The lights went out across an entire Australian state due to wind and solar power, and experts say the worst green energy blackouts are on their way.
South Australia suffered a complete power blackout Wednesday largely due to green energy. It plunged 1.7 million residents into darkness. The blackout was caused by problems with transmission lines feeding the region from other states and a green energy policy which caused the area to shut down operating coal plants to promote heavy use of wind and solar power.
Experts believe that the ability of an electrical grid to absorb unreliable green energy becomes increasingly more difficult at scale. Australia’s reliance on wind power makes blackouts more likely because the amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine is very intermittent and doesn’t coincide with the times of day when power is most needed. This poses an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and makes power grids more fragile.
Australian Liberal Party Sen. Chris Back blamed excessive reliance on wind turbines for the blackout and incredibly high electricity prices in South Australia. South Australia has been experiencing a power crisis since July when the state’s last reliable coal power plants were shuttered in favor of wind. Back has formally called for a moratorium on new turbines pending a cost-benefit analysis of the effect of the wind industry on the country.
“There should be no further subsidies paid for an intermittent and unreliable power source that can be seen as a proven failure. There are solutions to our climate challenges but wind power is not one of them,” Back told The Australian.
The power crisis in South Australia has caused the price of electricity to spike to 200 cents per kilowatt-hour of power. The average Australian currently pays about 25 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, according to research by the country’s parliament. To put that in some perspective, the average American only spends 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour of power, roughly half the cost. Major businesses in South Australia have already threatened to suspend operations entirely until the price of power comes down.
Household electricity prices in Australia have risen by more than 40 percent between 2007 and 2012, the same period when the government offered lucrative wind subsidies. Power prices in Australian states with a lot of wind power are almost double the rates in other states.
Other Pacific nations are cutting back and outright banning wind power due to the risk of blackouts. China has ordered wind operators to stop expanding four times in the last five years, because unreliable wind power was damaging the country’s power grid and costing the government enormous amounts of money. The Chinese government stopped approving new wind power projects in the country’s windiest regions in early March, according to China’s National Energy Administration. China was wasting enough wind energy to power Great Britain, according to an article published earlier this month by a green think tank.
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