By the end of this year construction is expected to start on Queensland’s first major windfarm, the 180 MW Mount Emerald project. As can be seen from these recent NEM-Watch screengrabs, there is ample room for this affordable, potent fuel-saving and climate-friendly generating capacity.
A couple of further observations:
The reported pricetag for Mount Emerald is $380 million. Comparing this to Stage One of the Snowtown project (100 MW), completed in 2008, which came in at $220 million, by levelising output (380 ÷ 1.8 = $210 million) reveals a quizzical lack of the plunging costs that are so often trumpeted for certain renewable energy technologies.
More broadly, this windfarm is potentially the first step towards a mooted state 50% renewable energy target. The target was recently examined for the Queensland government by an expert panel, its general approach and modelled affordability presented in a report. As one commentator has noted:
The contortions the Victorian and Queensland governments are going through at present to assert that the cost of their big renewables policies will be very little and that there is no cause for community alarm merely serve to demonstrate (to me at least) that this is eventually one of the bigger over-riding issues of the market transition.
The same article also observed that the bulk of proposed new capacity, like Mount Emerald, is in northern Queensland while most of the state’s load is nestled far away in the south east.
The 3rd and 4th of October were interesting days for NEM electricity due to the dramatic difference in rooftop solar output. By isolating Queensland half-hourly demand, the state’s estimated solar performance can be seen along with export to New South Wales through the QNI (1078 MW) and Terranora (210 MW) interconnectors.
Using NSW wind performance data from those days as a proxy, the impact of currently planned windfarmsand solar farms can be simulated.
Finally, if the expert panel’s expectations were fulfilled, the simulation of these two ordinary days looks like this.
A discussion of existing generator flexibility is beyond this article’s scope, but the implied ramp rates on the second day should be of interest to operators and expert panels alike.
Where is nuclear energy in all this? The only mention came from the Queensland Resources Council.
The recommendation that QRC would make is that the target should also encompass low and zero emission technologies to present a low emission rather than just simply a renewable target. While the current Queensland Government is highly unlikely to be attracted to any discussion of nuclear energy, it is a virtually emission-free base-load generation technology.
Unattractive, quite possibly. But a reassessment of nuclear energy is not beyond a state Labor government. Commitment to an emissions target over an exclusive renewable energy target – for energy, not just electricity – and a challenging timeframe out to 2030 and beyond, without the inordinate influence of preconceptions unevolved since the 1970s, would align Queensland’s efforts more tightly with historically successful decarbonisation. If eventual decarbonisation of energy supplies is the goal, and arithmetic is to be substantially involved, there’s very little other option.