South Australia will bring temporary back-up power generators online to prevent blackouts this summer, before they are merged into a permanent Government-owned power station.
In an announcement today, the SA Government said the hybrid turbines would initially be installed at two locations, the Adelaide desalination plant site in Lonsdale and the General Motors Holden site in Elizabeth.
They will operate on diesel fuel over the next two summers before being relocated to a new site to become a power plant and be switched to gas, the Government said.
- Nine new generators across two Adelaide sites by summer
- A permanent location will be chosen at a later stage
- Initially diesel with later conversion to gas
- Capable of providing up to 276 MW quickly
- SA Government will own them
- They are emergency back-up to help avert blackouts
- Cost not confirmed, but less than $360 million
- The Government has bought nine new General Electric aero-derivative turbines through US company APR Energy.
In his $550 million energy plan announced in March, Premier Jay Weatherill had proposed the installation of temporary generators before a new Government-owned generator could be built.
Together, the turbines will be capable of quickly producing up to 276 MW of energy, more than the 250 MW originally outlined in the government’s plan.
The state-owned generators will be tested monthly and only used when required to prevent an electricity supply shortfall.
The power plant will have a lifespan of 25 years.
“Why have we had to do this? We have a broken national electricity market,” Mr Weatherill said.
He said there was not a “coherent” national energy policy which took into account climate change and as a result investment had been “paralysed”, leaving the southern states vulnerable to power shortfalls over summer.
“The point of the energy plan and the point of this announcement today is to make sure we can ride through not only the next two summers but also take charge of our energy future to make sure we have secure, reliable and affordable and clean power for the future,” he said.
Mr Weatherill said since the plan was launched AGL had announced they would construct the first new generator in SA since the privatisation of the electricity trust [natural gas], there would be an upgrade to ENGIE’S Pelican Point plant [natural gas] and Tesla promised to build the world’s largest lithium ion battery at Jamestown [129 MWh].
APR Energy said the back-up generation would be “deployed in just weeks”.
“Ensuring that the people of South Australia have this critically needed power quickly will play an important role in mitigating the risk of blackouts and the need for load shedding during the peak summer months,” company chairman John Campion said.
Generators to meet December deadline
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the new turbines would not compete in the wholesale energy market and would only produce power when requested to do so by the Australian Energy Market Operator to prevent load-shedding blackouts.
Those blackouts, which occur when the total demand for electricity exceeds supply, occurred three times last summer.
The Government has not revealed the cost of the new generators, but said it would be less than the $360 million allocated in its energy plan.
Under the contract, APR Energy would operate the generators on behalf of the Government for the next two summers.
The permanent solution may not be locked in, however.
The Premier confirmed the Government had an option in the contract allowing it to opt in or out after the initial two-year period.
The generators are expected to be installed at Lonsdale and Elizabeth by the Government’s December 1 deadline.
Opposition Leader Stephen Marshall described the plan as expensive and said it would not reduce South Australians’ electricity bills.
“It is absolutely chaotic and to make matters worse there is no suggestion that anything that the Government is doing is going to address the sky-high prices that we have here in South Australia at the moment,” he said.
Why was South Australia’s power shut off during the heatwave?
(By political reporter Nick Harmsen, Updated 9 Feb 2017, abc.net.au)
As South Australians endure a severe heatwave with temperatures soaring into the low to mid 40s, residents have been warned they could face power cuts as the state struggles to meet power supply demands.
On Wednesday night, after the mercury tipped 42 degrees Celsius in Adelaide, 90,000 homes and businesses had their power shut off for 45 minutes, in a process called load shedding, because there was not enough supply to meet demand.
What is load shedding?
Load shedding occurs when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) directs power companies within Australia to start switching off customers’ power supply because the power system is at risk.
The system always has to remain in balance between supply and demand – if there is no extra supply available, the authorities have no choice but to reduce demand by shutting customers off.
If they don’t, the entire system can fail, causing a statewide blackout like what happened in South Australia in September 2016.
Why did they order it?
On Wednesday night, the AEMO predicted there was more demand than available supply.
The major Heywood Interconnector was importing power from Victoria close to its limit.
Wholesale power prices were at their maximum ($14,000 per megawatt hour) and AEMO called for more power stations to offer electricity into the market but none did.
Why is SA running out of power?
With the interconnector to Victoria included, South Australia has more than enough power generation to cover demand even on the most extreme days.
But a large and growing proportion of that generation is from intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar.
When the wind isn’t blowing, the market operator can’t direct wind farms to dispatch power.
The Heywood Interconnector was recently expanded to allow greater power to flow in or out of the state. But it still has a limit of about 600 megawatts.
The market for electricity is much tighter in South Australia since the closure of the state’s sole coal-fired power plant in Port Augusta, Northern, last year.
AEMO has forecast potential lack of power reserves across this summer, and every summer, until additional supply is added to the mix.
Why are renewables being blamed by the Federal Government?
SA has one of the highest mixes of wind and solar energy in the world.
It can be argued that the advent of high levels of renewable energy have helped bring down wholesale prices in South Australia.
Subsidised via renewable energy certificates, wind farms can produce power at a much lower market cost than traditional coal and gas generators.
But in turn, this flood of cheap renewable energy has helped hasten the demise of thermal generators like Northern.
With fewer traditional coal and gas generators in the market, the state has less capacity to generate energy on demand. This is a problem when demand is high and the wind isn’t blowing.
Is this just an issue for SA?
No. The AEMO is warning of potential load shedding in New South Wales on Friday as it braces for an extreme heatwave.
The problem is likely to get worse in the medium term with the closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood brown coal power station.
That state is expected to join South Australia next summer in reaching regular electricity reserve shortfalls.
What’s the solution?
South Australia needs more sources of power that can be dispatched on demand.
Local authorities are already investigating the possibility of an additional interconnector to NSW, Victoria or Queensland.
If they decide to proceed, the solution will take years and cost power users billions of dollars.
Other potential options include storage of renewable energy – through batteries, pumped hydro or other technology.
The SA Government is also seeking to stimulate a new market entrant, in all likelihood a gas generator, by offering a long-term contract to supply 75 per cent of its own power needs.
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