South Australia has a lot of wind power. The neighbouring state of Victoria doesn’t. Even though Victoria has just recently opened the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere, its wind capacity only supplies about 5% of its total electricity use. As a result, when winds are high and its demand is low, South Australia exports electricity to Victoria. However, sometimes the transmission lines reach the limit of their capacity causing some wind power to go to waste. Losing a little green power is not a disaster, but it is a pity, since thanks to its use of brown coal, Victoria probably has the worst generating sector in the developed world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt-hour produced.
Fortunately, the transmission infrastructure between the two states is to be upgraded and one benefit will be to allow South Australia to export more wind power and allow Victoria to use less fossil fuel. According to the Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO) the Heywood interconnector will be upgraded from 460 megawatts to 650 megawatts, an increase of 40%. The upgrade is expected to be completed by 2016, will cost $108 million, and is expected to provide $190 million in benefits over its lifetime.
A more expensive option to build up to two gigawatts of additional transmission between the states was rejected. Given that we can’t be certain how much energy storage will cost in the near future and that Victoria has the potential to build a lot more wind capacity of its own if it wants, the cheaper option may be the best choice for the moment.
Oddly enough, there were fossil fuel interests that resisted any improvement in transmission capacity. I find this strange, because last time I checked they too were dependant upon the earth maintaining a habitable environment for the survival of themselves and their descendants.