In late September 2016, a sweeping power outage hit South Australia state, which has 1.7 million residents, caused by tornadoes, thunderstorms and strong winds. Interestingly, despite the harsh weather, government officials questioned whether South Australia’s reliance on clean energy (specifically solar and wind power) may have actually contributed to the widespread outage. South Australia gets a whopping 41% of its power from so called clean energy.
It’s a debate that features differing opinions. For example, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbill stated that clean energy places “different strains and pressures on a grid” compared to traditional energy sources, whereas state Premier Jay Weatherill said “this was a weather event, not a renewable energy event.” Irrespective of which side of the debate you fall on, many states in Australia plan to increase the percentage of energy coming from renewable sources in the coming years.
My Take on Clean Energy and Reliability
I’ve been around awhile, and this is the first time I’ve heard the notion that clean energy may hinder grid resilience. I don’t think I buy it, mainly because it’s not been proven. Although some of the people trumpeting this cause-and-effect relationship are seemingly in the know, there has not been any statistically significant research to validate it, which makes it little more than somebody’s opinion. That said, I would be very interested in this type of research and I hope it happens at some point, because it could influence emergency preparedness for renewable-heavy utilities if a cause and effect relationship is indeed established.
Here’s an article from Electric Light & Power that discusses this potential clean energy issue in greater detail. Enjoy!