CSIRO Wind Energy Experts to Save South Africa from Blackouts

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

After a “year of frustration” in Australia, Aussie Government CSIRO spinoff Windlab sees an opportunity to use expensive intermittent renewable energy to reduce blackouts and bring prosperity to South Africa.

CSIRO spin-off, Windlab, looks to Africa after “year of frustration” in Australia

Michael Mazengarb 6 March 2020 

Windlab management has told investors that the company’s future may rest with an expansion into the African energy market, after a ‘frustrating’ year in the Australian market, which has seen several of its local projects beset by delays and write-downs.

“I think it’s fair to say that 2019 was a year of frustration,” Price said. “Characterised by delay across several of our projects. The Kennedy Energy Park has encountered further delays, as advised.”

Across the Australian market investment in renewable energy has collapsed in 2019, caused by ongoing regulatory uncertainty and dramatic increases the technical process requirements related to grid connection and registration.”

In South Africa, the need for more generating capacity could not be clearer,” Price said.

The country is engineering blackouts and rolling load-shedding caused by the unpredictable operation of its old coal fleet. There is a clear stated intention to procure significantly more renewable energy generation, both from statements made by the president and via the release of the country’s new integrated resource plan, which calls for further 14 gigawatts of wind energy by 2030.”

Read more: https://reneweconomy.com.au/csiro-spin-off-windlab-looks-to-africa-after-year-of-frustration-in-australia-90467/

Perhaps Windlab can also promote Australian Chief Scientist Dr. Alan Finkel’s Hydrogen Economy idea, so South Africa can truly make a great leap forward and show rich countries how to build the renewable energy economy of the future.

76 thoughts on “CSIRO Wind Energy Experts to Save South Africa from Blackouts

  1. Like a giant army of Termites, the Warmista Brigades roam the Earth looking for economies to consume, lives to wreck and pockets to empty. Having brought South Australia to its knees by demolishing the last functioning power station there and making the State dependant on unreliable wind or solar or the interconnector cable to Victoria, NSW and Queensland, the Giant Termite Army moves on to devastate the naive Warmista AGW true-believers in South Africa.

    • Australia hoping to help S.A ( in Africa ) reproduce the technological disaster of their own S.A.

      Jeez, if S.A. can not manage to build a stable grid with coal power , what the hell chance have they got with fickle, intermediate production like wind?

      • S.A. had a stable grid, relative to neighboring states, until a few years after Mandela’s death.
        Since then the country has devolved into strongman tribalism. The resulting corruption and reverse discrimination has replaced the old infrastructure with failing grid, water supply and an ailing transportation system. S.A. is well on it’s way to the next Zimbabwe.

      • Greg

        “The country is engineering blackouts and rolling load-shedding caused by the unpredictable operation of its old coal fleet”

        This is really a misleading claim. As you point out, coal generators have had problems, but the cause was not their fickle nature. ESKOM was producing electricity at the lowest possible price – their mandate from government.

        The coal fired system became unreliable when maintenance was inadequate for years and they were short 6000 engineers all the time. The new coal fired stations are years behind on delivery and multiple errors were made in specs, contract corruption through the Gupta brothers and a continuing loss of experienced engineers.

        Wind power is there, causing the usual problems. The independent power producers, (IPPs) the builders of these wind farms, wanted a guaranteed off-take of the power if and when it is available. ESKOM said, sure, if we can raise the price of electricity to cover the cost of idling our newly built power stations during those hours. The government said “No”. So ESKOM said, we won’t take the power. The government had guaranteed the IPPs they would get paid. Increasing the amount of wind power will not solve the root problem: it’s unreliability and the extreme cost involved in having standby generating capacity built with borrowed money. It is just too expensive to do that.

        South Africa is not short of coal. They have enough to last 1000 years by which time a nuclear option will be fully developed and affordable. Wind farms can kiss their assets goodbye. Like solar PV it is good for RAPs in isolated locations. That’s it.

        • And in SA, we’re already running our ’emergency’ OCGTs more-or-less non-stop. The new head of Eskom (the power monopoly) has declared that he is going to halt generation whenever necessary to perform scheduled maintenance – which seems to be a new idea for the current bunch. (Apparently, according to some political type, “preventative maintenance” is a Western idea, and therefore unwelcome). This is in the face of “Give us our free power” demonstrations by the EFF party, at the same time that anything up to 20% of the generation capability is subject to “unplanned breakdowns”. (I wonder what a ‘planned breakdown’ would be?) A major problem is the socialist promises of ‘free everything’, which results in a huge proportion of electricity users not paying for their power.

          • Anyone who has been to Africa, without exception knows that long term planning (like for power station life cycle maintenance) is tomorrow. Anything after tomorrow is too hard.

          • “Bananabender56 March 7, 2020 at 2:58 pm”

            True in many cases however, the biggest hydro-dam is being built in Ethiopia. I am pretty sure some planning and funds have be made and put aside to do that.

  2. ““The country is engineering blackouts and rolling load-shedding caused by the unpredictable operation of its old coal fleet. ”

    So, replace the coal energy fleet, don’t bring in other energy sources that you know are notably unreliable and hyper-expensive besides environmentally super-ungreen. Yeah, that’s the cure.

  3. We had a blackout here last night, some time in the early morning here in Australia where I live. I don’t see energy suppliers building wind power to cover those times when the power goes out.

    • Patrick, we live near Mudgee, Beryl Solar Farm is a few kilometers from our house. We have only had significant rain in the last few months and in that time we have had four blackouts, very cloudy weather. During the last blackout I decided to call Essential Energy to find out what the problem was. They told me that a power line had come down and that power would be restored within a few hours. I asked her if power lines had come down in the past three blackouts over two months and I told her I had a theory. My theory was that the grid was unstable due to the solar farm (cloudy sky’s) and that they were shutting down power to our area to ensure that the power was supplied to Sydney. Our power came back on in less than fifteen minutes.

      What is interesting is that when we signed on for our electricity less than a year ago they gave us the option of being paid for ‘scheduled blackouts’. We declined thinking that our power would be uninterrupted, we were wrong.

      They are planning massive amounts of wind and solar renewables in our area, if the grid is unstable now with an 87mw solar farm, what will happen if the planned technology goes through? Incidentally, none of the renewable power goes to our town.

    • Unsure what point you are making Patrick. In reality wind and solar are (sadly) exactly whats being built in every State.

      • The RE industry was waiting and hoping for an ALP lead govn’t in May 2019 so that RET’s could be raised to 50%, it didn’t happen. RET’s are still at 26% and money for RE investment is drying up. There may be solar and wind projects previously started but nothing new is planned AFAIK.

  4. Replacing unreliable coal plant by expensive and unreliable wind has to be an early April Fool’s joke.
    The coal fleet is unreliable only because they haven’t put in the investment and competent white staff were replaced by poorly trained black ones. The rest of the world has benefited from the exodus. Until the 80s, they SA power system was as good as anywhere. Now it is a joke.

    • They aren’t doing so well with their nuclear plants either. Both ESKOM and the South African Nuclear Regulatory Agency appear to be devoted to patronage and affirmative action.

      Let them have windmills. And when their agriculture collapses from their land confiscation program, let them starve.

    • Hmmmmm….. So, I’m just guessing here but that socialist wealth redistribution thing isn’t working so well in South Africa? Or Venezuela? Or Cuba…. Or anywhere else it’s been tried?

  5. re. Hydrogen Economy

    Over the years, I have followed a number of promising energy technologies. They all passed the pilot plant stage so the technology was at least feasible. None of them ultimately succeeded, mostly for economic reasons. One example was thermal depolymerization otherwise known as ‘oil from turkey guts’. They calculated that America could be completely powered by agricultural waste products. It looked very promising. The problem was that the ‘waste’ products were worth more for other uses. In other words, agricultural ‘waste’ was being mischaracterized.

    The Hydrogen Economy looks promising the same way Marxism looks promising. Until it’s tested by reality, it’s just pie in the sky. The hydrogen economy isn’t even as far along as oil-from-turkey-guts yet. I wonder what logical errors the promoters of the hydrogen economy are committing (ie. similar to mischaracterizing agricultural ‘waste’, that kind of thing).

    • That it takes more energy to get the hydrogen than you will ever get from using it.

      • Yes but that criticism can be made of any energy storage technology. The problem with hydrogen is that it seems to be a much less efficient technology than plain old batteries.

    • Now, if you added a thermal de-polymerization plant into the design for a nuclear reactor, using the “waste” steam from the nuke to power the conversion, you’d have a source of power and an excellent way to recycle plastic into oil. Two birds, one stone, etc.

      • Here’s a quote from a site that wants the hydrogen economy to succeed.

        As the CEO of Volkswagen recently put it: “To drive the same 100km you need three times the wind farms than you do with electric cars.” link

        I have never seen the case put better.

      • This is one of those things people have been working on for a long time. Ballard Power Systems comes to mind. They have been working on fuel cells since 1979. I remember the initial hoopla. Then, not much. It sure didn’t live up to its initial billing.

        So, when people have been working on something for a long time, all the low hanging fruit has been picked. All the incremental improvements have been made. The only hope is a fundamental breakthrough and those can’t be predicted or planned for.

        With regard to any company touting fuel cell powered vehicles, I am not holding my breath.

  6. ‘The country is engineering blackouts and rolling load-shedding caused by the unpredictable operation of its old coal fleet’

    Wind energy is obviously the solution to unpredictability.

    ‘Windlab also closed its North American operations during 2019, citing a downturn in business as the antagonistic stance of the Trump administration’

    Unless a government indulges and protects the RE industry it’s labelled ‘antagonistic’.
    Coal supplies 77% of South Africa’s primary energy as well as a coal industry including Sasol, the coal to chemical processor, and is the world’s fourth-largest coal exporter.
    http://www.energy.gov.za/files/coal_frame.html

    • That opening statement , like so many similar ones, lacks the “because” statement.

      The old coal fleet is unreliable due to incompetence and corruption. Neither of those things will go away due to a change in technology, especially to a fragile high maintenance technology that just loves preventative maintenance.

      Similar statement about disproportionate arrests and incarcerations in some “communities” never go on to discuss the disproportionate levels of violence and crime that triggers those actions.

  7. “…unpredictable operation of its old coal fleet…..” So instead of SA fixing the problems with a known and reliable source of energy AUS proposes an intermittent source that they haven’t been able to use successfully themselves and they think the people will buy their snake oil? I wonder who will pay for it?

  8. Sarc detector not needed 😉

    But seriously, the Aussie experience, like elsewhere with RE, is a lesson in what NOT to do, and it’s no coincidence that the developing countries are choosing coal ahaed of RE, based on the observed outcomes from the guinea pig countries such as Australia, where RE is unable to replace thermal generation and prices have skyrocketed.

    There is a link to their AEMO wind data, which shows the wind output in real time and also shows the monthly data, which can be filtered per wind farm.

    https://anero.id/energy/wind-energy/2020/february

    You’ll notice that there is a claim that the wind farms have a capacity factor of between 30-35%, but looking at the graph for February you’ll notice the average of the 57 wind farms is much closer to 20%, with dips down to only 5%.

    For South Africa, the wind resources are not quite as good as AU due to it’s slightly more northerly latitude and the smaller geographical footprint makes it more prone to total loss of wind from slow moving weather systems, such as a blocking high.

    In terms of making power available to industry, the ~6GW of nameplate capacity (~2GW of average output) that is currently installed in the AU AEMO took around 15 years and required significant financial injection from government in order to attract any private investement. Finding exact numbers for investment is often difficult, however around $42 billion has been invested in wind up to 2018 according to an ABC report.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-26/renewable-energy-investment-maybe-heading-from-boom-to-bust/11041964

    What is very obvious is the lack out output and long deployment time for the $ spend. If $42 Billion provides $2GW of average power after a 15 year installation period then you would be crazy to follow this disaster, especially considering the turbines only have a 20 year lifespan. For this money you could build 16GW of 24/7 coal or gas generation that would last 50 years and if you are expanding power infrastructure with RE, such as in SA, then you would need to build coal and gas backup on top, as we know wind is variable and needs almost 100% backup.

  9. “caused by the unpredictable operation of its old coal fleet.”

    What mechanical problem would cause a coal fleet to operate unpredictably?

    • Aging power plants often experience parts that require extended maintenance and unexpected problems causing power production drop off
      BUT
      Switching to RE Unreliables isn’t the answer

      • Switching to RE will end the complaints about unreliable coal. People will talk about the ‘good old day’ when power only went out now and then.

        Others will talk about how reliable RE is because now you can count on the power being out.

        • Others will talk about how reliable RE is because now you can count on the power being out.

          I would change only one word
          Others will talk about how reliable RE is because now you can count relyon the power being out.

          GREAT QUOTE

  10. Yeahhhhh riighhht……Wndlab simply hoping that SA population is more gullible than the majority of the Oz population who has and is rejecting this crap….

    • Rejected at Fed elections but its still being built by the States who have responsibility for generation.

      Only Sth Aust really tossed its govt and the new lot seem equally hopeless and are in reality with a lot of sunk investment. Vic and NSW seem to be happily plunging off the same cliff so it hard to see the rejection except maybe in QLD, where the export coal power south and mainly pay lip service to RE

  11. We are all doomed when ideology becomes the answer to engineering problems. What in the hell are they teaching in engineering courses now?

      • Sensitivity analysis now measures the engineer. Back in the day it used to measure the data.

    • Like climate “scientists” , Engineers have mortgages to pay and careers to nurture. Tug the forelock, do the work, prepare your next career move. There is no loyalty or longevity in work anymore so just dont caught out when the music stops.

      • “yarpos March 7, 2020 at 1:43 pm

        There is no loyalty or longevity in work anymore…”

        And hasn’t been for a long time especially in Australia. Having to compete in the IT industry with migrants on 457 visas who will take an AU$20,000 drop in annual pay to do the same job. The only industries in Australia that could be considered to have any longevity are politics, law and aged care. The property market is a ponzi scheme propped up by unfettered inbound migration and overseas investors inflating property prices then leaving them vacant.

  12. If there’s a buck in it, Big Wind will move in fast. Wind turbines in Oz earn the corporate owners of wind farms about $600,000 per turbine, consumer-subsidised through supply charges paid by electricity users.

    • If they have a flexible attitude to the necessary “facilitating payments” while operating overseas they should do well. I expect them to be successful in gaining SA contracts , and starting work but less successful (if responsible) for actual project completion and delivery of useful power. Ongoing maintenance will be a complete disaster. Just my opinion.

  13. South Africans are the least bit worried about power blackouts and wind power to supplement outages when people get shot or set on fire for stealing.

  14. “Across the Australian market investment in renewable energy has collapsed in 2019, caused by ongoing regulatory uncertainty and dramatic increases the technical process requirements related to grid connection and registration.”

    Aw shucks you mean the dumpers are having to stump up for FCAS to level the playing field with their FF insurers who are already subsiding their investments via RECs-
    https://www.rec-registry.gov.au/rec-registry/app/public/what-is-a-rec
    FCAS matters and not just the amount of electrons these bludgers can pump out-
    http://www.wattclarity.com.au/articles/2020/02/fcas-matters-more-than-ever/

    So now they’re off to South Africa to pluck them before they wake up to the scam as true 24/7/365 dispatchable power with the right voltage and frequency costs a lot more than dumping on the communal grid does at present.

  15. Unfortunately it is all too easy for large companies to kick-back a percentage of a contract, making a bad decision for a country look very good to the politicians involved.

    The biggest problem I’ve seen all over the third world is maintenance. They don’t allow for the 10-15% it costs every year to keep the machinery running. So when things break they have to canabalize other equipment to make repairs.

    I expect this is what is happening in South Africa. The coal plants are unreliable because there is no money being spent on spares. Instead every running machine has a broken machine being used for parts.

    Check the next time you visit a luxury hotel in the tropics, once they are a couple of years old. Look how many rooms are unoccupied; missing lights, TVs, toilets, because they have been canabalized to keep other rooms open.

    • Wind turbines in Sth Africa will be lucky to last 5 years, unless completly outsourced and funded by money held in trust, and then only if civil order doesnt get worse.

  16. This statement:

    caused by ongoing regulatory uncertainty

    That actually means the subsidies are drying up. The ambient energy industry in Australia was waiting for the new Labor government to come to power and immediately increase the “renewable energy target” to 50% rather than the current 26%. With Morrison government retaining power, the RET has remained as it was. The consequence is that the forward price of large scale generating certificates has tanked:
    http://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/RET/Pages/About%20the%20Renewable%20Energy%20Target/How%20the%20scheme%20works/Large-scale%20generation%20certificate%20market%20update%20by%20month/Large-scale-generation-certificate-market-update—October-2019.aspx
    The forward price is now down to AUD10/MWh for 2022. That is simply not enough to make money given the circumstances of frequent curtailing, true cost of transmission losses sheeted to the generators and cost of stability services.

    If any grid had infinite storage capacity then wind would be competitive with dispatchable sources of generation but Norway and Tasmania are possibly the only significant regions with something approaching infinite storage although the power rating is limited to the grid maximum demand. The Australian national grid has next to no storage compared with its demand although South Australia has an existing 650MW link to Victoria and an 800MW link is planned for SA-NSW. That will effectively give SA storage rated at 1450MW (more than its average demand) with infinite energy. So when you see the high proportion of intermittent generation in SA, keep in mind it is bludging off the dispatchable capacity in the other states.

  17. dramatic increases the technical process requirements related to grid connection and registration.”
    ≠=======
    The Ozzie’s made a brilliant change. If you are going to supply power to the grid, you have to supply it. You cannot simply turn it on and off whenever it suits you.

    So what that means is that if a windfarm says they are going to supply power, but the wind isn’t blowing, then they need to buy the power from someone else, or have batteries, or backup generators.

    And with this one small change in the regulations the RE producers become a reliable source of electricity.

  18. Nah…ferdberple, on a wet cloudy day, our local solar farm which feeds to Sydney simply shuts down our power so that Sydney doesn’t miss out! Simples

    /sarc

  19. Another of the big problems facing beautiful South Africa, (stemming largely from the venal and incompetent ANC), is lack of drinking water.

    Here again it is, no doubt, the fault of those old white engineers who built the system without allowing for ten fold population increases and lack of maintenance.

    They need Renewable Water.

    Surely some amoral and cynical Aussie companies can be found that are happy to offer South Africa (for a King’s ransom, naturally), a new Renewable Water system?

    Ethics aren’t necessary. Just a penchant for considering the poor people’s needs and being happy to take the piss.

    • We have considerable expertise in buying unecessary desalinators if that is of any help. Sounds like they may be more necessary there. They do a have a pesky need for power though, so thats sort of an issue.

  20. Sadly, South Africa is a mess because of incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and fraud that permeates all levels of government and every state and semi-state agency.

    The story of Hendrik van der Bijl, who founded the Electricity Supply Commission in South Africa in 1922 and remained as chairman till his death in 1948, is an inspiring one. General Jan Smuts as prime minister recognized van der Bijl’s abilities. He appointed him as Scientific and Industrial Adviser to the department of Mines and Industries.

    Last year I was surprised to find the biography of van der Bijl on the website of the Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom). It has since been removed. Perhaps his competence and brilliance shows up their present failures. Today the interim chairman of Eskom is a physician who knows little about engineering, physics and industry.

    Had van der Bijl been alive today I doubt he would have been pleased with the wind energy schemes. He would have come up with cost-effective solutions appropriate to South Africa.

    https://ethw.org/Hendrik_van_der_Bijl

  21. “Windlab sees an opportunity to use expensive intermittent renewable energy to reduce blackouts and bring prosperity to South Africa.”

    “Windlab sees an opportunity to use expensive intermittent renewable energy to reduce prosperity and bring blackouts to South Africa.” Fixed it.

  22. Carpet baggers, every one. We are known worldwide for being gullible. Next we will see an influx of perpetual motion machine salespeople.

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