Australian Government Sues Wind Farm Operators Over the 2016 South Australian Blackout

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Wind farm operators are facing a lawsuit over alleged failure to meet performance requirements.

Energy regulator launches legal action against wind farm operators over SA statewide blackout

By Daniel Keane
Updated Wed at 12:29pm

“The AER has brought these proceedings to send a strong signal to all energy businesses about the importance of compliance with performance standards to promote system security and reliability,” AER chair Paula Conboy said in a statement.

“These alleged failures contributed to the black system event, and meant that AEMO [Australian Energy Market Operator] was not fully informed when responding to system-wide failures in South Australia in September 2016.

The blackout occurred on September 28, 2016, when extreme weather — described at the time as “twin tornadoes” — caused major damage to electricity infrastructure, knocking down huge transmission lines.

The AER said a subsequent loss of wind generation then triggered the blackout, which left 850,000 customers without power.

Read more:

If wind farms cannot be made more resilient against severe weather or instability caused by grid component failures, and if we assume for the sake of argument that future climate change will bring more severe weather and disruption and damage to infrastructure, there probably isn’t a lot of point building wind farms.

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John V. Wright
August 10, 2019 6:07 am

“and if we assume for the sake of argument that future climate change will bring more severe weather and disruption”. Nice one Eric – hoist by their own petard or what!

Reply to  John V. Wright
August 10, 2019 7:18 am

Can’t generate wind energy if there is no wind.

“The AER said a subsequent loss of wind generation ”

Reply to  Roflol
August 10, 2019 12:05 pm

According to this account it was not a failure of wind power production but a transmission line being taken out. It is a shame that those who object to wind production can not find valid arguments instead.
What happened in S.A. was a pathetic, abysmal failure. Do you really need to twist the facts?

Reply to  Greg
August 10, 2019 2:15 pm

If its a failure of the Transmission line , why are they suing the Wind Farm operators?

You are following the the ABC news organisations take on what happened, they are even worse than the BBC

Matthew Bruha
Reply to  Greg
August 10, 2019 3:01 pm

The transmission lines were taken out after the wind farms stopped generating.

Matthew Bruha
Reply to  Matthew Bruha
August 10, 2019 4:02 pm

Hmmmm…my bad…the report linked in a comment below does state that 3 transmission lines were damaged. I was pretty sure that 2016 reports stated the wind farms tripped before the lines were damaged.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Matthew Bruha
August 10, 2019 9:18 pm


I think you were correct. The wind turbines tripped automatically after there were several line voltage spikes within the default period (an electronic factory default setting in the control panel).

Some power lines caused the spikes, which occurred within a few seconds. This was interpreted by the control panels as “time to go offline” which many did in short order.

This caused a sudden draw on the interstate interlink of 480 MW, which it could not support. In response the interlink when down causing the whole state to go off.

The direct cause of the failure was the sudden disconnection of the turbines based on what the manufacturer claimed were faulty settings for auto-disconnect, even though that’s the factory default.

The operator was therefore negligent for not setting them “correctly”.

Reply to  Matthew Bruha
August 10, 2019 9:47 pm

Not entirely true. There were 2-3 pylon/line failures before the wind turbines stopped, but when you look at their locations, you realise they weren’t on the main feeders and so weren’t the primary cause. There were more pylon failures afterwards, and renewables proponents deliberately try to confuse the issue by mentioning all pylon failures as the primary cause, which of course wasn’t the case.

Serge Wright
Reply to  Greg
August 10, 2019 4:45 pm

Greg, it’s better to read the reports before offering an incorrect conclusion.

The wind farms had settings that caused shutdown if the number of transcient events (ie: sudden frequency changes) exceeded the configured number within a two minute period. Following the investigation, it was found that the these settings were too low and needed to be increased to a higher value (eg: from 2 to 6). Having a lower value protects the wind farm from damage, which occurs if grid current flows back into the generators if their is a sudden phase or frequency change. The towers that were being brought down by the storm caused the transcient events and when the wind farms all switched off in unison they tripped the main interconnect to Victoria, causing system black.

Of course, the main take-out from this event is that wind farms have no inertia, unlike thermal generators, which can provide additional energy for short bursts from the spinning mass. Whilst higher transcient event settings might improve the resiliency of the wind farms, it doesn’t solve the problem of their lack spinning inertia. This is why the SA government buld a huge diesel plant and a large battery farm, becuase below the spin, they know the dangers of too much wind.

Reply to  Greg
August 11, 2019 8:12 am

Read it again, Greg, you are wrong. According to this account “The AER said a subsequent loss of wind generation then triggered the blackout, which left 850,000 customers without power.”
I assume that switching away from the damaged power lines to the path through wind-associated power lines discovered the hard way that that alternative path was not, and never was, a usable power line. The reliable carbon source had been shielding the failure of the power route through renewables, probably since inception, until for the fraction of time it wasn’t. Then meltdown.

Koen van Dijk
Reply to  Roflol
August 12, 2019 4:14 am

You cannot generate wind energy either when there is too much wind.

Reply to  John V. Wright
August 10, 2019 8:42 am

The key problem with grid-connected wind power is intermittency, and the resulting lack of predictable, dispatchable power that is the primary requirement for grid electricity.

I have heard and read many energy neophytes say that grid-scale storage is the solution – and they act like it actually exists. In practical terms, it does not – except for a few rare cases where pumped storage is feasible.

So I would like to announce that I have invented a SOLUTION:

It consists of millions of huge flywheels that are wound up by wind power while the wind blows, and then the power is released back into the grid by tapping power from the rotating flywheels. For longer periods when the wind does not blow, the flywheels are spun by great herds of unicorns, galloping round and round at great speed.

Once we have solved the unicorn-supply challenge we are sure to have a green energy winner! We are applying to the Canadian government in Ottawa for a development grant – PM Justin Trudeau and Climate Barbie have already declared their support.

[I suppose I must say “Sarc/off” for the warmists out there, who tend to believe ANYTHING!]

August 10, 2019 10:39 am

On slightly more serious note, sometime ago I proposed that wind generated electricity could be used for water electrolysis with the hydrogen powering gas fired turbine generators and oxygen sold to industry to recover some of the cost.

Reply to  Vuk
August 10, 2019 12:08 pm

What is the efficiency of that conversion cycle?

Reply to  Greg
August 10, 2019 3:07 pm

Electrolysis efficiency is about 80%, by hydrogen storage compression this would go down to say 70% (0.7)
Modern gas turbines have efficiency around 40% (0.4)
Overall efficiency would be 0.7 x 0.4, let’s say about 30%
Typical diesel generator efficiency is of 40% order.

Reply to  Vuk
August 10, 2019 12:18 pm

hi Vuk. As you know the big question in grid-scale storage is usually efficiency. I was surprised to find (in a very brief search) that electrolysis can be about 80% efficient (which is darn good):
This makes electrolysis a good contender for surge supply but probably not for longer-term dropouts (e.g. multiple days with with no wind and no sun due to overcast weather).

Reply to  Vuk
August 10, 2019 12:41 pm

In The Netherlands, which lack hydropower or pumped storage, they calculated the hydrogen electrolysis route for only peak wind generation hours: that doubles the price of the power: the main problem is that the overall yield of power-to-gas-to-power is around 35% (80% for electrolysis, 45% for gas turbines) and maximum 40% with the use of static converters, but the latter need a platinum catalyst which must be replaced after a year…

Reply to  Vuk
August 10, 2019 3:07 pm

The answer does depend on the length of time you are seeking to smooth over. The longer the period the harder it gets because the increasing size of storage and its reducing utilization both push the costs up. It is the hard to beat having significant hydro in your system to act as a buffer, but even here in NZ that is largely run of river hydro inter seasonal remains a problem.

Redox Flow batteries are probably more promising for inter day fluctuations than electrolysis that suffers from efficiency and that hydrogen into gas turbine is still a developing field. Storage in bulk is an issue. The UK CCC has a report looking at hydrogen as a solution that goes into this in quite some practical detail.

Reply to  HAS
August 11, 2019 5:26 am

No, the real answer is not to waste time on assessing these Green fairy tales of ever cheaper renewable power, withdraw all power generation subsidies in all their forms and let the open free cost-leadership competitive commodity power markets solve the problem. Renewable power suppliers would then need to massively invest in R&D to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and/or invent totally new systems simply to maintain market share or even survive. It is technically and economically impossible for all existing renewable power systems to be cheaper than, say, Gas Turbine power.
Even if CO2 emissions are to be taken into consideration and taxed at a rate of £”x” per tone of CO2 emitted per Gwhr power produced which is based on some present day cost of future remedying of damage and disruption created by CO2 – less, of course, the benefits such as crop yields and greening, then none on the present renewable power systems would ever be competitive,. This is particularly so when proper and honest total cost comparisons are made, i.e. when the costs of:
1. nuclear waste and nuclear plant de-commissioning,
2. additional installed capacity of the standby power and extended/enhanced power transmission works etc had to be provided simply because such renewable power as SP’s and WT’s are not base load and do not supply power when needed but when available, 3. their relatively low capacity and remoteness,
3. or total reservoir and dam costs
are included.
It’s about time the professional engineers and project managers of this world kicked in a few economists’ and suppliers of renewable powers’ doors. The above is simply a day to day basis investment analysis exercise, and not rocket science!

Robert Keon
August 10, 2019 5:10 pm

Hope they allow for gyro precession as it may stop the earth rotating if they don’t. That would be par for the course for green inventions. (and I’m saying which part is sarc).

August 11, 2019 8:19 am

I have a better idea. Take biological material. Bury it under the ground for millions of years. Extract it when and as needed.

Reply to  John V. Wright
August 10, 2019 9:17 am

I’ll venture to say that costs of operating a wind farm just suddenly shot up with the added cost of litigation and attendant insurance.
Seems that reliability has its value, and intermittent power suppliers are realizing its cost.

Louis Hunt
Reply to  Rocketscientist
August 10, 2019 7:11 pm

We are not doomed, but wind farms are. If wind farms are required to deliver electricity after the main transmission lines have been knocked down by strong winds, their operating costs will have to soar beyond reason. How will wind farms survive if they not only get blamed when the wind doesn’t blow, but get sued by regulators when the transmission lines are inoperable? They are being asked to do two impossible tasks: operate without wind or transmission lines, and replace fossil fuels with wind power. Neither is possible. Can we all agree that climate changers are severely lacking in common sense if not completely out of their minds?

Reply to  Louis Hunt
August 12, 2019 4:05 am

Louis wrote:
“Can we all agree that climate changers are severely lacking in common sense if not completely out of their minds?”

But this “climate emergency” fraud has never been about the climate.

Jul 04, 2019
By Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng.

1. Introduction.

Ever wonder why extremists attack honest scientists who oppose global warming and climate change hysteria? Ever wonder why climate extremists refuse to debate the science?

It is because global warming and climate change alarmism was never about the science – it was always a false narrative, a smokescreen for the totalitarian objectives of the extreme left.

The novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, written by George Orwell in 1949, foresaw a time “when much of the world has fallen victim to perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, historical negationism and propaganda”. It now appears that Orwell had remarkable foresight.

Here is the real “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, an interview that year with ex-KGB officer and Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov, who described their long-term program to ideologically undermine the western democracies. Jump to 1:07:30 for Bezmenov’s discussion of “ideological subversion”. It is all about manipulating the “useful idiots” – the pro-Soviet leftists within the democracies.

One commenter on the video wrote: “this is crazy, almost everything predicted by this guy is already happening.” Bernie Sanders, AOC and other socialist-Democrats are openly saying what Bezmenov predicted decades ago. The last democracies are under attack by leftist extremists.

All over the world, countries that once had a future have fallen into dictatorship, poverty and misery. It is notable that of the ~167 large countries in the world, most are totalitarian states, and all but “the chosen few” citizens of these countries suffer under brutal leftist dictatorships.

Radical greens have used wildly exaggerated stories of runaway global warming and climate change to stampede the gullible, in order to achieve their political objectives. The greens claim to be pro-environment, but their policies have done enormous environmental damage. Radical greens have also been destructive to humanity, causing millions of deaths.

August 10, 2019 6:55 am

There are plenty of reasons to avoid wind farms – costs way in excess of promised, due to lifespans much shorter than promised.

Tom Halla
August 10, 2019 6:58 am

It has taken a bit longer than it did in California to try to divert the responsibility of politicians onto somewhere else. California blamed Enron, and mostly gaslighted the memory of who set up the system Enron gamed.
Despite Gray Davis, the Democrat governor being recalled, his replacement proved to be rapidly co-opted by the Democrats. Schwartzenegger was a Kennedy in-law anyway, and much too comfortable with Democratic politics in general.
Failure to blame the people who set up something they didn’t really know much about, and were unwilling to learn, seems common to both situations.

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 10, 2019 7:12 am

Much worse was the neglect of transmission infrastructure which led to a number of very destructive fires.

August 10, 2019 6:59 am

only way to prevent these incidents is to have a battery, Pumped storage, Compressed air, Hydro generator storage. ready to pickup 100% load in a fraction of a cycle. Protection circuits will dump loads in fractions of seconds to protect the grid, generators and power plants. I tested these circuits.
You need another whole method of generating electricity long enough to safely shut down the excess equipment. just like the small UPS you put on a Desktop PC. Which, of course doubles the cost of Wind farms and large solar farms.

Steve Skinner
Reply to  Usurbrain
August 10, 2019 7:07 am

Spinning reserves.

Reply to  Steve Skinner
August 11, 2019 9:23 am

Aren’t all generators flywheels, in a sense? Doesn’t the problem lie in the throwing of switches?

Reply to  Usurbrain
August 10, 2019 9:56 am

Hydro unfortunately does need several seconds to open valves and speed up. An already spinning hydro system can pick up within a cycle, but it must be specially built for it.

Ian W
Reply to  Usurbrain
August 10, 2019 11:51 am

I have actually worked with a ‘no break power supply’ that was a huge flywheel. The grid powered a motor that spun the flywheel which drove a generator and the equipment ran off the generator. If the grid went down there was only 11 minutes of power for one specific set of safety critical equipment.

It is not feasible to provide a backup supply the grid for any time over a few minutes with existing battery technology. Even pumped hydro in most cases is only an hour or so while the water from the elevated position drains through the turbines.

However, this should not be a problem for the grid – it should be a problem for the renewables operators. Their contract should be to provide a contracted level of stable power 24/7. If they have to cope with wind drops, sun going down etc etc. Then it is their problem to fill the gap in their power generation system. Currently they receive beneficial treatment and take no responsibility for their systems not providing power all they are doing is farming subsidies.

Reply to  Ian W
August 10, 2019 12:12 pm

“all they are doing is farming subsidies”

Oh no, they are only involved in one aspect of farming: harvesting.

Reply to  Ian W
August 10, 2019 12:51 pm

Ian W – what a sensible suggestion. The more I think about it, the more sensible it seems.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
August 11, 2019 8:10 am

It’s the bleeding obvious Mike as consumers need level playing field power. But what politician is going to tell all the mums and dads now with rooftop solar if you can’t reasonably guarantee your electrons 24/7/365 to the communal grid you can keep them? Oops sorry we got it wrong folks and therein lies the massive political problem. We all know home batteries aren’t economic and if they were there’d be no electrons to spare anyway so we continue to live this giant lie.

Reply to  Ian W
August 10, 2019 7:48 pm

It’s called dumping Ian and normally our illustrious ACCC would be all over that but you know how it is with the climate changers and State imprimatur? Some dumpers are more equal than others.

Reply to  Ian W
August 10, 2019 9:53 pm

Most major airports in Australia used to have a no-break system consisting of an electric motor/generator spinning a large flywheel, which was clutched to a diesal when the power was lost. Not sure what they have as backup now.

Sweet Old Bob
August 10, 2019 7:00 am

Looks like CYA to me …

Ed Reid
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
August 10, 2019 7:14 am

“If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.”

Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
August 10, 2019 7:45 am

From the above linked ABC article:

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, AGL said the allegations against it “were highly technical in nature”.

I bet the AER lawyers burned the midnight oil combing through the contracts so they could find a way to shift the blame.

August 10, 2019 7:02 am

From the article, “The failure of the Hornsdale wind farm to ride through network voltage disturbances … was a contributing cause of the black system event and blackout across the South Australian region of the National Electricity Market.”

Would this frailty be because of the nature of wind power, or because the company cut corners on equipment capable of handling grid fluctuations, or both?

steven F
Reply to  jtom
August 10, 2019 9:47 am

There was no damage at the wind farm. All the damage occurred on the utility owned grid. There was enough wind at the time to generate a lot of power and little to no damage was found at the wind farms after the event. Hower the multiple utility transmission lines were not built strong enough collapsed in the high winds in a short period of time.

Reply to  steven F
August 10, 2019 1:52 pm

If that were the sole cause, there would be no cause to file a lawsuit against the windfarm.

Reply to  steven F
August 10, 2019 9:59 pm

Typical mis-direction. No, as others have advised, the main reason for the SA blackout was the incorrect shutdown settings of the wind turbines, NOT the pylons or lines failures. When you closely study the time event sequence and see where the first pylons/lines failures occurred, this is obvious. You are simply parroting what the former state premier and renewables advocates want everybody to believe, but as will hopefully come out in the court case, be totally wrong.

Reply to  jtom
August 10, 2019 9:53 am

It was the main cause.

“Would this frailty be because of the nature of wind power, or because the company cut corners on equipment capable of handling grid fluctuations, or both?”

Neither. It was more embarrassing than either. The operator had failed to change an idiotic default setting in the control system, indeed they didn’t even know it was there. So when the grid “blinked” twice within a minute the whole shebang just shut down.
Rather like you buy a PC that just shuts down if you don’t touch a key for 30 seconds.

Reply to  tty
August 10, 2019 1:57 pm

Ah, the third possibility: the company cut corners on hiring competent operators. (That might not be fair, but the company is still liable for the failings of its employees.)


August 10, 2019 7:03 am

I’m not sure how you would strengthen a wind turbine “system” to be resilient to the effects of a high wind event such as a tornado. That is a bit of an extreme situation. You really only have two ways to avoid damage. Either your system is made extremely rigid/stiff to avoid being mechanically deformed by the high winds, or your system is made to be extremely flexible so as to bend with the wind. You could opt for some of the more exotic alloys or carbon fiber technology to provide you with the stiffness while attempting to keep the weight down. But if those blades aren’t allowed to spin then they become the equivalent of “sails” on the top of a huge pylon which becomes itself a lever against its base. If they spin at too high a speed then you can damage the turbine head unit that translates the rotational energy from the blades into the electrical energy transmitted to the grid or other network. If you lock down the blades then that mechanical energy developed by the wind against the non-rotating blades won’t be translated to electrical energy and instead will be directed through the pylon to the ground. The tornadic winds tend to not flow in a single direction for too long either, the closer you get to the vortex. From the images above, you can see where that mechanical energy against the pylon caused the structural failures at its “weak” spots.

The bottom line is, that whatever you do to make the wind turbine more resilient to high wind events, is going to have the effect of making the electricity generated at those units become more expensive.

Reply to  Chad
August 10, 2019 7:31 am

The main way industrial scale wind turbines deal with high wind is by turning the blades to change the blade pitch. That allows them to put out faceplate power over a wide range of wind speeds and also feather the blades when wind speed exceeds the maximum operational limit or when they need to reduce output.

Secondarily, a braking system locks the blades in place. Very important for some servicing operations.

Of course, tornadoes and hurricanes present special problems. On a per turbine basis, it’s unlikely a tornado will hit it during its typical 20 year service life and hurricane-force winds don’t extend very far inland.

Reply to  Chad
August 10, 2019 9:01 am
Reply to  Sommer
August 10, 2019 9:34 am

As an engineer it appears to me that the images have one thing in common the main masts all buckled where the blade tips reach. The the enormous bending loads generated by the winds (which occurs whether the blades are rotating or static, just a bit differently) produce large stresses in the support mast. It could be acoustic amplification of the shocks coming off the blade tips or direct impact of the blades with the mast, but all it would take is a very small perturbation to cause the masts to buckle as they have. Perhaps you may have seen you tube videos where someone balances standing atop an empty soda can, then reaches down and merely brushes the side of the can with a finger swipe. The can instantly crumples, buckling the side walls, into flat pancake.
It happens that fast.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
August 11, 2019 6:36 pm

The center of gravity of the mass of the blades is sitting on top of the mast.
The faster the blades spin, the more reactive force is used to balance the energy of the wind.
Some of that is eaten up by the turbines, at a certain design speed the blades are feathered.
The mast acts like a lever, too much force at the top can break a lever.
Catastrophic failures caused by poor design appear quite possible.

Reply to  yirgach
August 12, 2019 11:33 am

The load on the mast is determined by the blockage factor of the turbine blades and hub and wind speed.
All designs have failure limits. That doesn’t necessarily make then poor designs.
Poor design would have missed some primary or even secondary (flutter or harmonic) loads expected to be encountered during designed for operating conditions. Another very big factor in these designs should be damage tolerance to wind borne debris.

We design aircraft to survive bird strikes.

Steven F.
Reply to  Chad
August 10, 2019 9:56 am

The tornadoes never reached the wind farms. They did however pass over 3 differs transmission lines causing them to collapse and short out.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Steven F.
August 10, 2019 10:18 am

It appears there are 2 conversations going on in this set of comments.
Like you, I see a photo at the top of a tower built to carry transmission lines.
There is no wind tower in sight.

Many of the comments — Sommer just above and response by Rocketscientist , for example —
do not relate to the “knocking down huge transmission lines” aspect of the legal action.
All such comments here seem to be Off-Topic (OT).

Reply to  Steven F.
August 10, 2019 10:36 am

The downed structures in the images appear to be transmission towers.

Reply to  Steven F.
August 10, 2019 10:03 pm

These initial line failures were NOT on the main lines to Adelaide or other areas of the state, so they didn’t have a material impact on the overall grid. Study the grid power time sequence diagrams to see what really happened, and you will see the grid failing only AFTER the wind turbines shut down.

Reply to  Chad
August 10, 2019 10:00 am

In this case the shutdown was due to an idiotic default setting in the control system. If it hadn’t been for that the farms would probably have been able to ride through, with just a slight loss of speed and power.

As it was set, when the grid “blinked” twice in rapid succession, the farm just shut down and took the grid along with it.

Reply to  tty
August 10, 2019 12:56 pm


Indeed, that is what the official report said. Some wind farms had similar settings, others were more tolerant. The point was that this “safety” feature was not known to the regulator.

Another error, from the regulator side (can they sue themselves?) is that the main DC line between Victoria and South Australia was not limited to a maximum load. If that had been the case, the frequency would have dropped to where the emergency generators would have come in. In the blackout case, the DC line was overloaded, without a drop in frequency until the safety device shut it down. That was the final step…

August 10, 2019 7:08 am

Aaaarrrgh! Mandate that utilities use unreliable power sources and then sue the pants off the utilities because the power sources are unreliable.

Look in the encyclopedia under ‘Stupid Voters’ and you will find this as one of the examples of the quality of politicians they vote into office.

Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2019 9:56 am

Mandate that utilities use unreliable power sources and then sue the pants off the utilities because the power sources are unreliable.

Its not even the utilities they are suing, its the wind mill operators themselves. So they gave huge financial incentives to companies to build windmills, and are not suing them because the windmills in a storm acted like… windmills in a storm. The argument seems to be that the windmill operators over sold the capabilities of the windmills to withstand a storm.

This is a win if you don’t like windmills either way. If the windmill operators prevail in court, then every utility operator will have to include that risk in their plans, and of the government prevails, the liability costs imposed will make building windmills a huge financial risk. Either way…less windmills.

Reply to  davidmhoffer
August 10, 2019 10:35 am

…and are NOW suing them because…
I know, I know, asking for an edit function on this site is fruitless, but I wish there was an edit function….

Reply to  davidmhoffer
August 10, 2019 10:37 am

They sue the operators because they failed the contractual “ride-through” requirements for wind farms. Furthermore this was due to pure negligence, since the operators had failed to change an idiotic default setting in the control system. That they were apparently unaware of this setting is no excuse. As a wind farm operator you are supposed to read the manual.

A number of wind farms that had sensible settings did not shut down, and their operators have not been sued.

Reply to  tty
August 10, 2019 8:18 pm

Thanks, davidmhoffer and tty. I truly missed that distinction between the utilities and the operators. Glad y’all made follow-up comments.

Reply to  tty
August 11, 2019 11:08 pm

tx tty, valuable clarification.

Reply to  davidmhoffer
August 10, 2019 10:52 pm

The bird population is glad for this lawsuit

Bruce Cobb
August 10, 2019 7:32 am

Yabut, what about “saving the planet”? Think of the children!

August 10, 2019 7:33 am

WTF moment!
“just like the small UPS you put on a Desktop PC”

And you realise those small UPS normally end up as scrap or in landfills within a couple of years when the batteries die, which btw are full of LEAD and ACID!
most people can never be bothered even to replace the batteries when they die (which are mostly made in China – carted half way round the world using fossil fueled ships).

UPS are probably the most unreliable things known to man.
Even data centres with UPS, supposedly 24/365 are constantly going ti..ts up as the BA mega crap-out proved beyond any doubt!

You forgot the /sarc label?

Reply to  pigs_in_space
August 10, 2019 8:52 am

Every one I have ever bought implies that it is ONLY good for letting you do an orderly shutdown. A reading of my post indicated “You need another whole method of generating electricity long enough to safely shut down the excess equipment. ” That is all that that super expensive Musk insulation in SA is “a method of generating electricity long enough to safely shut down the excess equipment. ” No way will it last long enough to start to a CCTG or even a OTTG. If it is not spinning you end up with a blackout.
Once while testing the main breakers live, after all non energized tests were performed at a new power plant, a breaker at a substation on the other side of town tripped and caused a mini blackout. Seems the engineers did not factor in the new power plant in the protective settings at that plant. That circuit saw a sudden surge and tripped. Just like it was designed to do. Power that was going east to west started going west to east to pickup the load causing the sudden increase in load. Going to happen more and more with the dreamers idea of “Distributed generation.” and unreliable energy.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Usurbrain
August 10, 2019 12:01 pm

“Every one I have ever bought implies that it is ONLY good for letting you do an orderly shutdown. A reading of my post indicated “You need another whole method of generating electricity long enough to safely shut down the excess equipment. ””

Those are the cheap ones. The expensive ones take easily replaceable lawn mower batteries, which themselves can be recharged at a Budget Battery-type place, and for which one gets a credit. These can keep a computer set-up going for a longer time, especially if one has different UPSs for the accessories.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Roger Knights
August 10, 2019 9:10 pm

In my experience with setting up UPS systems for individual critical servers is that the software is configured to do an orderly shutdown within certain time parameters, even the expensive ones. These days having power backup is more critical because most “servers” are virtual, VMWare or Hyper-V, servers so the host hardware must have a reliable UPS of some kind.

August 10, 2019 7:34 am

I was wondering when this would appear on this site. The problem with windfarms shutting down sites had nothing to do with wind turbines. The problem was faulty computer code- To summarize, if several bad things happened in sequence, it switched the wind turbines off the grid- It shouldn’t have.

By all means criticize the programmers who wrote the code that switched wind power off the grid when it was needed most, but it has nothing to do with the benefits or otherwise of wind power; the code could just as easily have been attached to a gas, coal, or (if they existed in Oz) nuclear plant, as AMEO explained at the time.

Reply to  Tony
August 10, 2019 8:57 am

The wind turbines were tripped off line because the wind speed exceed their design specifications. With a large number of turbines in the middle of a tornado, hurricane, cyclone all of the same design with the same high wind it will happen, How do you fix that with computer code.

Steven F
Reply to  Usurbrain
August 10, 2019 9:52 am

The wind turbines didn’t trip off line due to the wind speed. They tripped off line due to damage on the utility owned grid. The were not at the max wind cut out speed and they were not even close to the minimum wind cutout speed.

Reply to  Usurbrain
August 10, 2019 10:05 am

They did not. They shut down because of faulty control settings. The whole thing was carefully analyzed millisecond by millisecond in the subsequent failure report.

It is this faulty default setting (which the operators were happily ignorant about, since they had apparently not read the manual) which is the basis for the legal action. The tornado that took the transmission line down was far away.


Reply to  tty
August 10, 2019 10:11 pm

Thanks tty. It’s the time sequence that’s extremely important, and a lot happened in those 12 seconds! All explained at the JoNova website article “SA Blackout: Three towers, six windfarms, and 12 seconds to disaster”.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tty
August 11, 2019 12:20 am

RTFM in Australia is rare these days! Look up the CBA banking disaster of July 26th 2012 to see how NOT READING THE ‘KIN manual can lead to major issues.

steven f
Reply to  Tony
August 10, 2019 9:41 am

I agree with this completely. According to the grid report released after the event there were no failures of the wind turbines. All that damage occurred on the utility grid.

The wind turbines were programed to such that if there were multiple power glitches in defined period of time they would shut dow so that the system could be inspected and and repaired. So when the tornadoes took down power lines in three different places in only a few minutes the wind turbines shut down.

I think the energy regulator should

The grid operator did the same thing. if a short tripped a line circuit breaker the grid operator would try to automatically reset it. IF the reset failed after 3 or for attempts they shut down locked out the line so it could be inspected. And when they crew did get their to inspect them they found that the towers of the entire line were blown down.

If I recall correctly try the only problem found was that basically 5 different companies, the grid operator and the wind farms all used similar rules (the software default settings). So that all of them went off line at about he same time. The grid operator didn’t ask the wind farms to change their settings until after the blackout.

I think the legal action should be taken against the utility for failing to properly insure that no one was using default settings on the grid and wind farms and for failing to insure that they had enough backup on hand in the event something did break.

Reply to  steven f
August 11, 2019 6:14 am

BINGO. I was a power plant startup test engineer. I tested these circuit controls for our new plants. Home office design engineers spent years analyzing the power flow on the company owned interconnections to assure all lines are protected. When a breaker opens on this spider web the loads try to get their power from one of the live connections. Not all lines are sized for picking up all of the load. At one plant after getting permission from the dispatcher I started a VERY LARGE motor feedpump. Power went out for the plant and the surrounding community as the utility designers did not calculate things right.

Reply to  Tony
August 10, 2019 10:41 am

“Tony August 10, 2019 at 7:34 am
…The problem was faulty computer code- To summarize, if several bad things happened in sequence, it switched the wind turbines off the grid- It shouldn’t have.
By all means criticize the programmers who wrote the code”

Good program written by good programmers are programmed to specifications.
The program did what the specifications give to the programmers demanded. There is zero blame for the programmers.

Any operator should be aware of the big and small things under their control and all of the switches that get tripped under what conditions.
Failure to adjust/correct/change operating conditions to address changes is the operator’s fault; or better stated as the owner’s fault.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  ATheoK
August 10, 2019 1:50 pm

“Good program written by good programmers are programmed to specifications.
The program did what the specifications give to the programmers demanded. There is zero blame for the programmers.”

Unless it wasn’t properly tested. There certainly could have been serious bugs. But like attributing zero blame to the programmers, it’s speculation.

August 10, 2019 7:53 am

Is nobody suing the owners of the 23 pylons blasted flat (as shown in the photo?).

because if extreme weather hadn’t taken them out, no outage.

and of course there WOULD have been an outage even on a 100% fossil fuel grid with that loss of power lines

Reply to  griff
August 10, 2019 9:36 am

Wrong, Griff. The loss of the pylons reduced grid stability, through frequency loss. A gas or coal plant would have kept frequency continuity. Wind cannot, by itself. Which is why AEMO said the cause of the blackout was that the ratio of DISPATCHABLE POWER to demand was not high enough. Wind is not in this calculation, as it is assumed to be ZERO.

Reply to  griff
August 10, 2019 10:20 am

As credulous and ignorant as ever griff

The reason for the blackout is covered in detail here:

I particularly recommend reading pages 6 and 39-50 which explain in detail how the faulty control system settings on a number of wind farms caused the blackout. Not that I have much confidence in your ability to understand it.

Reply to  griff
August 11, 2019 12:40 am

Trying to mix pylon failures that occurred after the main shutdown event occurred with the 2-3 pylons that failed prior. Somebody else tried that recently and said 30 pylons failed. A typical diversion attempt away from the main fact that the Blackout occurred because if faulty wind turbine settings.

Reply to  Graeme#4
August 11, 2019 9:15 am

Is this what happened: 1. The voltage drop caused the wind farms to switch offline to protect themselves.
2. Excessive demand caused imported energy transmission lines to switch offline to protect themselves.

Question. When wind power can be relied on 0% when needed the most, and all of its output must be duplicated 100% by reliable imported power…what good is it?

Maintaining stable voltage levels is an elaborate ballroom dance, and wind power is cutting in, clumsily stepping on everybody’s toes.

Kevin kilty
August 10, 2019 7:57 am

I seem to recall defenders of wind farms arguing at the time the wind farms had no part in this, and it was weather and the transmission operators who were to blame. I think this lawsuit puts that argument to rest even if it is an attempt to find a scapegoat.

Graeme No.3
Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 10, 2019 8:59 am

The excuses started almost immediately after the blackout started. The speed of the ‘tornados’ has been exaggerated, the transmission lines blamed etc. Claims were made that the turbines would have kept working even though the wind speeds reached 90-120 kph (roughly 56 – 75 m.p.h.) even though they were known to be shut down (blades feathered) at the 90 kph speed.
Certainly some transmission lines were damaged but this may well have occurred after the blackout started. By the way the about photo was an isolated case. Other photos (at the time) showed the towers lying down (with lines still attached) because the concrete footing had been pulled out of the ground. Obviously too small to cope with the wet grounds saturated after heavy rains, even though they had lasted 50 years in service.
The ultimate cause of the blackout was fluctuating frequency which caused the interconnector to Victoria to shut down as a safety measure.
Since then S.A. has operated with strict levels of conventional (gas fired/diesel) generation running and any excess supply gets some of the wind farms shut down by order.

Steven F
Reply to  Graeme No.3
August 10, 2019 10:22 am

You should read the final report on the event. A power line shorted out and tripped off line. the grid operator tried to reset it. The reset failed and line was locked out for inspection and repair. This happed several times. by the time the last line shorted out there wasn’t much of the grid still functioning . Only after the final short did the frrequency fluctuations go out of spec and the victoria interconnected (about the only substantial source of power still left) go off line.

When crews got out to inspect the shorted lines to inspect and repair them they found some down as show in the photos. Others were not as badly damaged but it sill took some time to repair the lines so that they could carry power.

Yes the lines may have only collapsed after the power went out. but they obviously were not capable of carrying any power before the lights went out.

Ron Long
August 10, 2019 7:58 am

What a great story, Eric! Tornados exact revenge against bird choppers and the idiots that built and supported them sit in the dark! I think I will have a drink and salute tornados.

michael hart
August 10, 2019 8:30 am

Finally, a few chickens coming home to roost?

The damage, and opportunity cost, of the green malarkey already runs into the $trillions.
The skeptical arguments win on the science and win on the economics, but probably need to win bigly in the courts before we can rid ourselves of these troublesome priests.

Mark Broderick
August 10, 2019 8:33 am

“Great Lakes hit record water levels ! ”

Hmmmm, weren’t they complaining about record LOW water levels a few years back ?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Mark Broderick
August 10, 2019 10:59 am

Have we reach peak off-topic yet?

Reply to  Mark Broderick
August 10, 2019 3:34 pm

Declining Water Levels In The Great Lakes “May Signal” Global Warming

August 10, 2019 9:53 am

You need a stable base for a useful power system. If the windmills start fighting each other and you have no spinning reserve, the lights go out.

August 10, 2019 10:31 am

For those who want to actually find out what happened, and why that particular wind-farm operator gets sued I recommend this report (especially pp. 6 and 39-50).

Very briefly: A storm caused failure of two HT transmission lines, this caused several short “blinks” on the grid as the system tried to compensate. This would almost certainly have succeeded since the SA system could draw on the Victoria system for more power and help to stabilize the frequency. However the “blinks” caused a number of wind farms to abruptly shut down, quite unnecessarily, and indeed contrary to contractual “ride-through” requirements, causing a loss of 456 MW. This in turn violently overloaded the Victoria interconnector which tripped. After that there was not nearly enough despatchable power to maintain frequency and the whole grid shut down.

August 10, 2019 10:52 am

“Australian Government Sues Wind Farm Operators”

This smacks of the government suing itself.
Government subsidies to construct, operate and maintain the wind farm.

A lawsuit against the wind farm appears to be the government trying to pick their own pocket.

If the lawsuit drives the wind farm out of business, what will happen?
The corporate owners will send that wind farm into bankruptcy and then sell that wind farm to another owner. Possibly another division of the same corporation. Bankruptcy will reduce quarterly earnings and likely offset taxes.

The new owner will have bought the wind farm for the subsidies and surcharges revenue.

Both old and new companies will seek government funds to help them cover losses.

Reply to  ATheoK
August 10, 2019 12:49 pm

They probably hope that it will scare other operators to at least try to understand how their bird-shredders work in the future.

August 10, 2019 4:13 pm

This is eerily similar to the blackouts that occurred 2 days ago (Aug 9/19) in the UK.

A gas fired station and, a giant wind farm in the North Sea both went out, and cut power to areas all over the UK.

Eamon Butler
August 11, 2019 4:28 am

So, what was wrong with power generation before Wind/Solar got involved? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
R.E.s are not even necessary.


Johann Wundersamer
August 11, 2019 4:09 pm

“If wind farms cannot be made more resilient against severe weather or instability caused by grid component failures, and if we assume for the sake of argument that future climate change will bring more severe weather and disruption and damage to infrastructure” –

It wasn’t “more severe weather and disruption” that brought “damage to the infrastructure” but “violent fluctuations from the Snowtown wind farms”:

”South Australia’s blackout apparently ‘triggered by the violent fluctuations from the Snowtown wind farms’

Guest Blogger / October 1, 2016

Performance of wind farms and fossil fuel powered generators analysed

Guest essay by Tom Quirk

It looks like a natural disaster but brought on by the fragility of the South Australian power system caused by the size of the variations in wind power.

The failure is most likely to have been triggered by the violent fluctuations from the Snowtown wind farms (Figure 1 and 5). Shortly after 3 pm there was a loss of 200MW with a partial recovery some twenty minutes later of 100MW. The total wind farm supply for South Australia also shows these variations (Figure 2).

This would have put a shock to the system for frequency stability at 50 cycles per second. For most of the day the local gas fired generators were only supplying 100 MW (Figure 3) with the balance to match demand with supply coming from Victoria. But the local generators started to increase and vary their output with first a 150 MW loss at Snowtown just before mid-day and then 50 MW variations that followed. Shortly before 3 pm the Hallett wind farms lost and then recovered 70 MW in a 20 minute interval (Figure 4 and 6). This added to the final Snowtown wind farm 200 MW loss. This detail is shown in Figure 5.

So the system instability could trigger Victoria shutting off the link to South Australia and the blackout followed.”

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