Clean Power

Published on May 1st, 2013 | by Ronald Brakels


Improved Transmission To Aid Wind Power In Australia

May 1st, 2013 by  

Stobie pole transmission infrastructure in South Australia. Image Credit: Ronald Brakels

Stobie pole transmission infrastructure in South Australia.
Image Credit: Ronald Brakels

South Australia has a lot of wind power. The neighbouring state of Victoria doesn’t. Even though Victoria has just recently opened the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere, its wind capacity only supplies about 5% of its total electricity use. As a result, when winds are high and its demand is low, South Australia exports electricity to Victoria. However, sometimes the transmission lines reach the limit of their capacity causing some wind power to go to waste. Losing a little green power is not a disaster, but it is a pity, since thanks to its use of brown coal, Victoria probably has the worst generating sector in the developed world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt-hour produced.

Fortunately, the transmission infrastructure between the two states is to be upgraded and one benefit will be to allow South Australia to export more wind power and allow Victoria to use less fossil fuel. According to the Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO) the Heywood interconnector will be upgraded from 460 megawatts to 650 megawatts, an increase of 40%. The upgrade is expected to be completed by 2016, will cost $108 million, and is expected to provide $190 million in benefits over its lifetime.

A more expensive option to build up to two gigawatts of additional transmission between the states was rejected. Given that we can’t be certain how much energy storage will cost in the near future and that Victoria has the potential to build a lot more wind capacity of its own if it wants, the cheaper option may be the best choice for the moment.

Oddly enough, there were fossil fuel interests that resisted any improvement in transmission capacity. I find this strange, because last time I checked they too were dependant upon the earth maintaining a habitable environment for the survival of themselves and their descendants.

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About the Author

lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Now that his secret identity has been revealed he is free to admit he first became interested in renewable energy after environmental mismanagement destroyed his home planet of Krypton. He is keenly interested in solar energy and at completely random intervals will start talking to himself about, "The vast power of earth's yellow sun."

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  • arne-nl

    Depending on how the energy markets are organised in Australia, such an upgrade can pay for itself by increased electricity trade.

    These kind of investments are often portrayed as a sort of ‘hidden’ cost of renewable energy, but in many cases they aren’t a cost at all. Another example of this is the 700 MW NorNed HVDC cable that earned the operators a cool 50 million euros in the first 2 months of operation (8% of total cost).

    • Ronald Brakels

      It’s expected to definitely pay for itself through increased trade, which is the same as saying increased opportunites for arbitrage. In the past the interconnector was mostly used to import cheap Victorian fossil fuel power but South Australia’s wind sector has mostly turned the relationship around. The upgrade will advantage South Australia wind while exposing Victorian coal to more competition, much to their annoyance, and that’s a good thing, .

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