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More Blackouts In South Australia–Where’s Elon Musk?

January 29, 2019

By Paul Homewood


Didn’t Premier Jay Weatherill promise South Australians that Elon Musk’s massively expensive battery storage installed a couple of years ago would protect them from future blackouts?



SA Power Networks has apologised to tens of thousands of South Australian customers who were left without electricity during the state’s record heat.

The electricity transmission company has confirmed about 25,000 properties were blacked out when infrastructure began to buckle in the extreme conditions.

Ninety transformers crashed across the state’s transmission network while a substation at Fulham Gardens tripped, leaving 15,000 western suburbs customers without power late yesterday.

“After days of heat, we were in some unchartered territory yesterday with record heat and record load sustained well into the night,” Paul Roberts from SA Power Networks said.

“We understand customers would be inconvenienced by these outages. Given the number of outages affecting small localised groups of 50 to 170 customers, the crews did a great job to restore most people’s power before first light today.

“In terms of what happened, equipment like humans is affected by heat. A number of transformers overheated and their fusing operated as it should to prevent a catastrophic failure,” Mr Roberts added.

Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan says the government used every tool it had available to prevent forced load shedding yesterday, with the national energy market operator calling on the state’s backup diesel generators for the first time.

“We had enough electricity in South Australia to meet our needs. It was close but we had enough,” Mr Van Holst Pellekaan said.


And it is no good them blaming the heat. Back in October they experienced another massive blackout, which they blamed on a few storms:


Thousands of people are without power in South Australia due to a massive blackout across the state.

Almost 20,000 properties including homes and schools are being affected by 75 power outages in the state’s south.

Extreme weather conditions are being blamed for the blackouts, and earlier today the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Adelaide.



As Stop These Things reveal, the real problem is overreliance on utterly unreliable wind power.

Tesla’s mickey mouse battery storage, only able to maintain 100MW for 80 minutes, is little better than spitting in the wind.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    January 29, 2019 4:21 pm

    “Tesla’s mickey mouse battery storage, only able to maintain 100MW for 80 minutes ….”

    “While total battery capacity is 100MW, energy flows are capped at 30MW, with the remaining 70MW held in reserve to provide frequency control services, contributing to the security of the grid.”

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 29, 2019 10:57 pm

      Your source is inaccurate as to the purpose of the 70MW reserve. The battery frequently uses its 30MW discharge/40MW charge for providing frequency control ancillary services (FCAS): indeed, that is the main source of its income. The reserve is controlled by the SA government and is used very rarely – just 10 minutes in the first six months of 2018 were at above 50MW discharge

      • Joe Public permalink
        January 30, 2019 10:37 pm

        An alternative source published 5 months prior informs:

        “Of the 100MW/129MWh battery capacity, around 70MW of capacity is contracted to the South Australian government to provide grid stability and system security. The most likely services are frequency and ancillary services (FCAS), which address unforeseen power system events such as major system faults, generator trips or transmission failures. The battery will also be able to provide quick reactive power, for voltage support, plus smoothing of the Hornsdale wind farm’s output. This part of the battery is designed to last 10 minutes, long enough to keep the grid stable while conventional generators such as gas power plants can respond.

        The other 30MW of capacity will have three hours storage time. This portion will be used by Neoen to load-shift energy from their Hornsdale wind farm, where the battery is located. That in turn will allow them both to avoid potential curtailment enforcement and to take advantage of high peak prices in the electricity market.”

        [My italics]

      • Joe Public permalink
        January 30, 2019 10:56 pm

        More info, from the horse’s mouth:

        ‘Hornsdale Power Reserve
        Year 1 Technical and Market Impact Case Study”


        Hornsdale Power Reserve (HPR), owned and operated by Neoen, and supplied by Tesla, is the world’s largest lithium-ion battery energy storage system, with a discharge capacity of 100 MW and energy storage capacity of 129 MWh. Located near Jamestown, South Australia, it shares the same 275 kV network connection point as the 300 MW Hornsdale windfarm.

        The project reserves 70 MW of its discharge capacity for designated system security services contracted with the South Australian (SA) Government. The remaining 30 MW power capacity and 119 MWh energy storage is available to Neoen for market participation”

    • Curious George permalink
      January 30, 2019 1:54 am

      How do “70MW held in reserve” provide frequency control services?

      • Joe Public permalink
        January 30, 2019 10:58 pm

        More info at “Hornsdale Power Reserve, Year 1 Technical and Market Impact Case Study” link above.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 31, 2019 2:50 am

        It is designed for situations such as a trip on the Heywood interconnector to Victoria.

        Here’s AEMO’s reveal last April:

        Click to access Initial-operation-of-the-Hornsdale-Power-Reserve.pdf

        Here’s some of the extra finally in action:

      • dave permalink
        January 31, 2019 9:01 am

        The confusion arises because they say discharge “capacity” instead of the correct discharge “capability.”

        A small amount of energy is being held for brief use at a high rate of discharge (10 MWh at 70 MW). A larger amount of energy is held, as a general system reserve, to be used at a low rate of discharge (119 MWh at 30 MW).

        Essentially the battery is drained in three hours once it is called upon. In terms everybody can relate to, this means that the battery can store enough energy to keep 119,000 one- bar fires going for three hours.

        A megawatt (MW) is a measure of power, namely one million joules of energy passing through per second. A megawatt hour is a measure of energy, the energy passed through by a 1 MW source working for an hour, namely 3,600 million joules. It takes about 4 joules to heat a cubic centimeter of water up by one degree

  2. January 29, 2019 4:33 pm

    It all goes potty in 2020 when lion lifespan comes apparent too. Well there are three types of Australians, those who use Solar + Battery and a generator because they are off grid or are being sensible, the green consumer who is living off subisidy for their solar panels etc. and is clueless about the situation, and the on grid normal consumer being hit by both the power outage and increased fuel bills to pay for it all. All done by (Not Very) represntative democracy, which is best done by the consumer himself chosing a) I want to go off grid and will pay for it , b) I will buy from the market at best cost or c) I will buy green at whatever cost without being subsidised by (a) or (b) since it is immoral to force others to pay for my beliefs and lifestyle.

    In any case the state bought a lemon.

  3. January 29, 2019 4:46 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  4. January 29, 2019 4:57 pm

    Pumped storage is the only large scale storage available. We have about 2.8GW installed capacity in the UK, giving about 26GWh of energy. The greens, however, don’t like such a practical solution to intermittency and unplanned outages.

  5. Stonyground permalink
    January 29, 2019 7:12 pm

    Green types love to have a drum to beat. The last thing they want is a practical solution to the alleged problem of climate change. Nuclear power is such an obvious solution but instead we have useless windmills and solar panels. Abundant nuclear generated electricity would mean that internal flights could be replaced with high speed electrified railways. Only about half as fast but far more comfortable. More expensive maybe but if we are going to have to have subsidies surely it is better to put our money into something that actually works.

    • Matthew permalink
      February 2, 2019 8:01 am

      youve already blown your wad on batteries

  6. January 29, 2019 8:20 pm

    The real hero of South Australian electricity generation is the Torrens Island gas-fired power station, capable of going from zero to 1200 MW in next to no time, doing load following as snowflake wind power comes and goes according to the whims of the very local “gully” winds in the hills near Adelaide, which have a habit of dying like that swan in Swan Lake at peak demand times during heatwaves.

    This unsung hero is partly 50 years old, and that part is closing soon, 480 MW being lost, but with a new one of only 210 MW, the other part will also close soon. Wake up SA and smell the coffee.

  7. January 29, 2019 8:34 pm

    Pay more, get less. Is this really what the majority of electricity consumers want?

  8. Ed Bo permalink
    January 29, 2019 8:36 pm

    Jo Nova reports that they had to spend almost $1 billion to keep the lights on for most people for just that single day!

  9. Dave Ward permalink
    January 29, 2019 9:03 pm

    I’m not for one minute trying to justify Australia’s crazy national policies, BUT…

    “A number of transformers overheated and their fusing operated as it should”
    “Outages affecting small localised groups of 50 to 170 customers”

    Suggests that, in this case, those cuts occurred because the local distribution network isn’t up to the job of supplying peak load during high temperatures, and would have happened even if the main grid had ample supply. It looks like money should be spent on upgrading transformers, instead of wasting it on renewables…

    Over to you, SA Power Networks!

    • January 29, 2019 9:53 pm

      STT says that wind power in SA dropped to 76 MW (Paul’s figure above is for Victoria), transformers and coal-fired power stations can be fixed, but not the absence of wind.

    • January 29, 2019 10:02 pm

      It seems that a lot of the blackouts have been to due to load shedding:


      More than 200,000 Victorian households had their power cut off yesterday in a bid to protect the state’s energy system from shutting down, as the Andrews government was forced to admit there was not enough power to keep up with soaring demand in sweltering summer heat.


      The state’s Portland aluminium smelter run by Alcoa was told to lower its power use between 7.10pm and 8.50pm east coast time to help secure the power system after earlier agreeing to free up 400 megawatts of supply to dodge enforced electricity cuts.

      Earlier, AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said the market operator had called on 400 megawatts of additional energy reserves involving contributions from both commercial and residential customers who had been contracted by AEMO as a hot weather contingency.

      A combination of extreme weather and faulty power plants saw the market operator ask customers in the two states to cut their power usage in a process called ‘load shedding’ to help ease pressure on the grid and keep the lights on.

      Consumers were also asked to avoid using dishwashers, washing machines and pool pumps during peak times and lower their blinds before going to work to cool houses and lower demand.

  10. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 29, 2019 9:24 pm

    I have been unable to find the peak demand in SA for Jan. 24 except for a comment that it hit 3,000MW.
    Demand exceeded that figure in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, and equalled it, or nearly in 2006, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017. Since then nearly one third of homes have installed PV solar panels, except they lose efficiency badly at 45℃. (The official record of 46.6℃ lasted less than 10 minutes).
    In the main street of the local town all the shops (except 2 charity ones) closed down as customers weren’t coming and it was too expensive to run lighting and electricity for little return. It is likely that this happened elsewhere.
    Someone has bungled and ours is not to ask why?

    • January 29, 2019 10:10 pm

      3000 MW is just about within AEMOs modelling of demand, but overall they seem to be too optimistic about it, and get a relative rosy picture by statistical trickery:

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 30, 2019 12:04 am

      The chart at this link shows what happened in SA (times are NEM time in all these charts, so no time difference between states):

      Demand was curtailed at ~3GW for about 5 hours on the 24th with prices soaring to A$14,500/MWh with no spare generation available to meet any more demand. The constraints and prices applied equally in neighbouring Victoria (note the black line that drops to zero spare generating capacity when the prices rocket).

      The interconnectors between them were in effect rationing the power cuts between the two states, and ensuring that they shared equal misery of high prices.

      although there was some limitation on the smaller Murraylink, whose capacity was knocked by the high afternoon temperatures

      The afternoon decline in rooftop solar in both states kept demand pinned to above the maximum available as people sought grid power to replace declining solar output

      On the 25th, the centre of the heat wave moved over Victoria, leading to more constrained operation. Worth noting that solar output was down somewhat after midday in both states: heat waves don’t guarantee you maximum solar output!

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        January 31, 2019 9:37 am

        Since found max. demand for SA was 2954MW.
        Considering that the State was able to handle peaks of 3200MW in the past WITHOUT the benefit of roof top solar, you have to ask what the hell do our politicians think they are doing?
        NOTE: That was before they dynamited the 2 coal fired power stations.

  11. Ed Bo permalink
    January 29, 2019 9:54 pm

    Hi Dave:

    I’m not talking about where the power went out — I talking about what it took to keep the power on in most places.

    Jo Nova provides more info on the spot market here:


    That link shows the SA and VIC demand curves.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      January 31, 2019 9:42 am

      Ed Bo:
      Thanks, but the above figure is probably a bit more accurate. (The maximum and record temperature for Adelaide was reported at 46.6℃ at 3.36 p.m. but it had dropped to 45.2℃ within 14 minutes – BoM figures. Surrounding sites didn’t record any such drop. Did anyome mention transient figures?).

  12. Gamecock permalink
    January 29, 2019 9:56 pm

    ‘SA Power Networks has apologised to tens of thousands of South Australian customers who were left without electricity during the state’s record heat.’

    How do they do that, communicating with people with no electricity?

    • Duker permalink
      January 29, 2019 11:50 pm

      Not really ‘apologised to 10s of thousands’, just a PR person has ticked the first box in Stuff Ups 101. Apologise .

  13. January 30, 2019 8:32 am

    We should all be very worried, this is a sign of what is to come in the UK from 2025 once our coal fired power stations are all shut down.

    In fact I suspect we may face a worse situation in that, unlike Australia that is generally warm, we have a cold climate where power outages over winter are likely to kill more people?

    Add to that the UK governments rush to get us all into EV’s. If the grid won’t have enough capacity for current demand how on earth will it cope with significant increases in demand once we are all using EV’s???

    The media seem to dismiss these power outages as minor inconveniences only affecting a small number of people but consider if Australia had implemented the UK’s nonsensical aim of an EV only world, that is hundreds of thousands of people that are not just struggling to keep cool due to lack of aircon but also unable to get to work, get food or even get to hospital.

    All thoughts of mandating EV’s on the general public should be postponed until the government has a started to build significant new and reliable capacity into the grid eg. Nuclear, Coal and Gas.

    Sadly, I think it will take a catastrophic event to change government policy. A long severe winter combined with weeks of power outages, 100K people dying from cold and every EV disabled for weeks. I suspect there is a chance of this happening in early 2030’s at the time of the next solar minimum, after the coal power stations are closed and when a greater number of EV’s are on the road.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 30, 2019 1:59 pm

      Our Morons of Parliament are so dumb that only experience will make them understand, which requires lots of innocent people to suffer. They are so bad they have even been outwitted by Theresa May.

    • dave permalink
      January 30, 2019 5:43 pm

      “…in early 2030s…”

      Or sooner?

  14. January 30, 2019 9:15 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  15. Stonyground permalink
    January 30, 2019 10:08 am

    OT but I thought that today’s (30/01/2019) Dilbert might be slightly relevant when it comes to the alarmists and their use of graphs.

  16. January 30, 2019 1:02 pm

    Where is Elon Musk? Likely in Davos.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 30, 2019 2:02 pm

      Running round the financiers he hasn’t insulted trying to scrape together the cash to save his company if he has any sense.

  17. January 30, 2019 3:21 pm

    Budweiser has fallen for Wind Industry’s con trick hook line n sinker in their latest Super Bowl Commercial promoting wind turbines see:

    Please sign petition: Dear Anheuser-Busch,

    This DUDS for you! Perhaps you didn’t realize the extent to which your Super Bowl commercial would strike a nerve with rural residents across the country and around the world?

    You see, unfortunately, THOUSANDS of rural communities find themselves battling the improper siting of Industrial Wind Turbines.

    Unlike the vast, wide open prairies featured in your ad, wind developers now attempt to irresponsibly site their turbines too close to the homes of rural people — ignoring even the most basic of safety measures!

    Unfortunately, the popular narrative echoes how polarized this issue has become. If you advocate for responsible siting of Industrial Turbines, you must be a climate denier or must be working for the Coal or Oil industry — when neither is true.

  18. Athelstan permalink
    January 30, 2019 3:48 pm

    more blackouts?

    Sensible men not arrogant or shouty, real Austalian test engineers and people who understand the gamut of providing baseload, stable, reliable, sufficient grid electricity…..they did try to tell yers but the greenies insisted.

    as ye sow green, then so shall ye reap endless misery.

  19. January 30, 2019 4:55 pm

    Ireland looks right now like a cold version of South Australia, forecast maximum demand is 6.5 GW, 1 GW more than the current (4:45 pm) demand, wind power is only 94 MW, interconnectors to UK currently near full import. Where will that extra 1 GW come from?

  20. January 30, 2019 5:44 pm

    I think the ‘warmest summer evah’ excuse is wearing thin. As this article on Reuters claimed, back in August 2018 (before the Australian summer even started), there would be an increased risk of blackouts/load shedding due to aging and unreliable power stations.

    I’d be very worried if I lived in oz, according to that article 70% of their electric comes from coal fired stations that are due to close by 2022! If they are struggling now what will it be like in 2023 onwards? They’d better get used to sweating with no aircon.

    • January 30, 2019 5:47 pm

      should have said, due to close from 2022 not by 2020 doh!

  21. Engineer John permalink
    January 30, 2019 8:42 pm

    Same thing happening in UK as well at the moment – low wind generation (3%) due to high pressure and settled weather, demand still 48GW due to the cold – 2 nuclear stations, Hunterston and Dungeness shut down, so coal is now at about 7GW – this is the highest I have seen it for some time. I bet we won’t hear from the BBC about how much coal generation is necessary to “keep the lights on”

    • January 30, 2019 9:45 pm

      The BBC will also fail to mention the 3GW we are currently importing via IC’s from France and Holland – double what all the UK wind turbines are actually producing right now!

    • Athelstan permalink
      January 31, 2019 10:27 am

      “I bet we won’t hear from the BBC about how much coal generation is necessary to “keep the lights on”


  22. January 30, 2019 10:08 pm

    Slightly off topic but I was talking about EV’s with my kids earlier and we roughly worked out that my wife and I would both require approx. 7KWh per day in each of our EV’s (if we were forced to switch from our I/C vehicles). That is 14KWh + the existing 10KWh that we already use in the house each day.

    My wife and I don’t do huge mileages either, probably about average. If every car on UK roads (20 million of them) was EV and was doing roughly same mileage as us we worked out it would require roughly 140GWh of electricity generation. I think our maths is correct?

    As we would both need to charge our cars at home in the evening (due to being at work during the day) and I’m sure many, many other car drivers would be in the same position, I simply can’t see how our grid will ever have the capacity? Even if the entire surface of the UK was covered in wind turbines and solar farms it still would fall short of the capacity required just for the EV’s let alone anything else.

    My kids were shocked at the gridwatch site – they have been indoctrinated (media and school) into thinking renewables make up a far larger contribution. My 14yr old was both fascinated and very surprised to see renewals making up just 3% of our total power generation this evening, with solar obviously being zero and wind just 1.5%. She also went through the monthly charts and was catching on very quickly that solar actually only produced anything at all for roughly 4-6 hours a day during winter months and wind rarely made much of an impression either. Considering where we live in North Lincolnshire surrounded by damned turbines, literally hundreds within a few miles of us, I think it shocked her at just how little they contribute to UK grid energy!

  23. Bob Wilson permalink
    February 2, 2019 9:27 pm

    We have two, plug-in hybrids, cars that can run either EV or petrol. Around town, it costs $0.025/mile on EV and $0.05 to $0.06/mile on gas (one uses a higher octane fuel.) We also get ‘free’ charges at merchants who want our business, roughly $0.25 to $0.50, to stop and shop. So far, there are no ‘free’ petro offers.

    On the road, away from home, they run about 3-5x more expensive on EV than petro. Like many early adopters, we are paying for the remote charger startup costs. But the clever EV owner can use existing caravan parking spots for a cheap, overnight camp-out, and a charge.

    During a power outage, we ‘camp out’ in the car using the EV battery to run the air conditioner (or heater.) One of our plug-in hybrids can run the gas engine for a week before refueling to keep the car charged.

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