Not Enough Wind in Australia’s Grid

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The sun is shining on my panels, my battery is filling up, and solar is king in Queensland. The downside of this is that Australia desperately needs more wind. There is not enough wind in Australia’s grid.

According to the NEM, we are currently producing about 8 GW of electricity from solar power and 4 GW from wind in the middle of the day. Checking the NEM site at 8:30 at night and there is only 2 GW of wind feeding into the grid. At 6:00 am, the number is 2.4 GW. As I am writing this at 9:00 am, generation across the country has risen to 3.8 GW. Don’t get me wrong, this is a massive improvement on just a few years ago. However, we need more wind to balance the grid and add power at night to displace expensive gas electricity generation.

As of October 2022, there were 94 operational wind farms in Australia, totaling 9,234 MW in capacity.

Ironically, Western Australia has just had the most powerful cyclone in recorded history (Ilsa), with wind gusts over 300 km/hour, move through the state — and yet the state is powering its grid mainly from gas. It’s a big state by land mass. The population is in the southern part and the cyclone went through the north.

Why am I encouraging wind in this sunny continent? David Leitch of RenewEconomy makes the point: “wind plus transmission is cheaper than solar plus storage.” Much of the transmission infrastructure is already in place.

Australia’s state governments were forced to take action after a decade of neglect by the conservative federal government (now thankfully voted out of office). The states are proposing 40 Renewable Energy Zones across all states of Australia. Many of these will be fitted out with hybrids systems using solar, wind, and batteries.

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With the change of federal government has also come the ability to open up the sea for offshore wind development. Victoria alone has set targets to achieve 2 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2032, 4 GW by 2035, and 9 GW by 2040 — equivalent to six Yallourn brown coal power stations.

Blue Float Energy has recently announced three offshore wind farm projects: the Hunter Coast Offshore Wind Project — a 1.4 GW project which will use floating wind technology and will be located off the coast south of Newcastle in the Hunter Coast region of NSW; Wollongong Offshore Wind Project — a 1.6 GW project which will also use floating wind technology and will be located across two sites off the coast from Wollongong in the Illawarra region of NSW; and the Greater Gippsland Offshore Wind Project — a 1.3 GW project which will use bottom-fixed technology and will be located off the coast of the Gippsland region of Victoria.

These projects are due for completion in 2030 and will be complemented by the 1.5 GW Seadragon project and the 2.2 GW Star of the South. The Star of the South is likely to be completed first — the company is currently collecting soil and rock samples from up to 70 meters beneath the seafloor at 22 locations. Collected samples will be analyzed in a specialist laboratory and results used to inform wind farm design. They are also joining forces with local Indigenous businesses to open new opportunities in the growing offshore wind industry.

“We look forward to working with the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation and Kinaway to ensure Indigenous businesses are involved in building Australia’s offshore wind industry,” a Star of the South spokesperson said.

In order to dispel the FUD generated about marine wind farms affecting fisheries, Star of the South has had marine scientists spend over two weeks surveying pelagic fish in Bass Strait during February, continuing to build our understanding of the local environment. More than 500 fish were spotted and 15+ different species identified, including the southern bluefin tuna. Survey findings are being analyzed.

Flotation Energy is building the Seadragon offshore wind farm consisting of 150 fixed foundation wind turbines that will generate up to 1.5 GW of electricity to power up to 1 million homes per year for 30 years. Hopefully, it will not damage the habitat of its namesake. Sea dragons are graceful and beautiful creatures. Three of the subspecies are only found in Australia.

Australia’s tertiary institutions have been put on notice that there will be more demand for marine and electrical engineers, mechanical naval architects, civil engineers, and marine spatial planners, to name a few.

According to industry consultant Rystad Energy, New South Wales generated 1010 gigawatt-hours of electricity from wind (492 GWh) in March. New South Wales hosts Australia’s biggest grid.

Meanwhile, in central Queensland, Brookfield has agreed to develop, build, and take ownership of the 400 MW Moonlight Ridge wind farm. This is Brookfield’s first renewable power project in Australia and is expected to contribute to the 14 GW of renewable power and storage that Brookfield has pledged to build for Origin Energy.

The 1 GW MacIntyre wind farm near Warwick in Queensland is expected to be operational next year (2024). The 180 turbines are expected to produce enough electricity to power 700,000 homes and avoid 3 million tons of CO2 emissions. So far, 46 foundation pours have been completed and 11 turbines have been erected.

Acciona continues its engagement with local communities by conducting school visits and inviting students to the site. “In collaboration with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), ACCIONA Energía was excited to have hosted a day targeting female students from schools local to the wind farm.

“On the 22nd March, female students from Killarney P-10 State School and Stanthorpe State High School attended the site. The purpose of this event was to encourage young women to develop an interest in the varied careers within construction, STEM and renewables. The students were taken for a tour of the site to see some of the turbines and one of the substations. Back at the site offices, NAWIC facilitated a panel discussion with women from ACCIONA Energía, ACCIONA Construction and Powerlink, to talk about their careers.”

Offshore and onshore wind is in its infancy in Australia due to a decade of denial and obfuscation by the previous federal government. Many projects are in the initial stages of planning and it is expected that construction will begin in the next couple of years. Progress is being made on those projects already approved. The NEM will show a lot greener then.


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David Waterworth

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].

David Waterworth has 748 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth