Friday, 7 February 2014

No, Wind Output Wasn't 'Almost Zero' at Peak Heatwave Demand

"When electricity demand peaked at the height of the recent heatwave in Southern Australia, the total power output from the fleet of wind farms across Victoria and South Australia was almost zero"
Wrote Viv Forbes, in an article expressing a profound distaste for renewable energy. This is an empirical claim, and I think checking the data underpinning it gives us an insight into whether his claims are based on feelpinions, or whether this claims are based on facts:

During the week of the heatwave, NEM-wide demand peaked at 33,769.54 megawatts at the Dispatch Interval 16:30 (AEST) on 16/01/2014.

At this time, the sum output of wind energy was 710.42 megawatts (about 28% of total possible output). This isn't really 'close to zero'. A chart of Thursday's wind energy output:

The full data set are available in this spreadsheet, or just have a peek at the DataWrapper chart below, showing total operational demand (labelled "DEMAND_AND_NONSCHEDGEN" in the database - catchy, right?):

Forbes didn't source his claim, but suspiciously, it's worded almost precisely the same as Graham Lloyd's claim in this article, which I covered in this blog post:

Claiming that 28% output, or 712 megawatts of electrical power, is 'close to zero' isn't a stretch, really. It's presumed no one is actually going to check when peak demand occurred, and what wind was doing at the time. You can really just make up anything you want. Supporting data? Not necessary. Feels are enough.


  1. Agree with your pointing out the exaggeration in the claim of zero output. I would like to bring up a most important point and that is the compensation for people downwind of a wind generator for the engergy loss they experience. This energy loss represents an opportunity cost since if the downwind person wished to construct a wind farm of their own, they would be receiving less energy than any upwind energy farm.

  2. nice to point out the benefits of first to market - such an important aspect of business strategy. Compensating people for failing to be first to market seems a little unusual though

  3. OK, so not exactly nothing, but 700MW of wind, with demand at 33K MW is about 2%.

    Maybe we should ask what's the true cost of supplying that 2%? I don't want to feed the rightwing and deniers, but really, capital is not infinite, and if we keep pouring money into unreliables we're going to find out the hard way: coal will still be there (and growing, just like it is in 'green' Germany).

    1. As I mentioned on Twitter, you seem to be expecting wind to meet total operational demand, right now.

      For that to happen, wind would need to generate about 15 times more electrical power than installed capacity.

      The cost of supplying the remainder 98% is burdened with the externalities of carbon emissions and the health impacts of coal. It's just right now we're the ones paying the cost, not the polluters.