News in this week is that Goldwind are going ahead with constructing a 75-turbine, 175 megawatt wind farm at White Rock near Glen Innes in northern NSW. This will be the northernmost large wind farm in Australia (there are no more windfarms until you get to Windy Hill, a 12MW wind farm near Innisfail in north Queensland).
Here’s a pic from Google Earth showing the small town of Matheson, at nearly 1000m elevation in the New England tablelands, and the ridgeline where the wind farm is to be built:
It’s good news for wind energy. The last few weeks in southeast Australia have seen big high pressure systems becalming large areas where most of our existing wind farms are (not an unusual event at some times of year). Nevertheless, solar power has been pumping out the megawatts from thousands of rooftops in the relatively balmy weather that accompanies this, despite the fact that it’s not long past the shortest day of the year.
Here’s the National Electricity Market energy mix on Thursday July 2 at 11:30am, courtesy of RenewEconomy’s NEM Watch page:
At this point, without widespread windy conditions, and in the middle of winter, renewables (including wind, hydro and solar) were providing about 19.6% of the NEM’s electricity. Victoria’s brown coal behemoths were steaming away at near full capacity, providing 6073MW out of a capacity of about 6300MW.
With these southern high pressure systems active, solar output seems good and there’s a fair amount of output from wind in Victoria, but SA’s normally big contribution is low. NSW, with a much smaller installed windfarm capacity, is actually doing very well. This is because towards the edge of a high pressure system, the wind picks up.
You can see this on the synoptic charts from the BOM (below). If you’re not familiar with how they work, wind travels anti-clockwise around a high pressure system (H) in the southern hemisphere. Where the lines (isobars) are closer together indicates higher wind speeds, as a rule of thumb.
This chart is from the following day, Friday 3rd, and shows that as the high moves east across SE Australia, it becalms a lot of southern NSW, too. On the other hand, over on the edge of the system in Tasmania, and in northern QLD to an extent, the isobars come closer again. Sure enough, the energy output is still reasonably high for Tasmania, but down in the SE mainland states:
This is why it’s good to see wind farms moving north. The huge ongoing contribution from coal shows that building any windfarm, anywhere is good for now. With very accurate forecasts for the output of wind farms available from 24 hours earlier (and more), coal generators can be wound back when the wind is blowing.
But spreading wind farms wider across the continent can make that clean energy contribution more consistent. It can help to reduce the number of coal generators needed much more of the time. Combined with solar and storage technologies, it can help move us towards 100% renewable energy. We look forward to wind farms springing up all along the Great Divide from New England to the Atherton Tablelands!