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Clean Power

Sunshine, My Frenemy

100% renewable energy in South Australia … plus record heat.

The sun sustains all life on our fragile planet. It also has the capacity to destroy it. As residents of the coastal town of Onslow (Western Australia) sweltered in 50+ degree heat on Thursday, 13th January, South Australia recorded almost a week of total reliance on renewables to power its grid.

One could be forgiven for getting a bit blasé about South Australia’s constant record smashing renewable production. After all, it seems like records are broken every month (well, they have been). Here’s the latest one: An uninterrupted stretch of 100%-plus renewable energy output in South Australia was achieved from Thursday December 23rd to Wednesday December 29th. That’s 156 hours or 6.5 days. 

And the score? Wind averaged 64.4% of electricity supply, rooftop solar PV averaged 29.5%, and utility-scale solar power averaged 6.2%. Coal: 0%. Gas: 0%. And, yes, I know the numbers add up to 100.1%, but South Australia is an over achiever.

RenewEconomy reports: “The Australian Energy Market Operator has significantly reduced the need for gas generators to operate in the background at times of high wind and/or solar output in South Australia, thanks to the commissioning of four synchronous condensers that can provide much of the system strength originally sourced from gas.”

On the other hand, constant sunshine makes a desert, and a strong enough wind will blow your house down (just ask the three little pigs). also shares: “A remote town in Western Australia has equaled the country’s hottest day on record, reporting a scorching 50.7 degrees Celsius (123.26 degrees Fahrenheit), the Bureau of Meteorology said.”

The climate council of Australia has warned that these temperatures may soon become commonplace as climate change accelerates and the earth continues to warm. Climate Council research director Dr Martin Rice said the record was “part of a long-term warming trend driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas.”

In Australia, heatwaves cause more deaths than floods and bushfires. They are having deadly catastrophic consequences. The current summer has already brought bushfires in the west and flooding along the east coast, and we are only halfway through. There are likely to be more heatwaves, cyclones, and bushfires in the next 3 months. 

It is highly likely that, without a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, Australia’s most populous cities will be seeing 50-degree summer days by 2030.

Image courtesy of Neoen

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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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