Australian renewables integration. Part 2

From Climate Etc.

by Planning Engineer (Russ Schussler) and Chris Morris

Many are looking towards Australia and seeing bold, innovative steps to increase the penetration levels of wind and solar resources. A grid revolution around the corner? Or just the madness of crowds?  This post discusses what we can discern from their efforts so far.

Major New Innovations in Australia?

Part 1 covered renewables’ impacts so far on the major power grid in Australia. Many are inspired by this headline:  South Australia may be first big grid in world to go without synchronous generation. The article begins by noting:

South Australia – already leading the world in the uptake of wind and solar and operating its grid at high levels of renewables – could be the first gigawatt scale grid in the world to operate without synchronous generation… South Australia is unique in the world because it is the first gigawatt scale grid to operate at such high levels of wind and solar, which in the past year have accounted for 64 per cent of local generation, according to AEMO.

Reports are that South Australia is  set to become the first big grid to run on 100% renewables.

In far away Western Australia, with a smaller independent grid, is setting records for wind and solar as well. In 2025 they believe there may be enough wind and solar to power the grid entirely by renewables, for at least half an hour. On October 16th 2022 there was more than enough available wind and solar to match local demand there.


Identified problems associated with a net zero grid are often inappropriately dismissed with some reference to work being done somewhere, or referencing the claims of academics. Frequently industry changing innovations have appeared poised to emerge just “around the corner”. Despite the enthusiasm of their boosters, these just around the corner breakthroughs often tend not to work out very well. The eventual associated complexity and costs of “around the corner” projects  often prove crippling. Such claims can be almost impenetrably confusing. “Around the corner” claims are often overblown or misunderstood. Let’s dig a little deeper into the available information here.

Is South Australia a Grid?

First off it should be noted that South Australia (SA) is not a grid in the context of being self-contained and independent. It is a relatively small component of a large grid. The resources on the larger grid were described in Part 1:

Wind and solar, the unreliables, are now a significant part of the current NEM generation but the backbone is still coal – over 60% of the energy. Wind is less than 15% and grid solar 5%. …. There is also the significant presence of domestic PV.  Because it is mainly behind the meter, there is no accurate data on its precise magnitude. But scaling up the contribution of grid solar and allowing for less efficient installations, it would be in the order of another 10%.

The large grid has a significant number of synchronous generators that support the SA system in many ways. As noted in Part 1, generation in Victoria specifically helps buffer South Australia’s already erratic generation through the Heywood interconnection. The large synchronous machines on the neighboring system work to support the South Australia experiment. The hype that this experiment is receiving would be well more deserved, if the greater grid were participating to the same degree as South Australia.

This isn’t the first time that exaggerated claims have been made concerning the ability of an independent grid to run at high levels of renewables, based upon the penetration levels within a limited area of the grid. Not too long ago many pointed towards Germany as showing how a grid could accommodate high levels of renewables. This was a very misleading picture. The physics of the grid do not care who owns what. Synchronous resources from a neighbor’s generators provide support across the European grid, despite differences in language and nationality. Electricity flows quickly, approaching the speed of light, over every potential path to support all parts of the system regardless of who owns what. The German component is supported by conventional generation from neighboring systems including coal resources in Poland.

OK, Not an Independent Grid, But a Good Sized Asynchronous Component of a Grid?

Is South Australia going asynchronous?  Grid experts reading  the claim that, South Australia may be first big grid in world to go without synchronous generation, should know there is a trick somewhere, even if they aren’t quite yet sure what the trick isThe trick (besides that SA is not a grid) is that they are not, as a quick reading of the headline suggests, looking at building a grid that doesn’t rely on synchronous resources.

There is a loophole in the argument that grids require synchronous generators. The South Australia headline is capitalizing on that loophole. Four synchronous condensers are needed to maintain the grid without their synchronous gas generating units. These synchronous condensers need to be in place before they remove conventional generation. Synchronous condensers are basically the same as synchronous generators, the difference being they lack the ability to generate power. Existing steam plants can be converted to synchronous condensers by removing the prime mover that powers the unit. The rest of the assembly rotates in synchrony with the grid. Synchronous condensers can provide inertia, voltage control and provide or absorb vars. Synchronous condensers function at the point where generators transition to motors. Synchronous condensers are synchronous machines but they consume power, rather than supply it.

Putting this in context, the SA experiment is not to create an asynchronous independent grid operating on wind and solar, as many perceive. The experiment is addressing how well a component of a large grid  can integrate a large amount of wind and solar, that benefits from the synchronous generators of its neighbors and which has installed special synchronous condensers to replace the synchronous generators that they are retiring,

Is Using Synchronous Condensers to Support Renewables a New Idea?

Not really. Synchronous condensers have been around for a very long while. In Planning Engineer’s first posting at Climate Etc. in 2014 he noted:

Could a power system operating similar to ours be built that relied on only renewable resources? The answer is yes and no. As noted above there are essential system characteristics that most renewables do not supply or supply well. However, a renewable system could be coupled with extensive batteries and other storage devices, large mechanical flywheels and condensers (basically an unpowered motor/generator that can spit out or consume reactive power). These devices could approximate the behaviors of our conventional power system but they would require huge and prohibitive costs. 

To be clear, synchronous condensers are great things to have on a grid. They were infrequently used in the past because so many synchronous generators were typically present to support the grid.  Wind and solar are creating a need for synchronous condensers, which have been rebranded as “syncons”. One of the authors has made recommendations in the past at various times to convert retiring plants to operate as synchronous condensers to better support the grid. However, the structures of ownership and cost sharing doomed such strategic considerations. As Australia is judging it worthwhile to incur the full costs of new synchronous condensers, perhaps policy changes could be made to allow even more economic conversion ,especially as asynchronous renewables are  increasing their penetration levels most everywhere. Often it would make sense to keep old coal plants around to provide both emergency generation and synchronous resources when needed. If that’s not possible, consideration should be given to at least keep them as synchronous condensers. Part of why neither is being done is that many are proud to virtuously claim that they are shuttering coal plants. When multiple plants are closed by a solitary action, you know little thought is going into the specifics. Beyond that, flawed market and cost recovery schemes are causing many opportunities to be missed.

If others learn from Australia the value of synchronous condensers (especially at low cost from retiring plants), that will be a great thing.

What else is SA doing?

As noted by the market operator AMEO, there are detailed engineering challenges that must be solved before allowing 100% renewables on the grid. “They are undertaking various other improvements to cope with the generation changes. Currently there are plans to spend $12.7 Billion to build 5 new high voltage transmission lines to bolster their system. South Australia also has a strong need for storage to enable frequency control and reserves services. Plans to allow more of the wind and solar to be used, also include more exotic procedures such as heavier curtailment of power from rooftop PV under certain conditions. Cutting solar at the residential level to allow greater renewable penetration at the grid level (or because of difficulties introduced by dispatch of solar and wind) provides a good illustration of how challenging and overcomplicated this transition might be. This article notes, ”AEMO’s plan to fix the broken energy system seems so simple, but it’s likely to be anything but.”

It  is doubtful the current approach can be sustained. Remember that coal is still the major generation energy source in Australia. Continuing and expanding the steps they are taking with increasing grid wide penetration will only compound the costs and challenges. Their “solutions” are not the bold innovations needed for the proposed changes in generation, but rather costly, makeshift, stopgap Band-aids.

Replacing generation, adding storage, adding synchronous machines and complicating procedures  will likely harm cost and reliability. Leveled cost comparisons of wind and solar to natural gas are very misleading if they ignore the changes needed to support asynchronous renewables. Proponents of wind and solar want these extra costs to be hidden and paid by others. But if wind and solar require large synchronous machines to enable them to work with the grid, and storage as well, some cost reckoning is due when competing resources include synchronous capability as an inherent part of their design. Renewable advocates can’t continually rely on shoddy cost studies ignoring the huge cost differences associated with the competing resources. As wind and solar become more prevalent, the extra costs necessary to address reliability will increase and be harder to hide.

AMEO must realize this ,as they have stated their intent to move towards developing the capability for inverter-based resources (like wind, solar and batteries) to provide the functionality they are now seeking from synchronous condensers. The inverter-based work is much less developed and much further away. If it could be made to work it would likely be much less expensive than their current approach. But can it be made to work on a complicated grid?  Nobody is proposing to begin that experiment yet on a large scale. A system primarily dependent on inverter-based support, whether synchronous or asynchronous, would be revolutionary. If that’s where their focus is, the development within Australia would truly be worthy of attention.

Why is the Focus on Changing Resources and not The Grid Needs?

The series “Academics and the Grid” (Herehere and here) discussed two different foci of the energy transition. There are two major problem areas:

  • Getting energy from renewables instead of fossil fuels
  • Having the grid work with intermittent asynchronous renewable resources

It would seem that a grid transformation would need to make progress on these two separate concerns in tandem. The first problem is easier to address while  the second is more challenging and becomes increasingly intractable at higher penetration levels of wind and solar. It’s understandable why individuals or groups might choose to address the first problem over the other, especially in terms of personal incentives and rewards. But it is mind-boggling that an entity committed to an energy transition would seek to maximize efforts in regard to changing energy resources while hoping a miracle will occur allowing that energy to be delivered in an economic and reliable manner.

The mismatch between energy sourcing and energy delivery raises challenges in term of responsibilities and costs.  The decarbonization advisor noted the considerable “wrangling over who should foot the construction bill”.  Some additional interesting quotes from the decarbonization advisor appear in this article.

  • “The simple task is to estimate when coal is going to come out of the system — that’s number one”
  • “The most difficult thing is enabling the replacement”
  • We know that large-scale batteries and large-scale hydro are going to play a pretty significant role.
  • “(T)here’ll need to be a role for gas and we know there’s going to be a role for [rooftop solar and battery]”
  • “We know there’ll need to be a great deal of attention paid to what happens when that base-load generation comes off”
  • “A lot of the markets that will pay for these new sources don’t yet exist”
  • “Energy to be ‘unrecognisable”

Except for putting the cart before the horse, these quotes suggest we might agree about a lot. It is simple to take out coal, if you don’t care what happens next. It is going to be incredibly difficult, if at all possible, to enable the replacement.  Significant roles will be demanded from all resources but that may not be enough. A lot of attention needs to be paid when baseload generation comes off, and a lot of challenges without practical solutions will likely emerge.  A lot of needed things needed don’t exist yet and may not ever exist. The energy system may be unrecognizable, maybe because it will no longer resembles an economic and reliable power system.

Evidently there are a lot of individual short-term incentives in the mix, not tied to any long-term gains for the large population of electric consumers. Clearly many relevant policy makers lack information and expertise in needed areas and are greatly influenced by others who are the same boat. From an engineering perspective, it seems obvious that to allow increased penetration of wind and solar, neither of the problem areas can be ignored and that progress must be made concurrently with advancements in both areas. You don’t figure out how to land a plane after you have the passengers in the air.

Energy is too important for policy makers to invest in a “field of dreams”. You can’t change the basics of energy supply, then just hope the support system will organically emerge. The largely singular focus and magical thinking may best be explained by those with expertise in the areas of human, group, organizational, political or religious behavior  perhaps those with a good understanding of the “madness of crowds”.

Final Thoughts

South Australia’s initial efforts are less revolutionary than they appear. Their efforts instead show the importance and centrality of synchronous machines. Australia is retiring synchronous generators and replacing them with other synchronous machines. This step is not revolutionary. That and the other  solutions they are incorporating confirm that a net-zero grid faces considerable challenges. Combined with other planned  changes, their overall efforts will aggravate existing reliability trends. AEMO is currently seeing inertial shortfalls and poor system security.  Will the new efforts continue the trends towards a costlier less reliable grid?  The authors believe it is most likely that costs will increase significantly and reliability will degrade considerably even if they do a great job of implementing all the planned changes. Higher energy costs will hurt their consumers and industry while moving manufacturing and industry away from Australia to areas with cheaper (fossil fuel based) energy. The end result may cause far greater environmental harm.

The effectiveness of South Australia’s future plans remains to be demonstrated. It’s not clear how complicated or expensive it may be to implement the proposed changes. Curtailing residential solar to allow greater grid-based wind and solar, suggest s that it may be inordinately complicated.  Australia is not solving these problems, or showing how they might be solved, as much as they are just grappling with them.  How well operators will be able to deal with the complexity is unknown. How much this might cost is a complete unknown. How much it costs and how well it operates will need to be carefully considered before declaring this a path to be emulated across other grids and power systems in the future. The work to replace synchronous machines with inverter-based resources is at best in its infancy. Documentation around their efforts shows that concerns about high levels of penetration by asynchronous renewables are well founded. It is premature to declare any kind of  a victory here. They may find that things are more challenging than they thought.

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John in Oz
March 11, 2023 10:49 pm

Renewables – the cheapest form of generation (we are told) despite recent news of a 20% increase in domestic power costs from July this year.

Lucky me to live in South Australia

Thomas Finegan
Reply to  John in Oz
March 12, 2023 10:11 am

The increases in energy costs are everywhere. I live in Colorado USA. In eight years I never received a monthly household energy bill over $200. Last fall it finally happened and two months later I received my first bill over $300.

Nick Stokes
March 11, 2023 10:52 pm

“AMEO must realize this ,as they have stated their intent to move towards developing the capability for inverter-based resources (like wind, solar and batteries) to provide the functionality they are now seeking from synchronous condensers. The inverter-based work is much less developed and much further away. If it could be made to work it would likely be much less expensive than their current approach. But can it be made to work on a complicated grid?”

This just isn’t true. Stabilisation using inverters, with or without batteries, is well established in South Australia, and is spreading in other states. The AEMO has produced a very recent report. The title is “Transition to fewer synchronous generators in South Australia”. In the summary they say:

“Based on the results of the investigation via power system modelling and simulations, AEMO has derived the following conclusions:
• Synchronous generation is not required for grid reference.
• The SA power system configuration (as of March 2022), including synchronous condensers (syncons), grid-connected inverter-based resources (IBR) such as wind farms, solar farms and battery energy storage systems (BESS), is capable of sustaining a grid reference in SA, even during conditions when no synchronous generation is online in SA. “

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 12:26 am

The question that the piece raises is not so much whether it can be done. The author gives reasons to think probably not. Maybe some of his reasons are not completely valid – hard to know without being familiar with the field. At the very least there is reason for wanting to see the thing being implemented very cautiously, one step at a time, a pilot project first and so on.

Its a curious thing about the sociology of the climate movement that the precautionary principle is invoked in large red caps when it comes to emissions of CO2. But when its a question of changing the fundamentals of the electricity grid onto new technologies which have never been tested on the scale in the application proposed, there’s not a whisper of it.

The important question the piece raises is: why are they doing it at all? They propose to do something which, in their words quotes, will make ‘energy unrecognizable’.

Why? Why is this in the interests of the customers and citizens they are serving? What, indeed, is the effect on them going to be?

The true madness of the climate movement is not so much in the perpetual predictions of a crisis and various sorts of doom, none of them with any convincing evidence.

Its that the supposed policy remedies which the various authorities are trying to implement because of them have no effect on the supposed problem, and there is no evidence that they are even possible to realize.

It reminds me of the other two manias of our time: sex and race. First its contended that there are anywhere from two to 150+ genders in humans which are independent of biological sex. And then, because gender, they start handing out puberty blocking drugs like candy. When the transitioning treatments are justified or not by their real effects as a treatment, and not by whether there are 4 or 400 genders.

The similar madnesses on race have been well laid out by Thomas Sowell. And in an earlier period we had the earlier madness proper to it, one of the finest minds of his generation, St Augustine, living through the sack of Rome, chose to devote his energies and drive his community’s attention to the precise definition of virginity and similar frivolous topics in personal social morality, instead of getting into politics or the military and attacking the urgent problems of the day.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  michel
March 12, 2023 12:41 am

The author gives reasons to think probably not. Maybe some of his reasons are not completely valid “
They obviously are not. As AEMO says, they are being done in SA, and have been for some time. They work. The new report is basically about modelling to see how the system would work in extreme circumstances. Modelling? Of course. Would you have them conduct experiments? Anyway, AEMO’s conclusion is that they would.

Why do it at all? As far as FCAS goes, there is a very clear answer. They make a lot of money. And they do that by doing the job better, and more flexibly, than the old systems.

Iain Reid
Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 12:55 am


in engineering you test and prove in the real world.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Iain Reid
March 12, 2023 1:04 am

AEMO is the real world. These are real systems that are working now.

Thomas Finegan
Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 10:24 am

The first sentence of the AEMO executive summary report you cite is…

“This report presents the results of investigation – through power system modelling and simulations – into the relationship between synchronous generating units and grid reference.”

Most consider modeling and simulations and real world to be two very different things.

Last edited 15 days ago by Thomas Finegan
Nick Stokes
Reply to  Thomas Finegan
March 12, 2023 11:54 am

But the devices they model are real, in place and working. They are modelling various stress situations, eg loss of interconnector plus syncons.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 5:03 am


Just exactly what electrical engineering knowledge do you have? Do you know what reactive power is? Do you know what happens when multiple generators begin to fluctuate in frequencies? Where does that reactive power end up? What occurs when you combine AC waveforms with slightly different frequencies and phases? Just one simple question will illustrate that you know what will happen.

What is the voltage and current distribution when two equal amplitude signals are combined when a 30 degree lag occurs between them? What happens to a motor in a heat pump when this occurs? As a hint I’ve attached an image.

different frequencies.gif
Reply to  Jim Gorman
March 12, 2023 7:09 am


I used to work in a power plant some decades ago.

Synchronizing our t/g with the grid always was a tense moment.
The frequency and phase had to be exactly equal by digital readouts and superimposed graphs.

Once connection was made, we slowly increased power to the t/g

ALL wind turbine and solar systems have automatic control software and hardware to convert their outputs to digital and generate a sine wave with frequency and phase exactly equal to the grid.

The grid operator would instantly reject them from the grid, if that were not the case.

The big problem of wind and solar outputs is their MOTHER NATURE dependence, which requires huge, expensive storage, or a fleet of always on, quick reacting CCGTs, or a fleet of hydro plants with huge storage reservoirs, a la Norway, Quebec, to counteract the ups and downs of wind/solar outputs

Jim Gorman
Reply to  wilpost
March 12, 2023 8:04 am

The only problem is that you are discussing what happens with inertial generators already spinning on the grid and one generator is being added.

What happens when the synchronous capacitors lose charge and there are hundreds of small generators all looking for a common frequency and phase?

There is a difference between mechanical inertia in absolute terms based on mass and “electrical” inertia based on inverters trying to be a master among hundreds of other inverters.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Jim Gorman
March 12, 2023 4:29 pm

What happens when the synchronous capacitors lose charge”
Your electrical knowledge isn’t that great. A synchronous condenser is a spinning wheel, just like a generator flywheel, but driven by power from the grid (or somewhere). It can’t “lose charge”.

Chris Morris
Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 10:02 pm

Nick your knowledge isn’t that great either. Your description is wrong like Jims was

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Chris Morris
March 12, 2023 10:53 pm

From your article
These synchronous condensers need to be in place before they remove conventional generation. Synchronous condensers are basically the same as synchronous generators, the difference being they lack the ability to generate power. Existing steam plants can be converted to synchronous condensers by removing the prime mover that powers the unit. The rest of the assembly rotates in synchrony with the grid. Synchronous condensers can provide inertia, voltage control and provide or absorb vars.”
Sounds pretty similar to what I said.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 13, 2023 5:00 am

Synchronous condensers can provide inertia, voltage control and provide or absorb vars.””

“Synchronous condensers can provide momentary inertia, voltage control and provide or absorb vars.”

Fixed for you. Remember we are talking about a MOTOR, and not a generator. It can not supply any energy other than what the spinning flywheel can supply. That energy begins to decay as soon as power that drives it disappears.

While a syncon can mitigate the reactive power required on a grid, it is certainly an expensive way to do so. It is added investment and an ongoing maintenance expense. They are not a replacement for a powered generator. One must ask why they are needed on the grid with wind and solar and who is paying for them.

Chris Morris
Reply to  Chris Morris
March 12, 2023 11:14 pm

No it isn’t Nick. The critical part of that passage is the voltage control and vars. The flywheel can’t do that. Read the Wikipedia post, especially the electrical section, to try to educate yourself.
If the rotor is underexcited, you get poleslip – that is loss of synchronisation with frequency,

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Chris Morris
March 13, 2023 1:54 am

Well, yes, it has electrical circuitry with other capabilities. My task there was to simply explain that it wasn’t a capacitor that could lose its charge.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Chris Morris
March 13, 2023 5:26 am

Sorry dude, my description is accurate. I am not uneducated in electrical engineering and the design of the grid. Synchronous “condensers” are motors and when unpowered use the energy contained in a flywheel’s inertia to accomplish its goals. Extracting energy from an unpowered flywheel results in a loss of speed. Its ability to support voltage and frequency when unpowered is very, very limited.

Reactive power requirements in today’s grid are dealt with close to the industrial plants that generate that reactive power. In most cases in the U.S. those plants are charged in one way or another for the additional costs. My main gripe is why the need for massive new investments as we move to wind and solar? Why are rate payers being required to absorb the additional costs? These costs should be allocated to the wind and solar generators and not as a cost to the distribution portion of the grid funded by rate payers.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 13, 2023 4:11 am

Sorry to tell you that I am familiar with electricity. I spent 4 1/2 years obtaining my EE degree many moons ago so I have a passable familiarity with electrical generation and distribution.

The instant that the grid has a fluctuation, the synchronous condenser begins to lose its “charge”. It is nothing more that a mechanical condenser based upon a motor driving a flywheel. It works just like a super capacitor but also supplies frequency support and momentary power to the grid. With nothing driving that motor/flywheel it will start to lose speed and thereby “lose its charge”. That loss of “charge” means at some point, it becomes a detriment to the grid. It is a load absorbing power from the grid at whatever frequency the grid is running at.

You didn’t bother answering my question and image of two sources running at different frequencies. Do you think that is a good thing for the grid?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 5:11 am

they? make a lot of money??? yeah they might OFF OF the poor damned taxpayers and their powerbills in a double whammy

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 8:30 am

No, I mean why are they trying to go net zero in the first place?

If its to affect global temperatures, by how much? To lower emissions? By how much? If its to benefit their customers, what benefits?

The real insanity in this stuff is insisting on doing things because climate which can have no effect on it.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 12:46 am

The fantasy land of little Nick rears its little head again.

SA only exists because it is hooked into the real grid of Brown and black coal in NSW, Vic and Qld.

Take away those interconnects.. and SA would collapse within a couple of weeks.

Not that SA does anything worthwhile anyway. !

(but, of course, they want another interconnect so they can balance their erratic wind electricity.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 12:48 am

What Nick should be doing is protesting that SA has to provide power for Victoria.

He should be pushing for the interconnects to be shut down… so that SA can really show everyone how it is done 😉

Right, Nick !

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 5:39 am

You seem in need of a dose of reality where this net zero nonsense is concerned, NIck. It’s futile gibberish.

A Labour council has been accused of being hypocritical for supporting Sadiq Khan’s contentious plan to expand London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) while requesting an exemption for 400 of its own vehicles.”

It’s typical neo-feudalism. The peasants put up with it….

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 7:11 am

Front page Disclaimer from the AEMO report Mr Stokes links to, but didn’t really read

..Accordingly, to the maximum extent permitted by law, AEMO and its officers, employees and consultants involved in the preparation of this document:

• make no representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the currency, accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the information in this document; and

• are not liable (whether by reason of negligence or otherwise) for any statements or representations in this document, or any omissions from it, or for any use or reliance on the information in it.

Just as Mr. Stokes should do in his comments, the authors state that they are not bound to the truth,are not responsible for error, and stand firm in their disregard for reality.
It is not a scientific report, but a marketing position paper. It identifies itself as propaganda. Mr. Stokes should strive for the same level of transparency and honesty.

Last edited 15 days ago by dk_
Dave Andrews
Reply to  dk_
March 12, 2023 9:26 am

They might as well have said don’t bother reading this because we don’t know if it makes any sense or not and certainly don’t know if it’s practicable or even possible.

Reply to  Dave Andrews
March 12, 2023 10:25 am

Not at all. Planners and marketers often create such material as a base for a desired direction or goal. Like Mr. Stokes’ example, the text may have some technical content, albeit fiction, to provide a substrate on which to hang the rationale. The real errors become apparent when ideologues like Mr Parkinson (original link to “Renew Economy” first listed in the subject post, above) or our Mr. Stokes quote these aspirations as established fact.

This is precisely what the piece here is about:

Despite the enthusiasm of their boosters, these just around the corner breakthroughs often tend not to work out very well. The eventual associated complexity and costs of “around the corner” projects often prove crippling. Such claims can be almost impenetrably confusing. “Around the corner” claims are often overblown or misunderstood.

— Schussler and Morris, above

As usual, Mr. Stokes misses the point, and makes overblown arguments against fundamentally misunderstood content.

Last edited 15 days ago by dk_
Nick Stokes
Reply to  dk_
March 12, 2023 11:58 am

It is a report from the organisation responsible for the grid. You can’t get more authoritative than that.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 2:33 pm

No. The report you cite is not a statement of fact. The authors say so themselves, not only in the disclaimer but in the statement of purpose and the introductory paragraph. You continue to argue that this aspirational policy document, a whitepaper, from a biased source shows that the article posted above is false, when in fact you compound the original error in the first citation, quoting another policy/goal document from the same organization from a year ago.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 3:18 pm

Disclaimer, AEMO report, 1st page, your link

This document does not constitute legal, business, engineering or technical advice. It should not be relied on as a substitute for obtaining detailed advice about the National Electricity Law, the National Electricity Rules, or any other applicable laws, procedures, or policies, or the capability or performance of the power system or any connected equipment.

Scope, same document:

Out-of-scope X

• Adequacy of emergency frequency control schemes such as UFLS, OFGS, and supply-demand imbalance.

• Development of granular limit advice and detailed transient stability and voltage stability assessment.

• Specific operating measures to resecure the power system within 30 minutes of a contingency event.

• Protection adequacy, meeting system design standards including power quality.

Not only does the AEMO report say that it is not an engineering or legally binding document, but it specifically does not address what you claim it says:

“This just isn’t true. Stabilisation using inverters, with or without batteries, is well established in South Australia, and is spreading in other states.”

You are simultaneously making the same unfounded claims using this same citaton against the original posting of this article at Judith Curry’s Climate, Etc. blog.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  dk_
March 12, 2023 4:22 pm

Not only does the AEMO report say that it is not an engineering or legally binding document”

Just nonsense. All AEMO reports are preceded by the same legal boilerplate, including their quarterly reports.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 12, 2023 4:57 pm

Quarterly reports are not technical engineering documents, either.
The legal boilerplate is intended to protect them from liability for out-of-context quotes, overclaiming and misinterpretation such as yours.
Your claim beginning with “This just isn’t true” is itself false and is explicitly denied in the document scope as well as what you call boiler plate.
You don’t understand, or care, that your citation does not support your claim, or that your claim has nothing to do with the main point of article posted in either location.
You are either paid by the comment, or merely obsessively argumentative, and never seem actually read or understand your citations, the articles you comment on, or the countering comment responses.
Your arguments are based on false premises, selective misquoting, non-sequitur, and/or circular reasoning.

michael hart
March 11, 2023 11:26 pm

A well written article. I particularly enjoyed:

“Clearly many relevant policy makers lack information and expertise in needed areas and are greatly influenced by others who are [in?] the same boat. […]

You don’t figure out how to land a plane after you have the passengers in the air.”

Last edited 15 days ago by michael hart
Reply to  michael hart
March 12, 2023 12:32 am

Yes. They seem to believe in magic. Wish it, command it, and it will happen. Technology and engineering are thought of as having no limits or constraints. ‘They’ will find a way.

The analogy really is, a plane full of passengers with nothing wrong with it, which the crew, ‘because climate’, suddenly starts to modify the landing gear without benefit of maintenance handbook or engineering knowledge.

Peta of Newark
March 12, 2023 1:55 am

The ‘without synchronous generation’ is, at my first sight: A Fantastic Idea

Convert the existing grid to DC and anyone who wants to draw power simply gets themselves whatever sort of inverter/adapter/power-supply-unit they need for whatever they want the power for

That way the existing grid, without any modification to the actual cables/wires can carry twice the power it presently can
(Cables and wires are specified to their Peak Current/Voltage handling ability. But for AC sine-wave power, the power carried is calculated by:
PeakVolts/RootTwo x PeakAmps/RootTwo = Root Mean Square (RMS) Power

(RootTwo = Square Root of 2 = 1.414)

Using DC means you operate without those two divisions by RootTwo – you can move twice the power

You also don’t get crazy things happening (on long transmission lines) like the Ferranti Effect;
Basically = where if you send AC power any more than 600 miles, what comes out the far end is ‘all over the place’ voltage wise.
Dangerously so. And nobody really knows why!

Certainly also for UK design of transmission towers & lines, short of going beyond Really Silly Mega Volts, they cannot carry any more than about 650 MegaWatts

Example: I have some Thin Film solar panels from my previous experiments (they were cheap and no-one else wanted them)
Their open circuit voltage is just over 80Volts DC – dropping to 67Volts at their MaxPowerPoint
But they are pig-awkward things to connect to small ‘hobby’ systems involving batteries and home-made PowerWalls

Until I discovered a little box of Chinese electronics = £6 from eBay UK, delivered from China.
Meant for use in electric scooters but it will accept any DC voltage between 20V and 100V and turn it into 12Volts DC at 10Amps

OK that won’t power your house but you get the drift – a grown up version could/would
Or look at the adapter for your notebook PC. Most these days will accept between 90Volts and 240Volts AC without problem. Likewise modern microwave ovens and induction hobs
The Very First Thing to happen inside them all is to convert AC to DC

But anyway, having a DC grid gets over all the problems with synchronisation, you move twice the power without spending extra and it’s now simple/cheap to convert to what you want when it comes into your house.

The grid then will work like, for example, a water well.
The voltage can float up or down to very great extent.
When it gets low, folks with DC generators (solar obviously) will simply top it up automatically and when it reaches the working voltage of the panels, they will stop ‘filling the well’
Likewise with windmills and going to DC would make them immensely simpler and cheaper to build, operate and maintain.
Similarly to the solar panels, as the grid voltage rises,a DC connected turbine will simply automatically reduce the number of Amps it pushes into the grid.
OK the turbine operator will need to watch that else the windmill will ‘run away’ but that’s the simplest thing to prevent. Feather the blades or put the brakes on and force it to slow down.

Or dump its energy into something useful like crushing rocks, compressing gases or, shock horror, fixing atmospheric Nitrogen for fertiliser

The DC Grid is the way to go
And look how much Copper will be released from all them old transformers.

Here’s a WildCard – It might possibly be used, 1milligram per day per person to improve their physical and mental health = reduce the world’s burgeoning Zombie population

I can’t immediately think of any other uses for it…..

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 12, 2023 3:05 am

Missed the edit to PS The Blinding Obvious

With a DC grid you can use Simple Basic Ordinary Capacitors to hold it up
They’ve been around since the invention of the Leyden Jar
Even me and you could make one – and a Space Blanket would be The Ideal Thing.
it’s actually what most are already made from – metallized polyester film

The great thing is with the wide range of voltage you get. Because then, potential suppliers can see a shortfall (demand increase) coming ‘from a long way off’ and be ready for it as soon as its seen to be happening.
On top of that, they can all be programmed to start feeding in power at various voltages as it falls.
And they will automatically disconnect as it recovers.
It will be a self correcting/repairing grid and not need myriad ‘Smart Things’ to keep it on its feet – things we all know to be = Not Smart and are guarantees of failure.
Usually when you need them most

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 12, 2023 4:47 am

I’m sorry you missed the engineering requirements for using DC from the generators to the end user. You do understand that HVDC means “high voltage direct current”, right? Do you want that carried all the way to your residential electrical box before translating it to low voltage AC?

Remember, as you decrease DC voltage, the DC current must increase in order to provide similar power. There goes the wire savings from transformers. Aluminum wire in current transmission wires will be problematic also!

I’ll be honest, I don’t want 300 kVDC lines running through my backyard! The only alternative is for lower voltage DC in residential areas with corresponding larger wires and huge inverter banks at each electrical panel.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  Jim Gorman
March 12, 2023 10:31 am

I have to say that Peta is sort of right in that a DC grid would have some significant advantages over the AC grid. High voltage semiconductor technology has advanced to where DC/DC distribution transformers are possible (practical? economic???). The advantages come with some significant disadvantages.

#1 is that replacing the AC grid with a DC grid will be very expensive. In addition there would be the replacement of electrical designed specifically for AC though 120/240VDC to low voltage DC is trivial.

#2 HVDC (i.e. >33kV) and MVDC (2.4kV to 33kV) circuit breakers are quite a bit more challenging to design than AC circuit breakers as there is no inherent zero crossing of the current in DC. Detecting a line fault is much more difficult on a DC grid than an AC grid – the protective relays on an AC grid can look at the phase difference between voltage and current to distinguish between a temporary overload and a short circuit. This is especially important in areas prone to wildfires.

#3 I don’t think Peta really understands what operational issues will come from operating a large scale DC grid with lots of connected capacitors. Once the power is off on an AC grid (assuming all the solar inverters have proper anti-islanding protection), the power is off and it will be reasonably safe to work on the lines. Another is that once an arc starts on a DC grid, it will keep burning until either the conductors are burned away or the power is cut off.

March 12, 2023 4:30 am

Many are looking towards Australia and seeing bold, innovative steps to increase the penetration levels of wind and solar resources. A grid revolution around the corner? Or just the madness of crowds?”

Many here are looking towards the madness of Oz and the US, although Tony Abbott has been hanging around; but then he’s with the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Curiously, every now and then Alexander Downer (great name!) pops up, too. Not sure about him.

We’re looking at a possible change of management soon and this is what they’re offering…

The Labour party is planning to put the UK at the head of a worldwide green industrial revolution, with a massive US-style, public-private investment scheme targeted at the most deprived regions.

[ Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor] says Labour’s new national wealth fund, to be endowed with an initial £8bn of funding from the state but which it is hoped will then pull in private investment, will be given a specific remit to focus on green industrial revival in deprived areas with regional targets to create hundreds of thousands of jobs outside London and the south-east.”

It’s full on bonkers stuff. They haven’t a clue. 

Oh, and when they say: targeted at the most deprived regions

They mean the most deprived regions will suffer most – just like with ULEZ

Last edited 15 days ago by strativarius
March 12, 2023 5:09 am

crap news. im selling in Vic n moving back to sa for medical access, but the powers already 5 or more cents higher there. all reports of the 100k standalones being duds makes that a no go option
go from acres to rural town= generator not feasible either
ya just cant win some lifetimes

Reply to  ozspeaksup
March 12, 2023 5:33 am

They always rig the odds

March 12, 2023 6:11 am

By 2050 building a parallel renewables grid will double the amount of CO2 that SA released as compared to just continuing with the status quo.

Now maybe that extra CO2 ends up being released in China or India instead of SA because high power costs drive industry out of SA but the extra CO2 will be created by the loss of efficiency and increased costs of unreliability mixed with duplication of existing infrastructure.

Last edited 15 days ago by ferdberple
March 12, 2023 6:30 am

Australia is shutting down it’s coal plants. The coal gets shipped to China and India where it powers new coal plants. These plants then manufacture new machines for Australia to produce unreliable power at increased cost.

Global CO2 production increases as a result of short sighted planning

Reply to  ferdberple
March 12, 2023 3:00 pm

Yep – Now if you proposed that as a business case in the real world, people would simply dismiss it. In fact Labor/Greens – Nut-Zero does not even have a business case. Noone knows any detail other than — “because climate” — Its a joke is what it is.

March 12, 2023 6:34 am

Speed of advocacy driven change is the main cost problem. The same advocacy works to deflect attention to negative news and information in the process.

March 12, 2023 4:12 pm

Very nice report, lots of important information. The number one thing we must do is get the government out of the power generation business. They are incapable of properly owning or operating anything. They only hire experts, problem is the experts aren’t expert for what they were hired for. A power company wouldn’t do something that stupid, at least not repeatedly. The climate crisis is a sham, there is no climate crisis. Wind and solar are not a substitute for fossil fuel and nuclear. Wind and solar should pay all costs involved with their energy generation. Up till now they have paid next to nothing for their boondoggles. They are pitiful, they are liars and they are cheats.

Forrest Gardener
March 12, 2023 4:39 pm

Looking at all of this from a personal point of view the two greatest issues are cost and residential solar curtailment.

The iron cast certainty is that power will become more expensive and less reliable. For those of us who value reliable energy can engineer a home based solution based on solar panels and storage. All at a cost of course.

Avoiding curtailment can also be achieved with suitable electronics at the point where the house attaches to the grid. When the grid tells your solar power to curtail itself, your electronics can essentially continue to power your home and pretend to curtail itself.

As Nick Stokes would say, except truthfully this time, this technology is available now and is in use now.

All of course at a cost. And until governments forbid ways to work around their mandates.

Kevin Kilty
March 12, 2023 6:29 pm

If that’s where their focus is, the development within Australia would truly be worthy of attention….”

I disagree. If the renewables cheering section manage to replace a few tens of square miles of coal with hundreds of thousands of square miles, or even just a few tens of thousands, of wind turbines, then that will probably be an aesthetic and enironmental disaster. No matter if they end up by land or by sea. Ten thousand square miles of solar panels and a quintillion watt hours of batteries — disaster.

We are “solving” concern about a speculative climate problem with a guaranteed mess of a solution. Irony.

Kevin Kilty
March 12, 2023 6:48 pm

A couple of days ago I had someone send me a video of some Australian dude presenting about 15 minutes of Wind/Adelaide/Utopia. My friend wanted to know what I thought of his claims. Well, they sound an awful lot like those Nick Stokes makes here. While our YouTuber blathered on in the background, I went to the web site of the AEMo and looked at the grid. South Australia had demand exceeding supply of about 500MW. That shortfall was made up by two separate interconnector transfers from Victoria totalling 500MW. The mix of generation in Victoria was 84% black coal at the time. Meanwhile the generation within South Australia itself was 43% Wind and 57% natural gas.

My acquaintance was curious why the Horsdale battery was doing exactly nothing and I explained that the purpose of this battery was not to make up shortfalls of the size of 500MW of instantaneous energy rate (it is only 150MW) and could only supply the shortfall in demand for about 20minutes anyway because it presents only 194 MWhrs of capacity.

Admittedly this was in the middle of the night, but it is nothing short of misrepresentation to claim, nay brag about, the successes of renewables if one cannot get through the night without 2/3 of demand being met by coal and natural gas.

Last edited 14 days ago by Kevin Kilty
Reply to  Kevin Kilty
March 12, 2023 8:44 pm

The mix of generation in Victoria was 84% black coal at the time.

You were not looking at anything to do with Victoria. These is no black coal fuelled generation in Victoria.

Misrepresentation is actually the name of the game (“renewables’) and perpetuated in the above blog. Something that is “renewable” should be sustainable by definition. There is nothing about this transition that is sustainable because it can never be achieved based on the current wind and solar energy extractors. They use more energy to build than they can ever extract through their operating life.

If it was sustainable technology, China would not be selling a single solar panel or wind turbine. They would be saturating their land and nearby oceans with these machines. Sanity has prevailed in China and they now only make these useless contraptions for the uneducated, woke west.

If you have something that gives you a competitive advantage, you make full use of it before trying to make money from it by selling it to others.

Last year, the EU approved Germany’s EUR30bn support package for green energy developments despite government support for specific industries being against EU rules. The EU know that supporting green energy is a disadvantage so let Germany do whatever they want to further kill their industry.

Kevin Kilty
Reply to  RickWill
March 12, 2023 9:46 pm

You were not looking at anything to do with Victoria. These is no black coal fuelled generation in Victoria.

Indeed I was looking at Vic. Better yet, it was brown coal.

Last edited 14 days ago by Kevin Kilty
Reply to  RickWill
March 13, 2023 12:38 am

NEM Black Coal 46% output
Brown Coal 16% output
Grid Solar 6% output

Wind and solar, the unreliables, are now a significant part of the current NEM generation but the backbone is still coal – over 60% of the energy.

Schussler and Morris, above, this blog post,,

NEM Image link:

Attached png. NEM Data table Generation and output by fuel

NEM data info: This figure shows the percentage of capacity each type of fuel source contributes to overall generation capacity in the NEM and the percentage of output each type of generation contributes to overall output, for the 2022/23 financial year to date. Data is as of 31 December 2022.

Gen cap n out by source.PNG
Last edited 14 days ago by dk_
Clarky of Oz
March 12, 2023 8:23 pm

South Australia has an abuncance of Uranium, Copper and Iron amonst other natural resources. Why do they need to mess about with thousands of windmills and square miles of solar panels at all?

Walter Sobchak
March 12, 2023 9:16 pm

I guess a “synchronous condenser” is what I would call a motor generator (MoGen) set, or is it different?

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
March 13, 2023 3:14 pm

It isn’t a generator. It is at its simplist, a motor driving a flywheel. Anytime it must supply power for voltage or frequency control it is using the inertia inherent in the flywheel. That means the flywheel will slow down. The only alternative is to take motive power from the grid and ignore the voltage and frequency. That is a losing proposition.

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