Wintry blasts blow away wind energy records

August 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

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August 26, 2013

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Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

Carbon economy editor

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Macarthur Wind Farm in a spin. Photo: Damian White

Blustery weather in the middle of August has sent a slew of wind energy records tumbling.

NSW wind farms generated 35 gigawatt-hours of electricity in the week starting August 18, beating the previous high for the state by about 9 per cent, consultants Intelligent Energy Systems said.

Those gales, though, had a bigger impact the previous week, when South Australia and Victoria generated record wind energy, while Tasmania and NSW recorded some of their highest totals.

Wind farms supplied 290 gigawatt-hours of power to the National Electricity Market from August 11 to 17, shattering the previous record by 18 per cent, IES chief executive Brett Gebert said. The following week’s 250-gigawatt-hour total was the second highest on record.

For the first of those two weeks, wind energy to the NEM exceeded the total from Victoria’s brown-coal fired Hazelwood power plant – possibly for the first time – by 13 per cent, and fell just 10 per cent short of NSW’s giant black-coal Bayswater Power Station.

”There was no coal-fired power in SA at all – just gas and wind for those two record weeks,” said Ketan Joshi, a research and communications officer at wind farm operator Infigen Energy.

In the peak week, wind farms supplied the power needs of about 2.3 million homes, about 7.6 per cent of total demand, IES said.

NSW lags SA and Victoria in wind farm capacity. AGL’s Macarthur Wind Farm in western Victoria, the largest in the southern hemisphere with 420 megawatt capacity, eclipses NSW’s total capacity of 282 megawatts.

Last month, AGL said it was delaying plans for the 300-megawatt first stage of a $550 million wind farm development planned for Silverton, near Broken Hill, because of uncertainty over the national Renewable Energy Target.

The Coalition has vowed to review the target next year if elected next month. The Rudd government wants the next review to be delayed until 2016.

The NSW government has also held off confirming planning guidelines for wind farms for about two years. Companies such as Infigen say the guidelines are the toughest conditions for such projects in the world.

”Those guidelines will play a huge role in how the effects we’ve seen in Victoria and SA play out in NSW,” Mr Joshi said. ”There’s a huge capacity for NSW to have the same effect, at times, of wind energy crowding out fossil fuels pretty significantly.”

During the windier of the two recent weeks, AGL’s wind farms were all operating at about 70 per cent capacity, the company said. That compared with industry averages of 25 per cent top 40 per cent, Mr Joshi said.

By the second week, though, capacity at Macarthur was still at 50 per cent while other AGL wind farms ranged from 44 to 63 per cent, the company said.


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