More wind, less emissions. It’s not a coincidence.

7 September 2012

It’s been an exceptional week, month and year for generating wind power across the southern states. In the last week we’ve seen some exceptional generation, particularly in South Australia when, on Wednesday the 5th of September, more than half of the state’s electricity came from wind. The lights stayed on and some power was even exported to Victoria!

A few years ago this scenario would not have been thought possible. Now, with more than 20% wind energy capacity installed two coal fired power stations, Playford B and Northern, are turned off (yes, completely off) and are only operated when the market manager asks them to be turned on.

Pacific Hydro’s wind farms have been working hard over the past year too. This is not unusual but over the past week and month we’ve seen some above average results. For example, our Victorian projects were pivotal in the almost doubling of normal wind energy generation on Wednesday September 5.

And our projects generated the equivalent energy needs of 163,658 homes in one week.

At the moment wind energy only makes up a very small percentage of total installed capacity in Victoria, but it is not inconceivable that as more wind projects come online, along with other renewable resources, that we could see a similar situation to the one playing out in South Australia. We could start to see parts of Hazelwood be shut down.

Wind energy is dispatched into the market first. So generating wind energy means than less generation is required from other sources which, in Victoria at least, is mainly brown coal. More wind equals less fossil fuel electricity is required which means less emissions. This is good for our environment and our health.

For further analysis and details about the changing trend in our energy market as wind is coming online we recommend reading these articles in the Climate Spectator and Renew Economy.



  • Brad Reynolds
    07 Sep 2012
    If wind power is "dispatched" (American spelling) first, then this means that it receives preference over coal power. Coal furnaces, however, still continue to burn coal even though they are not generating power that is able to be sold - how is this waste of a resource a good thing? In 2010, there were 109 instances where every single wind power station on the AEMO grid was pulling IN power (ie negative power generation), generating zero power or generating very little. Without the fossil-fuelled power stations running in the background, the nation would have been without power on 109 occassions in 2010 - how is this a good thing? The negative power situation is interesting, too. The wind power stations need power to run their computers, airconditioners and monitoring equipment. When they are not generating their own power, where are they getting this power from? That's right, fossil-fuelled power stations.
  • Pacific Hydro
    10 Sep 2012
    You are correct Brad, wind does get precedence in the grid over fossil fuel and it does produce variable generation. You are also right in that when there is no wind the turbines draw a small amount of power to keep the control systems live, although we note that a 500MW coal fired power station, on average, requires 30MW of power to run its boilers, fans computers etc, whereas a 500MW wind farm would use less than 1MW. And you correctly argue that an electricity grid would not functional adequately if it was powered solely from wind energy. Variable clean energy like wind and solar are dispatched first because the fuel is free. Unlike fossil fuel plants which have to pay for their fuel and are only dispatched as needed. Coal generators adjust their intake according to demand which means more renewable energy generation results in less coal going into the furnace, saving emissions and improving air quality. South Australia is a great example of this, where large volumes of wind exist in the network – they have around 25% installed wind capacity. Not only has South Australia reduced its emissions intensity as a result of large volumes of renewables in the mix, it has turned off two power stations – Playford B and Northern . Completely off. These two power stations only operate when the market operator, AEMO, asks them to. The benefits of turning off coal fired power stations are immediate. The improvement in air quality means less risk to the health of local communities and a reduced health cost burden to the general public. Conservative estimates indicate that coal-fired power generation in Australia costs $2.6 billion annually from associated respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases.
  • Brad Reynolds
    10 Sep 2012
    Ok, so when the wind is not blowing here is SA, where are we getting our power from?
  • Pacific Hydro
    17 Sep 2012
    It depends. Energy is traded across borders as we have a National Electricity Grid connecting the east coast states, Tassie and SA markets. AEMO can call on Northern and Playford B to fire up. On average, wind makes up about 25 per cent of SA’s power through the year.

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