Over the next few months, with the right wing shift in the federal Coalition government, and state and federal elections afoot, expect to hear a lot about “baseload” and “intermittent” generation. It will be the core of the conservative push for more fossil fuel generation, particularly coal. They argue that because “coal” is “baseload”, it must therefore be “reliable”. And wind and solar are intermittent, so they cannot be relied upon to keep the lights on. It’s political rhetoric that belies the reality of the electricity system, the biggest and most complex machine in the country. Australia’s grid has challenges, but they are not necessarily ones that can be solved just by having more “baseload”. What is really needed – as the Australian Energy Market Operator, chief scientist Alan Finkel, and any number of other independent experts point out – is dispatchable and reliable generation, one that the grid operator can count on, in times of peak demand and heat stress. And the answer does not lie in traditional “baseload” generation – the more than 100 trips of big fossil fuel plants since December, often at times of soaring heat, underline that point. But there’s something else, and it’s about the way that various generators – traditional fossil fuel and “synchronous generators”, and inverter based renewables like wind and solar – operate at times of great stress for the grid. And it is at these times, new analysis shows, that the traditional views of baseload and intermittency are turned upside down. At a recent seminar in Melbourne, at the Climate and Energy College, one of the country’s leading electrical engineers, Kate Summers, showed these series of graphs that illustrated that – at moments when stability can be won or lost – it has been wind and solar that have held firm, and acted as what one might consider to be “baseload”. And it has been coal and gas that has proved “intermittent” at the very minutes that stability is needed.
Renew Economy 29th Aug 2018 read more »