Massive Outage Puts Wind In Crosshairs

Massive Outage Puts Wind In Crosshairs
SA Power Networks
Massive Outage Puts Wind In Crosshairs

Much of the Northern Hemisphere was blissfully unaware but the state of South Australia suffered through a massive blackout last week. Like previous disasters and energy source failures (Japan's Fukushima disaster comes to mind), the grid collapse was precipitated by unusually severe weather which perhaps no grid could have endured. According to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, for instance, the storm was "a once in 50-year event"; the region was lashed by gale force winds, at least two tornadoes and at least 80,000 lightning strikes. The region's steel industry is still counting its losses.

An authoritative report is still a long way away, but because renewable energy makes up 41 per cent of South Australia's power mix, the focus on the failures of wind turbines immediately before everything else went down has been intense.

As Clean Technica puts it: "[P]oliticians from around Australia jumped on the news of the power outage to place the blame squarely on South Australia’s renewable energy industry — the state leading the way in Australia as the largest consumer of renewable energy. Despite immediate reports to the contrary from utilities and operators, front-page headlines furthered the narrative that renewable energy was to blame.

While South Australia has an impressive level of renewable energy, specifically wind energy, supplying electricity to the grid, it nevertheless includes an interconnector from neighbouring Victoria supplying coal-generated electricity which can be tapped in the event of lower levels of renewable energy generation. Knowledge of this interconnector raised eyebrows for as politicians right up to, and including the country’s Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed renewable energy for the blackout."

The interconnector to the more distant coal plant was added after South Australia banished its own coal.

Stay tuned: This could become a country-wide referendum on wind energy. 

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