At the recent official opening of the Mortlake gas-fired power station, Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien took a swipe at wind power. Quoted in the December 6 Warrnambool Standard, he said
“The wind energy can’t be as reliable in the same way as natural gas – it is intermittent.”Wind will supplement coal and gas generation, but it can’t replace them.
” On Thursday when power demand peaked, wind farms generated only eight percent of their installed capacity into the grid.”
It’s unclear which day O’Brien was referring to. Data sourced from the Australian Energy Market Operator shows that on the previous Thursday, November 29 (when the temperature reached 39.6° in Melbourne), wind farms generated around 40% of their capacity most of the day. 40% capacity is better than the annual average for most Australian wind farms.
The capacity for Victorian wind farms taken alone dipped to around 10% briefly during in the period 4-6PM that day, but held up through the rest of the peak time.
Of course, part of the point of having many wind farms over a large area is that while some in one area may be still, others can be spinning just fine. The data for November 29 appears to bear this out.
On Saturday December 8th, 37°C in Melbourne, wind farm output was around 60% all day, and better (60-80%) for Victorian wind farms taken on their own.
O’Brien appears to be cherry-picking data. It’s easy to do, but all that he’s proven is that you can’t run a grid on 100% wind power – but that’s hardly news. No-one was arguing that anyway.
On peak usage days when the wind does blow, there is no need to turn on those expensive gas peaker plants.
Gas prices are rising. Driven by the costs of CSG and shale gas production, and competition with overseas markets, gas prices are set to double and probably more.
Wind farms are a fuel saver. For much of the time they save the gas and coal that would have been burned.
Now that it’s been fairly thoroughly demonstrated that wind farms can displace coal and gas burning – like in South Australia – let’s use them to reduce greenhouse emissions, and power prices too.
That might make the gas plants less profitable. Such are the joys of a free market!
And of course, solar thermal power has free fuel (unlike gas) and performs very well on hot summer days, making a great complement to the variability of cheaper wind farms.