Energy experts back renewables after massive outage

October 21st, 2016, Published in Articles: Energize


A South Australian news service reports that renewable energy experts have gathered in South Australia to defend the use of solar and wind power in the aftermath of a state-wide blackout.

According to the news service, The Lead, the state of South Australia is still recovering from the electricity outage of 28 September 2016, which coincided with gale-force winds and flooding rains. The outage was blamed, in part, by South Australia’s reliance on wind power. The blackout left the state’s 1,7-million residents without power into the night and for up to 24 hours.


Electricity transmission towers near Adelaide, South Australia, knocked over by severe storm.

Just two days earlier, a 187 kW solar farm had been connected to the state’s electricity grid in the town of Renmark. This project, the first of many according to the news service, aims to work with landowners who will set up 100 to 200 kW community-owned solar farms for the purpose of selling electricity to the country’s national electricity grid.

A preliminary report by the Australian energy market operator found the blackout was triggered by storm damage to three major transmission lines, followed by wind farms disconnecting from the energy grid, which caused a massive load spike on the interconnector to neighbouring state Victoria. The report also found that six wind farms experienced generation reduction in the lead up to the blackout.

While the Australian government called a meeting of state energy ministers to consider uniform renewable energy targets and review the national electricity market, the South Australian government held its own renewable energy summit in Adelaide and called in experts to help highlight the importance of renewable energy and dispel fears surrounding its viability.

Speakers at the summit included Australia’s chief scientist, Dr. Alan Finkel, and the chief executive of Climate Council, Amanda McKenzie. New York’s chairman of energy, Richard Kauffman, joined the summit via video link to discuss the importance of renewable energy after Hurricane Sandy left New York City and parts of New York state without power for up to ten days.

Dr. Finkel said it was difficult to assign blame for the blackout. Under the circumstances, he said, gas-fired generators would have fallen off the grid just as rapidly as the wind farms did. He acknowledged that the system did not perform ideally and that lessons can be learned from that. He said that problems in the electricity system did not commence with a generator disconnection, but had been caused by steel pylons falling over as a result of the ferocity of the wind. The wind farms shut down to protect themselves, just as they were designed to do, he added, saying that the purpose of safety circuits is to protect the device.

McKenzie said climate change had played a key role in the storm and renewable energy would be an effective solution to tackling this global issue. She blamed the storm on the effects of climate change, saying that infrastructure might need to be upgraded and made to withstand the effects of climate change.

Nearly a quarter of houses in South Australia have rooftop solar panels, making it one of the highest penetration rates in the world. Experts express the opinion that solar power makes sense in Australia which is said to have the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world. Nonetheless, a number of politicians publicly criticise the state’s reliance on renewable energy. The country’s prime minister says intermittent renewables pose real challenges and that a heavy reliance on intermittent renewable energy places very different strains and pressures on the grid than traditional base load power does. Ian Hunter, the state’s minister for sustainability, environment and conservation, however, says that Australia’s leading experts confirm that Australia must transition to a low carbon economy and that renewable energy sources have a pivotal role in providing the country with a more secure, cheaper and cleaner energy system.


This article appeared in The Lead and is republished here with permission.

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