OPINION: The canary on the turbine - Part II

FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2013 file photo, wind turbines are silhouetted by the setting sun as they produce electricity . (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2013 file photo, wind turbines are silhouetted by the setting sun as they produce electricity . (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File) Charlie Riedel

PART I said: "Once green exceeds '30%' of baseload power, it is difficult to maintain the required 230V/50Hz power supply".

Voltage levels of 220-240 are acceptable but over 240V can damage electrical equipment (so SA run theirs at 220V just to be sure, so everybody ends up with low octane power). The 50 Hertz (Hz) is the number of times per second that the current reverses direction in our AC power system. For it, the tolerance is +/- "zero".

In baseload generators this is achieved by rigorously controlling the amount of fuel, which keeps the turbine spinning at exactly 3000 revs/minute. With wind power each generator tries to do this by altering the pitch of its blades, but it's an after-the-fact change. Bit like buying a ticket in last week's Lotto. Also if the wind is below 15kph there's no power, if it's above 88kph they shut down to prevent disintegration.

Hence the following truism: For baseload, the operator controls the fuel; for wind and solar, the fuel controls the operator.

Once there was a baseload train with four diesels travelling at 230/50. If there was a rising demand ahead the driver put his foot down to maintain momentum, or ease off for a diminishing demand.

The train then picked up Windies, folks with backpack generators and a foot controlled accelerator they pumped in time to their wind band music. Maintaining a steady 230/50 in this situation was achieved by juggling the powerful diesels.

Next pick-up was a cruise ship contingent of Sunnies, tapping their accelerators to the beat of their golden oldies. The driver started to lose control but skated by, until the train owner removed two of his diesels for "environmental reasons". This meant the driver no longer had control.

When last seen the train was failing to negotiate a mountain bend while the Windies were stomping to "The wayward wind is a restless wind, a fickle wind that yearns to wander..." and the Sunnies were singing "Sunny time, and the livin' is easy, fish are jumpin'..." as they disappeared into the dark abyss.

So what are our leaders doing? According to the Clean Energy Council, our green objectives are:

  • ACT - 100% by 2020
  • SA - 100% ASAP
  • Vic - 40% by 2045
  • Qld - 50% by 2030
  • Tas - 99% by 2010 (Mostly hydro)
  • NSW - No target but no carbon mining
  • WA - No target
  • AUS - Currently 14.6% (including 7% baseload hydro) and an objective of:
  • Coalition - 23.5% by 2020
  • Labor - 50.0% by 2030
  • Greens - 100.0% by yesterday

Based on the above this is physically and financially impossible, and unbelievably stupid.

I met Alice and the Mad Hatter as they left a meeting of electrical bright lights. MH reflected that "Maybe I'm mad and Wonderland is goofy but I'm going back, because here in La-La land those folks are committing the ultimate act of madness - they're in denial".

John Ibbotson, Gulmarrad

Topics:  john ibbotson renewables south australia storm weather wind power

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