back to article Green software blacked out Australian State

Something good is going to come out of last year's “Black System” in the Australian State of South Australia: the global wind power industry has learned how to do better modelling for systems under attack from repeated failures. South Australia last year experienced a vicious storm that uprooted high-voltage power and blew …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Any turbines up in Queensland? You'd better have learnt lessons from last year's storm !!

  2. david 12 Silver badge

    frequency management services

    >It's possible that frequency management services could be spun out into a separate market, <

    I'm hearing conflicting things about this. Some people are telling me that there /already is/ a separate market for frequency management (in Australia), as there certainly is in (some other countries).

  3. WibbleMe

    How about storing over capacity in say a battery, something like cold storage might be the way to go

    1. Diogenes

      Mr Trumbull is spending $2 billion d just that. Pumping water back up hill in off peak

    2. Flip

      Or something like

      this:

      https://phys.org/news/2017-03-air-world-battery.html

  4. David Roberts

    False economy?

    Wasn't the main problem that they refused to pay the standby generator enough to cover the costs of firing up as emergency back up?

    1. Griffo

      Re: False economy?

      Wasn't the main problem that they refused to pay the standby generator enough to cover the costs of firing up as emergency back up?

      Different outage. This first one was due to storms taking down most of the HV transmission lines, combined with some unexpected behaviour of the wind generators.

      The second outage was the one where they didn't spin up the standby gas power station even though they knew there would be a shortage of supply 12 hours in advance - the electricity wholesalers thought it better to starve the market and push the spot prices through the roof to maximise profits, rather than spending money on gas to protect the supply. Yes really.

      1. Ilmarinen
        Facepalm

        Re: False economy?

        "Yes really."

        How odd that people do what you incentivise them to do !

  5. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    It sounds like a part of the problem here was failure to keep track of who was doing what. That's not going to be fixed by splitting the market into more pieces or even by binning the windmills and going back to burning stuff. It all sounds a bit like the politicians carved up the market for their friends so that no-one could possibly know where the responsibility lay for keeping the system as a whole running. That's a regulatory failure rather than a technical one. You fix it by actually enforcing the existing rules, not by making new ones.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's a ridiculous sub header. Catastrophic damage to transmission lines caused the power outage. I do not profess to be an expert on the subject matter so will defer to experts on whether the wind generation kit could have remained online, but sans transmission capability it would have been moot, surely?

    1. Diogenes

      Even if it didn't fall down the Heywood was shut down to prevent burnout/overload. You cannot loose 33%*(cough, snigger , chortle) of your generation capacity in 17 seconds and not expect some problems. The rest of the transmission system was fine.

      *notional capacity - as I type this actually generating 223 vs nameplate > 1400 (google nem watch)

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      >That's a ridiculous sub header. Catastrophic damage to transmission lines caused the power outage. I do not profess to be an expert on the subject matter so will defer to experts on whether the wind generation kit could have remained online, but sans transmission capability it would have been moot, surely?<

      No.

      Transmission line failure was the direct cause of a small part of the blackout. And that was only part of a triggering event of the large blackout.

      Also, once you get away from the headlines, the charge was that the state had directed too much money to one aspect of their system (renewables) at the cost to other aspects (including but not limited to transmission line maintenance,)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Build more nuclear power

    And use underground power cables for distribution.

    Simple. Not cheap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Build more nuclear power

      Nuclear fission is becoming extremely difficult to justify. The costs of building reactors (see the Toshiba debacle in the US, the current problems with EDF, the UK builds and subsidies etc), combine with the cost of clean up and decommissioning (went from an estimate of £2 million in the UK in the 60s to currently about £120 billion) and sometimes the risks which can then be nearly impossible to clean up after (see Fukushima).

      Unless they invent Fusion reactors or multiple mini reactors then the lifetime costs of Nuclear will cripple this "unlimited free energy source".

  8. Cuddles Silver badge

    Wait, what?

    "The Research Center's people note that “the protection feature resulting in sustained power reduction of wind turbines is not generally implemented in simulation models provided to clients. Even if this feature was present, it is not customary to study multiple faults as occurred in the actual event.”

    So the issue was that the people who build the turbines don't bother to tell the people using them how they actually work, and that even if they had, no-one had ever bothered to wonder what might happen if more than one thing goes wrong at a time, such as happens pretty much every time there's a storm. That's not the global industry learning something valuable from a major incident, it's a bunch of incompetent fuckwits learning the absolute basics of simulating a system.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    "it is not customary to study multiple faults"

    Are you seriously telling me they never planned for outages to the wind turbine system caused by extreme storms?

    1. Trixr

      Re: "it is not customary to study multiple faults"

      They did.

      The wankers running the gas-fired turbines said they didn't get 'enough warning' to spin them up. It was complete lies, since they were warned a few day in advance that the gas-fired capability would likely be required when the weather hit.

      Of course the govt was at fault for not ringing them up first thing in the morning of the storms to ask "Are those #*@*% things on yet?"

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: "it is not customary to study multiple faults"

      >Are you seriously telling me they never planned for outages to the wind turbine system caused by extreme storms?<

      They had not correctly planned for outages to the wind turbine system caused by network system failures.

      All generators turn off if there is a bad system failure: you can't keep running a generator if no customers are connected. The wind systems are particularly sensitive. The wind systems configuration was conservative, because they were configured to be operated as part of a coal-fired generating system. As part of a coal-fired system, they were configured to expect small deviations only when there was a general system failure. Without coal, they need to be configured to expect normal fluctuations are much larger and longer lasting.

  10. Glen Turner 666

    I'd be a little bit cautious to ascribing an outage to the last thing to fail in a chain of failures. Especially in a report written by one of the players. It soft-soaps AEMO running its own weather models, and thus missing the warnings from BoM. The result was that the SA grid hadn't been prepared for a major weather event. Also there's a number of forward-looking statements in the report about future grid design, but the question why AEMO management failed to address these design issues prior to the SA outage isn't discussed.

    There's plenty of blame for all involved. Even for SA residents and their installation of air conditioning rather than purchasing efficient homes in the first place. Demand management is one area which the SA government hasn't sought change, despite it being one of the cheapest ways to lower electricity prices.

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