Australian news, and some related international items

Wind energy facts – including 47% of South Australia’s energy last week

wind-turb-smWind supplied 47% of South Australia’s energy last week  By  on 20 August 2013   VERY GOOD GRAPHS in this article 

As I write these words, 7.4 per cent of the electrons powering my laptop come from wind farms – travelling at the speed of light between hundreds of silently whirring generators and the complex electronics in my computer. The output of wind farms over the past nine days – the span ofNational Science Week – has been particularly excellent, and it’s worth diving into some data to have a closer look.

Science Week was from August 10-18, inclusive. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) makes 5-minute generation data available through a gargantuan database. I’ve chosen to focus on South Australia and Victoria, states which lead the way in installed wind generation – there are 22 wind farms I’ve obtained generation data for, summarised in the table below.


The total generation of those 22 wind farms was 285,257 megawatt hours. But what does that deliver to the energy market? The average Sydney household consumes 11.6 KWh per day, or 0.104 MWh over 9 days. So, the generation of wind farms throughout science week could power ~2.7 million homes – enough for all of Greater Sydney, and all of Greater Adelaide. That statistic alone is a firm reminder that wind power is a formidable player in the supply of energy.

Wind farms regularly contribute a large quantity of energy to the electricity market. We can chart total power output, every five minutes, over the course of Science Week:

Wind power is already regularly crowding out generation from fossil fuels, and Science Week is a great example of this. Looking specifically at South Australia, we can compare wind power generation to demand:

The power generated by wind crowds out the burning of fossil fuels. The 285GWh of energy that was pumped into the grid over the course of Science Week would otherwise have been sourced from traditional fuel sources, such as black or brown coal. You’d need 415,423 tonnes of brown coal, to generate that energy using fossil fuels (assuming a heat rate of 15 GJ/MWh and an energy density of 10.3 GJ/tonne). –

The general perception seems to be that wind power can only supply a tiny percentage of power to the energy market – a myth easily struck down by our analysis of the generation of wind farms during science week. At times, generation from wind farms is lower, but this is easily managed, and demand is easily met in states with a high installed capacity for wind farms.

When you strip away the layers of politics, emotion and rhetoric, wind turbines are simply a way of pushing electrons onto the grid. This conversion is quantifiable – we can meter the output of these machines, and watch it live, or chart it post-hoc. Recording and analysing changes in the world sits at the heart of science, and it’s a philosophy that ought to be hoisted above the swirling stream of mythology that seems to have latched onto the genuinely fascinating world of renewable energy.

Want to play with the data, graphics or pivot tables used in this article? Click here to download an Excel Spreadsheet (~12MB, make sure your computer can handle it!), or click here to play with a simplified version published using Google Sheets. If you notice any errors, please get in touch with me via twitter – @ArghJoshi

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August 21, 2013 - Posted by | South Australia, wind

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