.165 °C
            #_5 _ 2022 _ +1.162 °C (essentially equal with 2015)
            #_7 _ 2021 _ +1.12 °C
            #_7 _ 2018 _ +1.12 °C (equal with 2021)
            #_9 _ 2014 _ +1.01 °C
            #10 _ 2010 _ +0.99 °C
            http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2023/Temperature2022.12January2023.pdf

            Will this year, 2023, be around equal warmest on record (i.e. approaching +1.3 °C)?
            Will next year, 2024, be “off the charts” (i.e. +1.4-1.5 °C)?
            We’ll see soon!

            25 m of sea level rise is very likely committed at current GHG concentration levels.
            https://twitter.com/climate_ice/status/1608101553545658368

            Nuclear is TOO SLOW to deploy (i.e. more than a decade, probably closer to 2+ decades) to save us!

  7. Richard McIndoe says

    Interesting piece Anthony

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I cannot support the networks running voltages at these high levels. The regulations are there for a reason. High voltage will disconnect solar under 4777.2, but it also causes long term damage to electronics. In some cases it will also cause short term faults and outages, which can have serious safety implications. For example, you would never see PG&E supporting this policy given their awful bushfire history.

    Giving SAPN a free pass on voltage management is a really terrible precedent. Does this mean that other networks can start running voltages above 255V when they alone deem it necessary? How high is too high?

    The evidence shows that networks already run average voltages at 247-249V across the NEM (this was the ESB study usinig Solar Analytics data). We will see these issues more regularly, so let’s figure a sensible and safe way to address them rather than just looking the other way when it’s convenient.

    The energy industry as a whole has a poor record of self regulation and self reporting

    As you point out, customers are very happy to have dynamic export control. Many “older” inverters have the ability to have this capability retrofitted. That would be a much better approach than allowing networks the ability to operate outside regulatory safety and reliability standards whenever they, and only they, feel it’s necessary.

    On a related note, I see that the EV Council seems to be resisting the suggestion that all EV chargers have an equivalent dynamic charge control capability where DNSPs could control charge rates at extreme peak times. Their argument is that EV charging tariff structures will achieve the goal of avoiding network overloading at these peak times. I’m not sure this will be the case and it seems easier to have an EV customer agree to dynamic peak charge control when they buy the vehicle/rapid charger, rather than after the horse (or in this case the EV) has bolted

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Thanks Richard,

      Firstly I want to say thanks, I really appreciate your input on these forums, you’ve taught me a few things about the minutia of this industry that hand drawn vector diagrams at TAFE utterly miss.

      I don’t think it’s really acceptable that SAPN have been flouting the rules but it would appear to be better than the alternative. For now at least it’s making things interesting for us energy nerds and it’s proving what can be done at the bleeding edge.

      It would be nice if they were better prepared but what’s more frustrating is that Queensland appears to be imposing extra hardware costs on solar so they can just switch stuff off, as part of the emergency backstop mechanism. You would think they’d have learnt from SAPN about getting on with dynamic export control, that’s where we must be headed.

      Cheers

  8. Robert Grant says

    Synchronous condensers aren’t slow. When connected to the grid their response time is only limited probably by the speed of light. THey are just large spinning masses that will resist changes in frequency.

    I’m having trouble understanding why solar inverters had to be disconnected, don’t they have automatic voltage control like a generator does? There should be a point at which they simply stop feeding power into the grid or just enough to maintain a set voltage. The only real problem I can see is one of hunting across the grid but the maths involved trying to understand that risk is well above my pay grade.

    • Randy Wester says

      My understanding is that most solar inverters do not regulate their output.

      Each individual inverter is not nearly powerful enough to change the grid voltage, so voltage regulation is unnecessary. Except it might be, now that there’s enough solar systems.

      It’d probably be best if inverters had the capability to regulate in case the grid power is off so that the house / EV could be powered.

      It’s getting to the stage where the whole mess needs better integration rather than the brute force move of simply raising the voltage. It’s foreseeable that an event like the article describes could be managed by varying the output of a million inverters and a million heating / cooling systems.

      • Ian Thompson says

        Hi Randy

        I’d think that off-grid inverters would simply necessarily have to regulate…
        Same as inverters providing black-out backup from batteries (same basic function).

        But I agree – grid-tied inverters need dynamic supply control – hopefully shared around in a proportional manner. Blatting out whole suburbs with over-voltage seems a very blunt instrument indeed – and potentially dangerous.

        It’s a wonder no system-expert in SAPN had identified this risk factor well ahead of time.
        Or, some of our existing VRE ‘experts’. Just working through problems retro-actively?

        Or simply unaware of potential & obvious problems? Solution – just throw money at it.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Hi Robert,
      Inverters on the pre 2015 standards will run at full output then just disconnect at 264 volts.

      Post 2015 they will run at full output until reaching 253 volts (which is 230 plus 10%) After that they throttle themselves by 5% for every extra volt the grid rises.

      Once they see 258 volts for more than 10 minutes they shut down, and of course if they hit 264 quicker than that they they shut down immediately.

      The latest standards mean there are also reactive power and disturbance ride through settings applied post 2020.

      Cheers

    • Ian Thompson says

      Hm-mm – my understanding of synchronous machines, is that they cannot input or output energy, until a change of phase angle occurs – and this has to be significant if a significant energy flow is needed. There are 2 relevant phase angles involved – a mechanical angle, and an electrical one (the difference related to the number of poles used in the design of the machine).
      I’d guess a phase angle difference of say 45 degrees electrical could relate to maximum design capacity, or thereabouts – let’s test this.
      Give that our grid rolls along at a frequency of 50 Hz, corresponding to a cycle time of 20 milliseconds, then 45 degrees corresponds to a time change of 20/8 = 2.5 milliseconds, hardly close to the speed of light!
      In fact, if the grid frequency were to drop suddenly to 48 Hz, the 2 Hz difference has a cycle length of 500 milliseconds, so a 45 degree phase angle change will take 500/8 = 62.5 milliseconds to develop (to achieve maximum output). That’s more than 3 times the standard 20 ms cycle time!

      Of course, even a tiny frequency change will very quickly start making a very tiny energy input.

      Sorry – I don’t view this as lightspeed – light is very, very fast.

      FYI, I understand that the synchronous machine is connected directly to the grid, but the energy-storage flywheel is geared up to turn at high speed (because the energy stored in a given flywheel varies as the square of rpm). The flywheel chamber is often under vacuum, to limit high wind drag loses.

      • Robert Grant says

        Ian,
        I didn’t say they would or could only that the only limitation on how fast a synchronous condenser could respond is likely going to be the speed of light. I only chose that as I don’t think anyone has measured the speed of a magnetic field.?
        The Hornsdale Battery in part provides the same functionality but there it’s referred to as “Synthetic Inertia”.
        There’s another term used in power generation, “Spinning Reserve” which is how much power is available from the spinning things that isn’t being used. It should be more than the capacity of the biggest generator on the grid. That’s there so that the failure of the largest generator on the grid will not lead to a cascade of generators tripping off the grid. Power grids are simple but complex things. Well above my pay grade when I was being paid to work on some of their control gear. I certainly don’t see the complexity reducing when we’re going to have thousands or even maybe millions of generators connected to the grid. We desperately need an elegant and equitable way all those generators can be controlled from a central control system.
        Here’s another term “economic dispatch” i.e. what’s the cheapest way to generate the power the grid demands. Then there’s “unit commitment”.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Robert, syncons are fast, but much, much slower than the speed of light. Yes, light and radio waves travel at the speed of light, with transmission via an electro-magnetic field. But as I have indicated it takes a (relatively) long time before a syncronous condenser can develop the phase angle to impact sufficient energy transfer – and this has very little to do with the speed of magnetism – it is purely a mechanical thing…

          However, the progression of magnetism through iron is slowed measurably by the opposing effects of eddy-currents as well – that is why high resistivity and laminated materials are used in transformers, and other critical electro-magnetic equipment (e.g., fast solenoids). I have in fact (indirectly) measured the speed of decay of a magnetic field – in a solenoid similar to what operates the pintle in an engine fuel injector. The magnetic circuit may only be 20 mm long, but after the inductive current had gone to zero, another 0.5 – 1 milli-second was required for the eddy-currents to die out to allow the solenoid to switch off. Quite slow.

          The issue is that briefly separated sections of the grid (e.g., following a lightning strike, or ground fault) will start to drift apart quickly – so after a brief period cannot be re-connected as they will have become too far “out-of-phase”. I recall an incident during the commissioning of a 10MW aero-derivative gas turbine – where a wiring fault caused a phase meter to read out by 120 degrees (3-phase system). The technique for bringing it online, was to accelerate it a little faster than the grid, then just before syncronism throw in the inter-connect breaker at the power station. They did that – followed by one almightly BANG. The main pinion had most of its teeth stripped off, and the gearwheel about 25% of teeth.

          The point being – that distributed inertia will allow disconnected parts of the grid to “free-wheel” briefly near in-phase – allowing rapid re-connection without rolling blackouts.

  9. Matthew J Buck says

    Finn, there will be a lot of lay people reading these comments. Could you elaborate on your option 2 ‘Request the inverter to go into zero export’? In the event of a blackout caused by nature or in anticipation of one caused by SAPN is there anyway a person can disconnect from the grid for a few hours and run their house off their solar panels without the need for batteries? A year or so ago I thought there was a suggestion that a Consumption Monitor could achieve this, but I think I was mistaken.

    • Finn Peacock says

      Well designed solar systems installed after October 2020 can have a command sent to them over the internet that puts then in zero export mode – i.e. the solar generation will stay online with just enough solar to cover the household use. This command is very occasionally (currently 1-2 times per year max) sent by a third party at the grid operator’s request.

      The article explains how to avoid the very occasional forced grid voltage rise – an on-grid system with batteries that can be manually put in to off-grid mode.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Hi Matthew,

      Batteries are required for stability from one second to the next. The latest Fronius inverters will power a 3kW load, if it’s sunny, without a battery. Better than a poke in the eye but it’s a limited functionality. Basically you to run an extension cord to one dedicated outlet and plug the fridge in or charge your phone.

      We’ll have a new blog post out on hybrid inverters soon so keep an eye out for that.

      Cheers

      Anthony

      • Matthew Buck says

        Thanks Anthony, I’ll look forward to the post. We are in a situation where we may benefit from any emerging technologies, providing the cost is not prohibitive.

        We signed with Fairmont for a new house to replace our crumbling one back in July 2021 (much cheaper to build new than renovate or extend). The slab was laid in August 2022 and the frame in November 2022. Until we get the roof on I can’t get my 3 quotes through SolarQuotes and even then how long would a supplier honour it for? I hope the house will be completed this year. (I have no idea how people are expended to survive if they didn’t have family and friends helping out with accommodation. The situation really is scandalous.)

        Best wishes
        Matthew

        • Anthony Bennett says

          Top Tip Matthew,

          The builders heads will explode if you ask them to build it reverse brick veneer but air-cell insulation under your new roof cladding isn’t hard to organise.

          Thank me later 😉

          Cheers

          Anthony

  10. Chev Viviers says

    I would have thought that is relatively easy and cheap to install a relay where your power comes into your premesis where the coil is powered from the grid side. If two wires come to your premise you should have both wired to the relay. Therefore when there is a blackout it will disconnect your house/ solar system from the grid. Your solar system should then run your home as described above. The relay will prevent power from going back into the grid as it will be an open circuit. When power is restored on the grid it will activate the coil/s on the relay and your house will connected to the grid again. The solar system should then recognise it is back on the grid.

  11. Robert Grant says

    For sure the inverter is not going to change the voltage of the grid! Problem is unless the voltage the inverter is outputting isn’t just a little higher than the voltage from the grid at its terminals no current, no power going into the grid. ThA problem that I can see is if the supply from all the inverters exceeds demand how to ensure everyone gets a equitable share of selling their power.
    I certainly agree the whole system needs to be way smarter but that’s not a simple task modelling the complexities of a grid even when it was only a few big generators.

  12. Lawrence Coomber says

    Ian Thompson:

    Part 1 of 2

    You mentioned that there is not much Hydro Power Resource in SA available to exploit for distributed generation, but you are not thinking at your “expansive minded” best around this subject Ian.

    Your focus is obviously on Large Scale [High Head – Catchment] Hydro, which we are all familiar with globally of course; but in the absence of that situation being readily available, you should have shifted your focus to Micro Scale [No Head] Hydro; and for this format there are No Practical Limits to its availability throughout SA [and other States] to easily and effectively exploit.

    There is a huge Hydro Kinetic/Potential Energy Resource throughout SA trapped in Low Flow Rate Rivers and Streams, waiting to easily be exploited by Custom Design Micro Hydro Technology; cost effectively; safely; and impact neutral to the environment [i.e. Inconsequential Earthworks; Low Footprint; Robust; A Smart Solution; and importantly, Scalable [Up or Down] and automatically in some cases, as the changing Hydro Resource Kinetics permit.

    From a broad distribution network perspective we quite rightly express States based residential rooftop solar PV, as an aggregated Capacity Sum of Small Scale Systems installed [= Total PV Capacity installed per State]. States based Micro Scale Hydro Power Plants installed capacity, can and should be treated the same way as aggregated PV is.

    For example 20,000 x 6.4 kW Micro Hydro Power Plants [in either single or multiple module generating units – depending on the prevailing Hydro Resource Kinetics] = 128 MW Total Micro Hydro Power Capacity installed in that State.

    Lawrence Coomber

  13. Lawrence Coomber says

    Part 2of 2

    I call this Custom Design Micro Hydro Technology: Rivergen: and I have a close attachment to it for obvious reasons: [this link to IP Australia – original patent design].

    http://pericles.ipaustralia.gov.au/ols/auspat/pdfSource.do?fileQuery=t%C2%88%7D%C2%96%C2%95Y%C2%82%C2%8B%C2%94B%C2%82%C2%85%C2%88%C2%81%C2%8A%7D%C2%89%C2%81Y%5DqNLMNMLLMQO%5DPNLMNLOMQJ%C2%8C%C2%80%C2%82B%C2%82%C2%8B%C2%94Y%C2%90%C2%84%C2%81

    I founded a New Water Technologies Management and Metering Design and Manufacturing company in 1985 after a 20 year stint in the Australian Navy as an Electrical/Hydraulic Systems Engineer.

    Originally I designed and patented the Rivergen [Mk 1] in 2012 intended for use in remote Indian and African villages. It was not my priority project at the time however, and Rivergen had to take its turn to move through the developmental process towards commercialisation.

    Rivergen has now reached Mk 4 [vastly different design and functionality from the original patent description] and well on the way now to commercialisation at our Queensland facility.

    Lawrence Coomber

  14. Chev Viviers says

    Another Avenue that could be exploited is to generate green hydrogen with all the excess power during the day from solar and wind and hopefully wind during the night and change the current gas fired power stations to run on hydrogen and then use them the provide the power when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Chev Viviers,
      Hydrogen will have to leap a significant hurdle – round trip energy efficiency – to compete with other long-duration (i.e. several hours through to multi-day) energy storage options:

      The technology to convert power to hydrogen and back to power has a round-trip efficiency of 18%-46%, according to data that Flora presented from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and scientific journal Nature Energy. In comparison, two mature long-duration technologies, pumped-storage hydropower and compressed air energy storage, boast round-trip efficiencies of 70%-85% and 42%-67%, respectively. Flow batteries, a rechargeable fuel cell technology that is less mature, have a round-trip efficiency of 60%-80%.

      https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/hydrogen-technology-faces-efficiency-disadvantage-in-power-storage-race-65162028

      Large-scale battery energy storage systems (BESSs) are now the superior choice for electricity peaking services (for up to several hours of storage capacity) providing significant cost, flexibility, and emissions advantages when compared to equivalent open-cycle gas turbine plants.
      https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/resources/resources-hub/battery-storage-the-new-clean-peaker

      The list of BESSs in operation & in development in Australia continues to grow: https://reneweconomy.com.au/big-battery-storage-map-of-australia/

    • Ian Thompson says

      Others – who feel the task to make (and re-make) sufficient batteries to provide sufficient storage in time to be useful (and recognise the implementation of renewables is running well late)- propose a different option:

      https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/RoPower-to-repower-coal-plant-with-small-reactors

      I feel these will prove cheaper options, compared with fully-implemented VRE, and will prove timely in the extended timeframe – to allow us to decarbonise the World – I see evidence the EU is thinking this way, too.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Ian Thompson,
        I feel these will prove cheaper options, compared with fully-implemented VRE, and will prove timely in the extended timeframe – to allow us to decarbonise the World…

        I see eye-popping new cost estimates released for a proposed NuScale 462-megawatt small modular reactor system for UAMPS:

        From 2016 to 2020, they said the target power price was $55/megawatt-hour (MWh). Then, the price was raised to $58/MWh when the project was downsized from 12 reactor modules to just six (924MW to 462MW). Now, after preparing a new and much more detailed cost estimate, the target price for the power from the proposed SMR has soared to $89/MWh.

        Remarkably, the new $89/MWh price of power would be much higher if it were not for more than $4 billion in subsidies NuScale and UAMPS expect to get from U.S. taxpayers through a $1.4 billion contribution from the Department of Energy and the estimated $30/MWh subsidy in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

        https://ieefa.org/resources/eye-popping-new-cost-estimates-released-nuscale-small-modular-reactor

        That’s in US dollars, NOT Aussie dollars. The price of SMR power could be much more by 2030.

        Meanwhile, The Guardian published an article yesterday (Jan 17) by Damian Carrington headlined Warning of unprecedented heatwaves as El Niño set to return in 2023. It included:

        Prof James Hansen, at Columbia University, in New York, and colleagues said recently: “We suggest that 2024 is likely to be off the chart as the warmest year on record. It is unlikely that the current La Niña will continue a fourth year. Even a little futz of an El Niño should be sufficient for record global temperature.” Declining air pollution in China, which blocks the sun, was also increasing heating, he said.

        Nuclear is TOO SLOW & TOO EXPENSIVE to save us!

        • Robert Grant says

          “Nuclear is TOO SLOW & TOO EXPENSIVE to save us!”

          It has scope to get cheaper as SMRs are being built on a production line. Wind, solar PV and batteries are all mature tech made in factories. Not much opportunity for them to get cheaper or faster to make. Nuclear is probably the best solution but I certainly wouldn’t call it a great solution. As I see it we’re between a rock and a hard place and all options should be actively pursued.
          On s positive note for the time in over half a century China’s population has declined but that’s going to cause issues too.

        • Randy Wester says

          Depends where you live.

          Nuclear power built in 1987 in Australia would obviously have kept a lot of coal in the ground, as it did in Canada, and will continue to do, into the 2060’s.

          Sure solar is cheap enough now that Aus. getting off coal is only a question of flexibility and storage. Even at 52 degrees N in Canada, a 10 KW array is enough electricity… on average. But are you getting there.. soon?

          Nuclear power will take a long time. As will batteries. None of the Northern countries other than Germany are shutting it down. Certainly Canada won’t.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Ian Thompson,
        We need to fully decarbonise the world, plus drawdown atmospheric GHG concentrations (CO₂ + CH₄ + NOₓ, etc.) to well below 350 ppm (CO₂- equivalent) ASAP.

        In terms of CO₂ equivalents, the atmosphere in 2021 contained 508 ppm, of which 415 is CO₂ alone. The rest comes from other gases. https://gml.noaa.gov/aggi/

        James Hansen & 14 co-authors submitted a scientific paper titled Global warming in the pipeline to Oxford Open Climate Change. With permission of Editor-in-Chief Eelco Rohling, the submitted version is available on arXiv, the website used by physicists for preprints.
        https://arxiv.org/abs/2212.04474

        IMO, Figures 6 & 19 highlight the gist of the paper.

        Figure 6 indicates to me that the cooling effect of aerosols (primarily human-induced from the burning of fossil fuels) in the atmosphere has kept the global mean surface temperature of the order of 0.7 to 1.0 °C lower than it would have been if there were no aerosols in the atmosphere. By decarbonising, humanity will be exposed to a rapid temperature increase as the cooling effect of aerosols diminishes. This is the ‘Faustian Bargain’ humanity has committed to that Hansen alludes to.

        Figure 19 highlights the historical global mean surface temperature record and the projected likely accelerated warming rate to 2050. Per the temperature anomaly graph, the likely Earth System mean surface temperature trajectory is +1.5 °C by the end of the 2020s and +2.0 °C possibly sometime in the 2040s, unless we act rapidly and drastically.

        The paper is not yet peer-reviewed, but I would not be betting on Hansen being wrong.

        ExxonMobil scientists predicted global warming with shocking skill & accuracy between 1977 & 2003, but Exxon publicly denied it for decades.
        https://twitter.com/GeoffreySupran/status/1613611667254046721

        Nuclear is TOO SLOW & TOO EXPENSIVE to save us!

  15. Chev Viviers says

    I have a problem with Nuclear with respect to lifecycle cost, the Nuclear waste which is virtually for ever an issue as well as the safety aspect with respect to earthquakes. I know that earthquakes are relatively rare but Melbourne was not so long ago hit by one and the one at the top not so long ago. Just look at the devastation caused in Japan.

    • Ian Thompson says

      Hi Chev

      Hm-mm – yes, there was huge devastation in Japan – but that was caused by the Tsunami, with the earthquake only the cause of the Tsunami. As I recall 20,000 people died directly from the Tsumani, and only 1 (at last count) from radiation. The reactors where essentially built on a fault-line, but the earthquake did little more than ‘SCRAM’ precautionary action as far as I recall, but the real problem was the seawalls were of insufficient height, so the Tsunami flooded the power supplies to the reactors.

      I think we have learned something from this – plus nuclear would have saved numerous lives from the effects of coal-burning.

      Were you aware that new ‘Fast Breeder’ reactors can actually run on existing waste material from conventional reactors – in doing so (producing huge energy with no carbon emissions), they vastly reduce the quantity of waste material – but also burn off the long lifetime waste products to produce energy. What is left is a small volume of short half-life radioactive waste – which is easy to store safely. There is now a resurgence of nuclear developments in the World today.

      In terms of cost – I think the jury is out on this. We have yet to see the HUMUNGOUS costs of fully competent VRE systems, inclusive of extremely costly and heavily underutilised transmission lines, extreme overbuild requirements, and hugely costly batteries of adequate size.

      Plus, there is the issue that there probably isn’t enough Lithium reserves to support GHG-free electrification, and it is all going to take far too long.

      I only take the time to point these things out, to try to defray the BS being promoted by the idealogues.

  16. Chev Viviers says

    Hi Ian,

    I agree most probably all of the devastation and damage was caused by the Tsunami as a result of the earthquake. The cost involve is enormous. See this few lines from an article on the disaster:
    “At the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the gigantic wave surged over defences and flooded the reactors, sparking a major disaster. Authorities set up an exclusion zone which grew larger and larger as radiation leaked from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area.
    A decade later, that zone remains in place and many residents have not returned. Authorities believe it will take up to 40 years to finish the work, which has already cost Japan trillions of yen.”

    Earthquakes does however happen in Australia and we cannot say where they will pop up. We will have to decide where we will build them and they have to be close to water for the cooling system. The exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant is still in place today. My view is that this is a high risk solution. I would not like to stay close to to a nuclear power plant or a waist storage location. The transmission lines will always be needed to get the power from the power source to the high capacity users such as mines, railways and factories.

    I agree that we have to get solutions that reduce our carbon footprint and all solutions are in the mix until we find the ideal solution or mix of solutions. In my view wind, solar and hydro is definitely in this mix, the question is what will fill the hole when there is too much or too little available.

    I think we have to debate the solutions to see what will make sense and hope the Governments ad politici will follow sound advice .

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I’m not worried about living next to a nuclear power plant. I lived reasonably close to one for a while and it didn’t worry me. What I didn’t like were the electricity bills. They weren’t cheap.

  17. Lawrence Coomber says

    Ian Thompson and others:

    I know you wouldn’t be at all surprised by the international nuclear pathway accelerating right now at fast pace; it was always going to be like that moving forward.

    The only variable was TIME for adoption and implementation [globally].

    Being a “people centric” and controversial subject for consideration though, TIME became the key point in the mix not the technology.

    Nuclear power being at the “apex of the energy technology pyramid” and offering outcomes well known, understandable, predictable and importantly [in perpetuity]; the only point left to get Nuclear to the global starting line, was when enough people finally signed up to board the ark so to speak, so the anchor could be weighed.

    That point has now been reached, and even the most resistant commentators to Nuclear would be conscious of this point, and everyone is seeing them “soften” their commentary in all discussion forums this year [even Solar Quotes].

    And that is good for all.

    It allows those anti-nuclear commentators to morph their ideas [without any fuss] and stay in the critical Energy & GHG Reduction discussion moving forward, as important contributors.

    And the timing of this global shift in “global energy technology imperative” towards nuclear thinking, is just about right according to my spreadsheet.

    People will need to get their heads around the year 2075 though to witness the full effect and see very substantial changes globally in place; that facilitate new age technology development possibilities, whilst a simultaneous steady reduction in GHGs to insignificant levels unfolds.

    Lawrence Coomber

  18. Dominic Wild says

    “The Australian” printed an interesting article re “Net Zero Carbon by 2050”, namely had we not agreed to it, the world’s financiers would have increased our interest rates to crippling levels.

    Sad to see the many comments advocating nuclear having disappeared in the meantime, after all, if we use gas for “firming”, the new term for the hated “base load”, we are still outputting CO2 as gas is just a bit better than coal.

    My comments re running an alu smelter like Tomago with renewables surely were an interesting insight at the cost of it. The 950 MW or 10% of NSWs power demand would need 950/10MW or 95 10MW off-shore mills or more on-shore mills with lots of land and extra power lines to run the smelter during daytime.

    Or it would need 950,000 kW one kW panels with extra land and power lines. Plus it would need a huge battery farm in a winter situation with little sun and wind.

    Now multiply all those figures and associated costs by TEN to come to the total of the demand for NSW alone without “firming” via gas. Geoff Miell mentions that peak oil has been reached, so surely there must also be a “peak gas” at some stage leaving CO2-free nuclear as the only alternative anyway.

  19. Lawrence Coomber says

    Dominic you are right: Geoff is wrong.

    Right: – man-made greenhouse gasses largely due to fossil fuels combustion in all of its forms has led to a global climate crisis unfolding – but not to a point yet beyond reversal to insignificant levels permanently through the development and wide spread deployment globally of new energy dense nuclear power generation technologies to replace fossil fuel generation technologies.

    Right: – solar PV that you refer to is not now and never was intended to be the new energy dense power generation technology that would be able to replace fossil fuel or other energy dense generation technologies.

    Solar PV although an inefficient generation technology, has particular attributes nonetheless that make it an important global energy generation technology for many specific for purpose applications, and will continue to play an essential and significant role in these boutique miniscule global applications for a very long time to come.

    But solar PV generation technologies should not be misrepresented as an alternative to energy dense generation technology to fossil fuels or other energy dense atomic generation technologies for example, which of course are required by everyone on earth, to industrialise nations, rebuild and upgrade nations and their infrastructure, develop new are energy intensive enterprises in all subject areas, and modernise global social and well-being circumstances and structures for all people going forward.

    Nuclear Emergy Science is thriiving everywhere and in particular USA, Europe and Asia and Africa. The remaining states and nations will follow quickly.

    Lawrence Coomber

    • Geoff Miell says

      Lawrence Coomber,
      But solar PV generation technologies should not be misrepresented as an alternative to energy dense generation technology to fossil fuels or other energy dense atomic generation technologies for example…

      Evidence/data indicates otherwise:

      – per the graph shown in a tweet by an energy economics researcher, based on data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy – 2022:

      * Solar and wind alone now generate more energy than nuclear;
      * Based on the current ten-year trend renewables are expected to overtake hydro by 2023.
      https://twitter.com/finmuc_schmidt/status/1611633193047801856

      – per a tweet on 6 Dec 2022 by Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency:

      Renewables are on track to overtake coal as the largest source of global electricity by early 2025

      And by 2027, solar PV alone is set to be the largest source of power capacity, confirming it as the king of global electricity markets

      https://twitter.com/fbirol/status/1599997739617914880

      IMO, the incontrovertible evidence/data doesn’t align with your apparent delusional rhetoric.

  20. Geoff Miell says

    Dominic Wild.
    …if we use gas for “firming”, the new term for the hated “base load”, we are still outputting CO2 as gas is just a bit better than coal.

    Fossil gas is ‘dirtier’ than coal if ‘fugitive emissions’/leakage is more than 2 to 3% anywhere in the supply-chain.
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/gaslighting-on-emissions-ieefa-says-burning-lng-worse-than-coal-for-climate-19615/

    Fossil gas ‘peakers’ are being outcompeted by battery energy storage systems (BESSs).
    https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/resources/resources-hub/battery-storage-the-new-clean-peaker

    To get anywhere near meeting Paris commitments, NOT one more gigajoule of gas must be developed.
    https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/sa-energy-emissions-deal-mb1961/#comment-1041950

    Now multiply all those figures and associated costs by TEN to come to the total of the demand for NSW alone without “firming” via gas.

    Compared with what, Dominic? I don’t see any comparison from you of the substantial costs to develop alternative generation & firming technologies utilising more coal, gas, and/or nuclear, or doing nothing. Coal, gas & nuclear power stations are dependent on ongoing abundant & affordable supplies of finite coal, gas & fissile uranium-235/plutonium-239 fuels.

    We need to fully decarbonise the world, plus drawdown atmospheric GHG concentrations (CO₂ + CH₄ + NOₓ, etc.) to well below 350 ppm (CO₂- equivalent) ASAP.
    https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/sa-off-grid-renewables/#comment-1521845

    Nuclear is TOO SLOW (decades to deploy) & TOO EXPENSIVE (at least 3x ‘firmed’ RE) to save us!

    Ongoing human-induced GHG emissions from FFs puts humanity on the trajectory to civilisation collapse before 2100!

    ‘Firmed’ renewables are the least cost and only timely solution remaining available to mitigate the climate crisis, but that window of opportunity is also rapidly closing. The clock’s ticking!

  21. Dominic Wild says

    Ian,

    It has been suggested that the pot lines at Tomago can be switched off individually if the draw is too great from them and the demand is too high, so there is some flexibility in the system with load-shedding.

    • Ian Thompson says

      Hi Dominic

      I guess the obvious question is – switched off for how long? Hours?, overnight?, a few days?

      My reading of the link is that if the Al in the pot freezes, the pot may be damaged. I’d think the pots should be well insulated (for reasons of energy efficiency) – so maybe switching off for a few hours is acceptable. But overnight?

      Hot-dip galvanising baths are another example of huge amounts of energy required at start-up, to liquify the zinc and bring it up to temperature – plus adding heat when the steel products are dipped.

      So, switching off short-term should be ok – but does this help much in the overall scheme of things. E.g., wind droughts at night – which we do see from time-to-time?

  22. Dominic Wild says

    Geoff,

    We agree on not using coal and you are also against gas, which in SA is still used for “firming” of the supply, so you are solidly behind using renewables for 100% of consumption.

    In my list of costs just for the running of the Tomago smelter, I forgot to add in the cost of subsidies and the cost of necessary synchronous condensers, so we are looking at the following cost items for 100% renewables:

    Mills,
    panels,
    batteries,
    synchronous condensers,
    land for the above four,
    extra power lines and land,
    subsidies,
    gas generators to be kept to be sure, to be sure!

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