Why Australia’s greatest gasoline kettle by no means stood an opportunity towards wind and photo voltaic




It was at all times a query of when, not if. The Torrens Island B gasoline plant, a part of what was as soon as the most important gasoline generator within the nation, had been scheduled for closure in 2035. However nobody within the power trade, least of all its house owners at AGL, ever believed it could final that lengthy.

The final of its elder siblings, the Torrens A gasoline models totalling 480MW, closed in 2021 as a result of they had been ten years older, and – to not put too nice a degree on it – fairly crap.

The 800MW Torrens B facility was inbuilt 1976, primarily based on steam turbine know-how that may have appeared new and thrilling half a century in the past. However it was actually only a large kettle, the gasoline equal of the soiled Latrobe Valley coal burners, and equally ineffective to a grid in speedy transition to wind, photo voltaic and inverter applied sciences, the place flexibility is king.

South Australia is already assembly two thirds of its annual electrical energy demand from its wind and photo voltaic assets, the very best degree for any grid of its dimension on the earth, and exports a lot of its extra manufacturing to Victoria.

Wind and photo voltaic dominate the grid

Even within the week when its major hyperlink to the skin world was down, it still managed the same percentage. And when the state isn’t remoted, and desperately making an attempt to change off as a lot rooftop photo voltaic as it may possibly, the ability generated by the modules owned households and companies can match all local demand on occasions.

That leaves little room available in the market for large outdated clunkers like Torrens Island. The official line is that the know-how doesn’t just like the look of the brand new demand curve, which rooftop photo voltaic has was the form of a duck.

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The grim actuality is that, like many of the coal crops nonetheless working within the japanese states, it’s incapable of responding to large modifications in output from wind and photo voltaic.

In keeping with AGL, Torrens Island B takes round 16 hours to begin from chilly – in comparison with the 5 minutes for the 12 smaller models on the new Barker Inlet peaking gasoline generator constructed subsequent door. Or the milliseconds it’ll take for the Torrens Island big battery to reply when it’s full subsequent 12 months.

Not very versatile

So, regardless of the feedback on Thursday by state power minister Tom Koutsantonis that Torrens Island B is the state’s “most versatile generator”, that isn’t the case in any respect.

What’s is nice at doing – and what Koutsantonis in all probability means by his remarks – is working at very low ranges of baseload output, round one fifth of the nominated capability, or 40MW on every of its models.

This simply occurs to be very helpful for the Australian Vitality Market Operator proper now, as a result of it reckons it wants round 80MW of “thermal” era to take care of grid safety – on this case “system energy.

That’s why you’ll usually see that requirement is being met by two of Torrens Island’s models working at these low ranges whereas wind and photo voltaic are in full manufacturing, and exports are spilling over into Victoria.

The issue for Torrens Island is that even this area of interest significance available in the market might be redundant inside just a few years.

Synchronous condensers – spinning machines that do not burn fuel – have already lowered the necessity for many of the gasoline era to run for grid safety causes, and battery storage and advanced inverters will do the identical in coming years.

The tip of baseload fossils

The ultimate blow will come from the brand new transmission hyperlink to NSW, often known as Undertaking EnergyConnect, which can dramatically enhance the state’s choices for grid safety and sharing energy, and spell the top to the final of the state’s “baseload” fossil gas belongings, when in full operation in 2026.

The primary of Torrens B’ 4 200MW models – B1 – was mothballed in 2021 as a result of it was arising for its scheduled main overhaul, and AGL couldn’t see the purpose in spending the $20 million or so on what was already a loss making enterprise.

The crunch got here this 12 months when AGL was confronted with the scheduled main overhaul of one other unit, B2 – due early subsequent 12 months – and deciding how to reply to the altering market dynamics.

Below present guidelines, it wants 42 months to flag such a closure, and the looming arrival of Undertaking EnergyConnect in 2026 meant the time had come to decide.

Discussions had been held with each AEMO and the South Australian authorities about what to do. It’s understood all events knew Torrens B had no long run future, and that it could be 50 years outdated in 2026. However AEMO noticed a use for it in offering that minimal output till then.

Offers with state governments

So a deal was struck with the state authorities to get electrical energy customers to fund the improve of the B2 unit – at a complete value of $19.5 million, or $2.70 a 12 months for every buyer out to 2026.

That value doesn’t add as much as far more than a hill of beans, or two small lattes a 12 months, but it surely does spotlight the issue the nation – and the person states – finds themselves in with a Nationwide Electrical energy Market with out the foundations in place to information them.

Victoria discovered itself in an identical place final 12 months when EnergyAustralia came to talk to them and AEMO about the future of the Yallourn brown coal generator in the Latrobe Valley.

Shamefully, no particulars of that settlement have been launched by both the state authorities or the listed proprietor of EnergyAustralia, but it surely’s a good wager it’s centred across the identical thought: Stick round for just some extra years whereas handy, and we’ll fund the upkeep invoice in between. And we’ll paint it as a fast-tracked closure.

Comparable discussions have been held between Origin and the NSW authorities over the closure of Eraring, the nation’s greatest coal generator.

A query of timing

The result of that was a 2025 closure date, an acceleration of the state’s renewable infrastructure plans, the brand new Waratah “super battery” to behave as a large shock absorber – because the South Australian batteries have finished for the final 5 years – and a call out for another 380MW of dispatchable capacity.

The issue is, that will not be sufficient. Origin has been hinting this week, in no uncertain terms, that the shortened timetable for coal closures could not be capable of be met. You’ll be able to wager the hand will be out to help meet the cost of maintenance, coal supplies, and labour, if the closure dates need to be deferred.

Within the meantime, the technique of the brand new Labor authorities in South Australia stays one thing of a thriller. Koutsantonis has lengthy been a supporter of gasoline, and a vocal opponent of the brand new interconnector, so for whom that is the worst of each worlds.

Inexperienced hydrogen plans

The fact is that with out the interconnector, lots of the enormous wind, photo voltaic and battery storage tasks – similar to the total extension of the huge Goyder South facility owned by Neoen – wouldn’t go forward.

Koutsantonis has large inexperienced hydrogen plans, however even right here he seems to be heading on a tangent, insisting on a inexperienced hydrogen energy generator because the centrepiece of the state’s hydrogen capability.

Nobody might be complaining too loudly whether it is authorities funded, and sucking up the output of huge wind and photo voltaic farms, however most consultants anticipate hydrogen storage for the grid to be a helpful bi-product of broader hydrogen plans. So, for that know-how, it’s not a query of if, however how.




Giles ParkinsonGiles Parkinson

Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy, and can also be the founding father of One Step Off The Grid and founder/editor of the EV-focused The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 40 years and is a former enterprise and deputy editor of the Australian Monetary Overview.


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