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Dark down under - Josh 382

In the news this week:

A dramatic, sudden loss of wind power generation was the root cause of South Australia’s state wide blackout last week.

Read about it at The Global Warming Policy Forum

Cartoons by Josh

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Reader Comments (58)

Visions of our future.

Oct 5, 2016 at 2:28 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

State control leaves people powerless.

Oct 5, 2016 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

An as yet unexplained, but minor, drop in wind generation may have contributed to the blackout, however the proximate cause was the loss of several critical elements of transmission infrastructure, including transmission lines from windfarms, during one of the worst storms in living memory.

Transmission towers cannot tell how the electricity they are transmitting was generated.

So … was it the wind?

Well, in part, yes, it was, but if you were going to plot a graph of significant events in a deeply unfortunate cascading sequence it would look like this.

A very serious weather event involving high winds, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, hail and heavy rainfall results in multiple transmission system faults through the state grid, including, in the space of 12 seconds – the loss of three major 275KV transmission lines north of Adelaide.

Pause here momentarily. Make sure you take in point one properly before we move to the next point in the sequence, because, on current information, point one is pretty important. It’s the critical factor.

After the freak storm hit, causing the loss of three major transmission lines, we then get to the windfarms. The AEMO describes the sequence thusly: “Following multiple faults in a short period, 315MW of wind generation disconnected, affecting the region north of Adelaide. The uncontrolled reduction in generation increased the flow on the main Victorian interconnector (Heywood) to make up the deficit and resulted in the interconnector overloading.”

Then, to avoid damage to the interconnector, the “automatic-protection mechanism activated” – which tripped the interconnector and caused the blackout.

So yes, if you were interested in highly selective storytelling, you could thunder “it was the windfarms what did it”. Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick.

But, if you are interested in understanding the complete picture, it’s the one I’ve just given you, subject to the caveat that the AEMO itself gives – that it’s too early to “know” several things.


Oct 5, 2016 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

But look on the bright side, there are now an Unprecedented number of Polar Bears, slaughtering and eating an Unprecedented number of baby seals, so that people can not cook. Children will be spared boiled cabbage, and have to eat it raw. Green House Gas emissions may rise, but in enforced darkness, everyone will know someone did it, but nobody will know who did it.

Oct 5, 2016 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Oct 5, 2016 at 3:18 PM | Phil Clarke

Unreliable reporters trying to spin Unreliable power, don't make reliable sources. 97% of people don't need to be told that.

Oct 5, 2016 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@ Phil Clarke at 3:18 PM

Love the Grauniad quote you provide:

"But, if you are interested in understanding the complete picture, it’s the one I’ve just given you, subject to the caveat that the AEMO itself gives – that it’s too early to “know” several things."

That contradicts the Graun's 'day-after' knee-jerk defense:

"South Australia's blackout explained (and no, renewables aren't to blame)"

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

I see no contradiction: both articles state that damage to transmission infrastructure was the proximate cause of the blackout, with reduction in wind generation possibly a contributory factor, certainly not the 'root cause' claimed by GWPF.

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

“The Preliminary Report makes it clear that while the weather was responsible for multiple transmission system faults, the blackout did not occur until after the sudden loss of 315 megawatts of wind output at six separate sites over a six second period."

It was the Green Blob wot dunnit. Aussies don't want to give another 4X to Green Blob causes, especially as they owe 10X that amount for the Flannery desalinators.

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

GC, read the report, not the IPA lies..

Three major transmission lines failed, the blackout occurred within seconds of the third one going down. The wind power was lost after lightning strikes on a transmission line, exactly the same outcome would have happened if the line had been carrying power from a thermal plant.

Wind generators were producing a total of 883MW at the time (gas was providing 330MW and 613MW was coming from Victoria) – and had ridden out the loss of the first two transmission lines.

A small amount of wind capacity dropped out after the second transmission line collapsed, possibly – the operators say – as the result of lightning strikes and a software glitch that has since been rectified.

But as this chart below shows, there was no impact on frequency. It was only the failure of the third transmission line at 1615.18 that some generation was lost, the frequency dropped the system went black 1.2 seconds later.

The loss of the third transmission line took away the delivery mechanism for two other wind farms, which suggests it wouldn’t have mattered which power source was operating on that line. Within another half a second, all remaining gas and wind plants had gone after the interconnector tripped.

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

"Unexplained, minor drop?" "From a peak near 1,200MW, there are drops and surges in output of around 250-300MW (equivalent to having the Pelican Point Combined Cycle Gas plant switched on and off in an instant)." Not yet explained, perhaps. Predictable? Yes! Minor? Nope.

Aside from the point that SA demolished a few months before the Black event the two coal fired Port Augusta generating plants that had the capacity to produce as much as the entire SA wind output, the 315 MW of unstable wind disconnected before most of the towers fell. The 1200 Km Heywood extension cord to reliable coal fired generation over the border in Victoria would otherwise be either unneeded or running well within capability.
The extravagant spider web of additional interconnections made necessary by dispersed wind sources (usually far from loads) exposes much more to the dangers of weather while the costs are well insulated from the profit guaranteed promoters of the "sustainable energy".

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

To paraphrase: “It’s too early to ‘know’ several things … but we do ‘know’ renewables aren't to blame.” No contradictions there, eh? There are many things in this universe spinning at phenomenal rates, and you, Mr Clarke, are amongst them.

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:45 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

We do not know everything yet, but we know enough to be clear that the source of the electricty was not a major causal factor - it was storm damage to the transmission infrastructure that caused the overload.

So, no contradiction.

Betaplug - Red Herring - the same thing would have happened even with Port Augusta coal plant still in place, there was sufficient baseload backup.

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Perhaps a visit to Jo Nova might give a better insight into the situation.

Oct 5, 2016 at 4:59 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

It was overpenetrance per wind. Unstable wind power input on to an unstable grid, and, tragically, foreseeable.

See present discussion @ Watts Up and previous posts by Planning Engineer @ Judy's, that's

Oct 5, 2016 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Whether Great Britain gets it or not this winter, I dunno. The answer is blowing in the wind.

Oct 5, 2016 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

What Phil disinformationally dismisses is the failure of the wind power because of units tripping off from too much wind.

A clue is that there was a fossil fuel plant that could have kept the grid stable but it was running low because of the expectation of lots of power from wind.

Years ago I remarked that one effect of windpower would be to drive dispatchers mad. It ain't even just human, anymore, this storm drove the machines mad.

Oct 5, 2016 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

@ 5:05 I mean the turbines were tripping on and off. That was the critical instability, I think.

Always ready to hear the better analysis, so long as it isn't narrative propaganda. Rote, it's all she wrote.

Oct 5, 2016 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Phil Clarke 4:25 I did read the "bollocks" you referred to.

Yet another Green Blob failure in trying to blame everybody else but themselves. It is the only reliable thing about Green Blob power, apart from denial about another total failure.

At least the UK has at least 8 years of political stability to stop the problem getting worse, and start to recify it. The USA still has that decision to make.

It seems that Green politics has been the Aussie politician's graveyard for some years now. The electorate are sick to death, and the politicians are not that slow to learn from past defeats.

Oct 5, 2016 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Josh, forgot to say what a clever cartoon!

"We Advocate North Korea's Electricity Rationing System" should be tatooed on Green Blob foreheads around the world, abbreviated if necessary.

Aussies are sure to love chanting it at Political Rallies, and Labour and Momentum may want to chant it at each other.

Oct 5, 2016 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Phil Clarke

Here is an analysis by Australia's premier journalist. Andrew Bolt.

Oct 5, 2016 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

Nice one Josh, I'm just hoping there will be no UK sequal.

Oct 5, 2016 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Where's Skeptical Science crew when you need 'em eh?

Phil Clarke - let the engineers sort it out eh? - or are you one of those people who think stuff like this can be sorted with uninformed advocacy / partisan raving?

15 of the 22 towers went down after the blackout - etcetera etcetera

Suck up the Andrew Bolt report

Oct 5, 2016 at 7:53 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Radical Rodent

And this one

Oct 5, 2016 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian

The UK's Green Blob has always said that it is always windy somewhere. So now we know that with wind or no wind, power cuts are always guaranteed somewhere.

The Green Blob are now suffering failures in power, but their legacy of power failures lives on, long after Miliband's departure.

Oct 5, 2016 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Ya gotta love it!

First, the windy apologists were claiming loudly that it was a fifty year storm.
Then wind speeds were evaluated and nope! It was just a powerful storm, nothing unusual or uncommon.

Then it was every circular dance in the book as the apologists quoted technical statements from the detailed reports. Details which identified timing and point of failure, but kept to mechanical and technical details without assigning higher level fault status.

But several summary reports; reports given to people in charge of the electrical grid, political figures and the public were very clear in assigning the higher level fault status blame.
It was the wind farms wot done it!

Imagine that?

Much like the BP rig failure in the Gulf of Mexico, there are still of lot of questions remaining to be answered.
• Why were wind farms trying to operate at maximum output when extreme weather and extreme winds were predicted? Allegedly, wind tower operating parameters list maximum operating wind speeds, usually well below the predicted wind storm speeds.
• Who should've been responsible for shutting down the wind towers?
• What will it take and how much will it cost for the electrical grid to be upgraded to handle similar failures? N.B., Wind farms should be responsible for grid upgrade costs, without subsidies or similar fees on fossil fuels.

There has been a sustained substantial public commentary by the foot-in-mouth spin artists trying every sophistic bafflegab sentence garble while trying to deflect fault elsewhere.
The question is why?
What frightens certain people so much about this particular failure?

Terrific Artwork Josh!

Oct 6, 2016 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

As more info comes in the difficulty of moving to renewables (desirable as that may be) is highlighted, read the breakdown a the ABC (usually part of the green blob):

Some interesting points:
"Just before the power went down there was 800 megawatts of wind generation, 330MW of gas and 610MW was being imported from Victoria."
"The real drama plays out in a 90 second window between 4:16:46pm and 4:18:16pm.
The weather triggers a series of transmission faults and three major 275 kilovolt lines are lost. Then, in two separate events, 315 MW of wind generation is disconnected."
"In the events leading up to the SA region black system, generation reduction occurred at six wind farms," the report says. "There was no reduction in thermal generation."
"Demand then shifts dramatically to the line with Victoria. Just before the wind generation failed the Heywood interconnector's flow was about 525 MW, well within its normal operating limit of up to 600MW.
The reduction in generation and the oscillations caused by the transmission network events drove demand to "flows between 850 to 900 MW" well in excess of its capacity. So it shut itself down."
"It should be noted here that the report says that 14 of the 22 transmission towers that went down did so, "following the SA black system".
Another important point is at the end:
"Finally, we know that the energy market is in transition to cleaner forms of power and that is unstoppable. In time the engineering difficulties posed by wind will be overcome.

Or they will be as long as people aren't burned as heretics for daring to point out the real and well documented problems with integrating new forms of energy into an old grid.

And, if those who claim to be friends of renewables continue to respond to any criticism with hysterics, then they will be responsible for ensuring the budding renewable industry suffers irreparable reputational damage.

Because, if the lights keep going out, people will lose faith." And yes I'm looking at you Phil Clarke

Oct 6, 2016 at 2:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrewKennett

Phil Clarke is sprouting the Jay Weatherill (SA Premier and turbine hugger) line. The situation was complex but there is little doubt that all that volatile wind electricity didn't help stability.
I would point out that it was necessary to take all wind farms off line while the Pelican Point CCGT gas plant was started. It has been (mostly) off-line because the dumping of subsidised wind electricity ruined its economics. Once a black start was managed then the interconnector to Victoria was brought back on, and once there was sufficient inertia in the system some of the wind farms. Port Lincoln was blacked out for over 48 hours despite it having access to 2 wind farms.

Please note that the recently shut down Northern coal fired plant made a maximum of 550MW output, and that it has not been destroyed. That was the old - 1953 - smaller Playford plant.
Coal fired has gone and CCGT are economic, so SA relies on wind, OCGTs and the 2 interconnectors to Vic. Whether this has resulted in any real reduction in emissions is doubtful, apart from the loss of industry and jobs due to the high electricity prices, as the coal fired emissions are probably higher but occur in Victoria so interesting accounting may be occuring. I note that Germany hasn't cut its emissions since 2009 (until 2015). Not getting value for money.

Oct 6, 2016 at 6:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

Sorry, CCGT are Uneconomic

Oct 6, 2016 at 6:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

As others have frequently pointed out, wind farms create grid instability which must be compensated for by the (now fewer) remaining traditional generators. As WUWT reports, the Australian grid operator has now ordered wind farms to cut back as a result of the SA blackout. The engineers have always known the truth of the matter, but have been overridden by 'green' politicians. They are now running into the buffers of reality.

Oct 6, 2016 at 8:29 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

As WUWT reports, the Australian grid operator has now ordered wind farms to cut back as a result of the SA blackout. The engineers have always known the truth of the matter, but have been overridden by 'green' politicians. They are now running into the buffers of reality.

An Australian writes:

thony Watts is obsessed with Australia's electricity system but he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's posted several articles on the blackout in South Australia and all of them are woefully wrong. (None on the blackouts in Victoria, NSW and the ACT.) With his latest (archived here) he shows that he doesn't understand the wholesale pricing system for Australian electricity (few do), and confuses it with electricity generation. His headline is totally misleading. He wrote: "Australian electrical system operator orders wind farms to cut back production in wake of blackout"

No it didn't.

Buffers of reality indeed. If you want an example of hysteria, look no further than the comments under Watts' uncritical parroting of the lies from the GWPF and IPA.

Oct 6, 2016 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Phil Clarke


oh dear...... never mind.

There will be an engineering report - at the moment it does rather look as if windmills played a pivotal role in the blackout and the reason they dropped off line may be something like a few wrong numbers in some computer code or maybe the wind was wrong - the evidence isn't out there yet.

The emphasis should be on characterising the problem and finding a way to deal with it.

Quoting Miriam O'Brien ..... ? .... to many who are familiar with the lady's ravings it's the equivalent of a foot-shot.

Oct 6, 2016 at 11:19 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Ad hom much?

Oct 6, 2016 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

@Phil Clarke

She's done it to herself.


Oct 6, 2016 at 11:39 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Yeah, I can certainly see why some find her blog threatening and are so forced to fall back on logical fallacies.

Ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

Oct 6, 2016 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

@Phil Clarke

I'll put it a little straighter - she's a mad old bat - why should I (or anybody) take her seriously? - Cassandra she most certainly isn't.

If you have to rely on her output to make a point - then you are both lazy and sloppy.


Oct 6, 2016 at 12:21 PM | Registered Commentertomo

And so we descend to plyaground name-calling.

So much easier, lazier and sloppier than pointing out what she got wrong.


Oct 6, 2016 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

You are connected to, and dependent upon, unstable spinning, Phil.

Oct 6, 2016 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Kim, unstable spinning is another possible explanation for earth's variable climate, that CO2 experts such as Miriam O'Brien and Phil Clarke have tried to extinguish, with ad hom attacks.

Oct 6, 2016 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Australians set to be rinsed again for "eco-power"

Oct 6, 2016 at 2:28 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I'm no windmill specialist, but I question whether any software tweak can truly solve their problems, no matter who wants to think so.

Let's consider the question of frequency stability in a gusty wind. For 50-hz power, the output just has to wander half a cycle, or 1/100th of a second, before the thing is completely out of phase. pushing up when everybody else is hauling down, and vice versa. Kind of like inhaling when everybody else is blowing hard straight down your poor throat. Or rowing stroke when everybody else on the side is rowing feather, and smacking oars.

Any piece of gear that can't keep up the right frequency and phase is fouling everybody else, and usually has to be disconnected for the sake of the team.

How hard is it to keep this from happening? Consider that the main mechanism for it is mechanical, changing the blade pitch. How fast does that work, particularly in a gusty, howling storm, with many tons of blade that has 30 yards of leverage on the poor suffering hub?

How does a software tweak solve that one? It's a nasty mechanical problem, not electronic.

Oct 6, 2016 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

It's a sound rule that if you don't know exactly how something is done manually, you can't successfully automate it. Software doesn't add miracles, if we don't know what instructions they need, step-by-step.

Oct 6, 2016 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

Roberto, that is one of the problems when the wind is blowing. However, by one of the miracles of electrics, it is never a problem when the wind is not blowing. The wind industry does not have to worry about problems when the wind is not blowing, as they get paid anyway.

Oct 6, 2016 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Blackouts and high energy bills is what will eventually kill the global warming scam.

Oct 6, 2016 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea


I feel you're probably too far down / too close to the blades. The software controlling the system isn't afaics an integrated whole - more of a hodge-podge of interacting stuff.

There is a presentation of the system overview management screens for SA over the period of the blackout and it's clear that the granularity time-wise is not consistent with what's actually happening in real time on a sub-second basis. There are of course comms latency issues. In a stable steady(ish) scenario (the norm) the consequences don't amount to much - but if stuff is flapping around ... timing issues become critical - but 200MW+ dropping off the grid in a few seconds.... that's quite a transient.

Some fairly informed folk here

Oct 6, 2016 at 6:10 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Ross Lea, nothing like the public outrage from blackouts and higher energy bills to get the notice of politicians. The UK is leading the world, and successful UK politicians have listened. Australians are getting upset, and Americans have not quite decided.

Without taxpayer funding, the Green Blob goes bust. That is how the Green Economy doesn't work, as it never has, and always fails.

The Green Blob are in panic mode, expect it to increase to Unprecedented levels. Watch the BBC for further information.

Oct 6, 2016 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

O benighted cartoonist ! No wonder the Norks are in the dark-- they have nary a wind turbine, but 835,000,000 watts of the bright lights in South Korea are backed by wind power and the government is investing in offshore wind farms to increase total capacity to 3.4 GW by 2019

Oct 6, 2016 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Really scary Green Economics. A guaranteed vote loser

Oct 6, 2016 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Canadian companies are realising that being Green is an image of sickness, that the population don't like.

Oct 7, 2016 at 1:05 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Come to South Australia!!
The only State free of the 'orrible spotted yellow lurgie.
(Tasmania used to be OK, but has sunk).

Oct 7, 2016 at 7:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

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