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Clean Power

South Australia Leads the World on Grid-Scale Renewables (Again!)

South Australia is to the world of renewable energy what Norway is to the world of electric vehicle uptake. Rising from the ashes of a massive power blackout in 2016 and with the help of the Tesla Big Battery (Hornsdale Power Reserve and now others), this state has become a world leader in transitioning a grid from fossil fuels to renewable energy. It is far from the catastrophe that was predicted by many when South Australia closed its coal generators.

South Australia has become the physics lab of the world — a giant experiment in the use of “variable renewables” to power a statewide grid. The wind is blowing, the sun is shining, and the batteries are charging. As I write this, South Australia is pumping out approximately 2.3 GW of power – 872 MW from wind, 1,340 MW from sunshine, and only 85 MW from gas.

After a month of breaking one record after another for wind and solar generation, South Australia finds itself very close to being able to operate a grid with no fossil fuel input at all. A lot of this depends on pending regulation changes around the use of synchronous generators. New ways of thinking about the grid are emerging as new technologies, like batteries, take over the necessary balancing. 

Giles Parkinson of RenewEconomy writes:

“It is likely, however, that much will depend on the deployment of grid scale batteries that have what are known as ‘grid forming inverters’.

“It’s complicated technology, but the main difference is that rather than following the signals from the rest of the grid, these inverters have the capability of creating their own lead, and act as ‘virtual synchronous machines’ that replicate the system strength and other grid services delivered by spinning machines.”

It is worth noting that all of South Australia’s power is produced with “variable renewables.” There is no hydro or geothermal in the South Australia grid.

While South Australia continues to “boldly go,” the Australian Electric Market Operator (AEMO) is still a little unsure of how it will work. I guess they will have to timidly follow until it is impossible to ignore the reality of what is unfolding.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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