Clean Power

Published on May 26th, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


Renewables Become New Baseload For Power In South Australia

May 26th, 2016 by  

Only a week after South Australia closed its last coal-fired generator, renewables are stepping up to act as the state’s power baseload.

The imaginatively named southern Australian state of South Australia recently closed its last coal-fired generator earlier this month, with Alinta Energy’s Port Augusta brown coal power generator switched off on the morning of May 9th. RenewEconomy‘s Live Generation figures show coal’s absence, leaving gas, wind, and solar to pick up the slack.

South Australia-1

South Australia’s power generation will necessarily flex, as is the nature of renewable energy, and you can see that gas is likely to serve immediately as the reliable energy generator for the immediate future.

However, the Melbourne Energy Institute believes that, “already a new pattern is emerging that points the way to a new energy system” in South Australia “built around wind and solar and other renewables,” rather than coal, gas, or nuclear. RenewEconomy‘s live figures show things as they are at the time I’m writing, but a graph provided by Dylan McConnel from the Melbourne Energy Institute shows the first week of electricity production in South Australia after the Port Augusta coal plant was switched off.

South Australia-2

As can be seen, wind energy (the green in the middle) provided a substantial majority of the state’s power for the week.

The Melbourne Energy Institute believes this is to be the likely pattern in the future for electricity generation in South Australia. Energy systems with high renewable energy penetration will rely first on variable electricity providers such as wind and solar, and then resort to “flexible” or “dispatchable” sources such as gas, as is the situation at the moment, or looking forward, hydro, solar towers with storage, and emerging technologies such as geothermal or ocean energy.

This means in the near future, South Australia may need to rely on gas from in-state, or brown coal from Victoria. Looking forward, however, South Australia may need not worry, with plans for 100% renewable energy by 2030 in the cards.

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  • Paul in Austin

    If your point is that coal plants can be replaced by gas plants and balanced by imports, I agree.

    Your article does not answer the most fundamental question of how to run a stable grid on intermittent power. (The title of your article implies this.)

    • Bob_Wallace

      The point is that renewables are perfectly capable of powering our grids.

      How to do it? Look at the modified image below (ignore the orange fringe). See the black line? Let’s, for simplicity’s sake, assume constant demand of 1,000 MW over time.

      To meet that demand with renewables we add enough storage and additional wind/solar to the grid to match supply to demand. Move the stuff above the line to fill in the white space below the line.

  • ben

    looks like gas is the baseload TBQH

  • jonesey

    This does not look like a graph of load. It looks like a graph of generation only, and it is missing imports from other states.

    A graph of aggregate load for a whole state should look more like a sine wave, going up in the early morning each day and then back down late in the evening, with lower loads and a different profile shape on weekend days. Click through to the original article and look at the second graph, which shows imports (and exports) more clearly, with a more reasonable load shape.

    “Baseload” is not the right word to use here, but based on the graphs, it appears that it would be accurate to say that wind and solar are providing the majority of power for SA.

  • Ross

    If that small layer of FF scum at the top of the graph is representative of a typical week there is no way it should take them until 2030 to get rid of it all.

  • Adrian

    Seems like the practice of setting water heaters to turn on at midnight should probably go away. I recall from earlier stories that this is what causes the peaks around midnight, and this marginal demand is being met with gas. Spreading it out would allow wind to serve that need better.

  • nakedChimp

    What the hell is wrong with you guys?

    There is a baseoutput at best, but no baseload.. especially if that word should describe the power being feed into the grid by a generator that can’t throttle.

    Do you morons really have to use the newspeak that has been fed into your brains by the FF PR machine?
    Are you that dumb?

    • Frank

      The purpose/value of baseload was cheap bulk power, like wind and PV. The coal and nuclear are in this category, but without the cheap part, they can’t compete.

      Then you need some demand management, pumped hydro, concentrated solar, batteries, and for now, gas, to smooth things out. Gas combined cycle lives in both these categories.

      • nakedChimp

        Maybe this is a communications error, but a ‘load’ for me is something that pulls or drags something down.
        Especially in the electricity realm to me it stands for something that converts electrical energy into heat or movement or light.. it is a consumer of electrical energy.

        Putting a ‘load’ label onto a generator or an aggregate of generators is just plain wrong to me. It’s backwards.

        If anything you would have ‘baseload demand’, but that is not what the article author writes or means when he uses it:
        “Only a week after South Australia closed its last coal-fired generator, renewables are stepping up to act as the state’s power baseload.”
        It’s plain wrong.

        And then there is no big baseload – put together fridges, some emergency lights and the IT infrastructure that runs 24/7 and that’s it. The load that is pulling energy from the grid is highly volatile and will be getting even more volatile as soon as TOU pricing get’s really rolled out.
        Just look at the graph.. the demand (load) drops and raises to half it’s value within hours.

        • globi

          A fridge doesn’t need to be ‘baseload’ – especially if its properly insulated.

          It could cool more when the voltage and/or frequency reaches a certain point and stop cooling when the voltage and/or frequency drops below a certain point.

          • Calamity_Jean

            No, refrigerators need to stay within a very limited range (33 to 37 F or 0.5 to 2.5 C) of temperature; too warm and stuff spoils, too cold and it freezes. Aggregate refrigerators are baseload. Now freezers OTOH, must keep below about negative 18 C (0 F), but if they are colder it’s usually no harm done. Freezers are dispatchable load.

    • Andy

      base-output (of the generators) is the correct word….

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