Gales send turbines into overdrive
While gale-force winds kept emergency services busy across South Australia this week, they also fired up turbines on the state’s wind farms.
Figures from the Australian Energy Market Operator show while the winds were howling, more than half the state’s power came from wind farms.
Roughly a quarter of South Australia’s power came from wind farms last year.
But the Clean Energy Council’s policy director, Russell Marsh, says when winds topped 90 kilometres per hour earlier this week, that figure was much higher.
“What we’ve seen is over the last couple of days the amount of energy generated from wind power in South Australia has gone through between 55 and 85 per cent since Monday as a result of the very strong winds we’re having at the moment,” he said.
And for a few brief moments in the early hours of Wednesday morning, wind was generating so much power some of it was being exported to Victoria.
Mr Marsh says emissions from South Australia’s power sector have fallen every year since 2005, and have dropped 27 per cent over the past five years.
He says there is no reason other states could not emulate the success.
“South Australia has a great, great wind resource, it’s probably one of the best places in Australia to build wind,” he said.
“And we expect to see … many more wind farms built, not just in South Australia but in other states along the south-east coast of Australia.”
But he says the figures do not suggest coal-fired power generation’s days are numbered.
“We’re really only starting down the path of developing both wind energy specifically and renewable energy generally in Australia,” Mr Marsh said.
“I think we’re going to see coal and other fossil fuel generation around for a number of years to come. But, certainly we reckon that wind and other renewables can certainly play their part in generating more energy in the future.”
One of the criticisms of wind power has long been that times of light wind conditions result in a reduction in the amount of energy generated.
But Mr Marsh denies this week’s event reinforces that argument.
“No it doesn’t, because what the market operator’s also showing is that across the year, about 25 per cent of the state’s power comes from wind,” he said.
“And that has resulted in two things in South Australia. Firstly, you’re seeing less generation from coal and gas as a result of the amount of wind. And also you’re seeing greenhouse gas emissions in South Australia dropping.
“So… what we’re seeing in South Australia is evidence that deploying wind, in this case wind, in Australia actually does lead to using less fossil fuels and reduces emission.”