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Factors Contributing to Power Issue in South Australia State

Question:

Discuss about the Communication and Distributed Resources.

Power blackout has been a phenomenon witnessed in South Australia State with more focus on its implications on the life of South Australians. Power failure is a serious problem that left many citizens counting losses prompting government intervention. System engineering problem is contributed to a number of factors that point to the interplay of these factors. Some of these factors include energy source problems, power generation, power transmission problems and human or political factors. The interplay of these factors is a major contributing factor to the instability of power coupled with blackouts and failures to restart these power systems. The challenge that current power system poses to South Australian government is the recipe for finding a long-lasting solution to the energy problem. The only viable alternative energy is the introduction of a greener cheaper and stable energy solution into the South Australian energy network. The following paper explores the system engineering problems for the SA State power problem and finding greener cheaper and stable energy solution.

System engineering problem that results in the power issue in South Australia State can be traced to many interlinked factors. These factors include a power source, power generation, transmission and human or political factors. A critical understanding of these factors sheds more light on the system engineering problems that contribute to a power issue in South Australia State.

Wind power source though plays a significant role in green energy used in the South Australia State. Wind power has unstable transmission challenges due to its frequency when under different wind frequency. This is quite challenging when it comes to connecting most of wind power lines to the main grid. In terms of connectivity, wind as a source of power poses challenges to the interconnector due to these irregular transmissions of power from wind farms. The challenge has contributed to frequent trips or shutdowns that are reported through Australian Energy Market Operator. In addition, various generator failures also contribute to the power problems that are experienced in the South Australia state. For instance, failure of Mintaro emergency diesel generator once contributed to the massive electricity failure. The effort to revive this generator failed as it was damaged by storm (Sykes, Adamiak & Brunello 2006, pp. 145-158).

Nearly 40% of the electricity used within the South Australia state is generated from wind power. Wind power energy is prone to system engineering problems that are a cursive factor for power issue. Interconnecting the wind power into the grid is a couple with engineering challenges such as the need for back up by baseload power for days when the wind to generate power is not available. In addition, wind power requires perfect harmony of 50 cycles (50 hertz) every second day for the supply and demand operation (Weber 2016, pp 1-5). When the frequency gets beyond the tune the connectors trips the shutdown switch. This is because the wind power is asynchronous its frequency fluctuates in response to the winds. Reduction in the power generated has also been realized within the power network especially within the power generation stations. The inability of some power generators to restart due to lower power, this was seen in the case of Torrens Island power station which needed enough power from Victoria interconnectors (Verzosa 2011). 

Wind Power Source Challenges in South Australia State

The system engineering issues are also witnessed in the transmission of power that is coupled with many interconnectors.  One of the transmission power problems that highly result in the power outage is the instability of power connectors. The instability of these interconnectors makes the addition of the South Australia power to the electricity network difficult to stabilize the power frequency on the network (Waldhuter 2016, pp 23). For instance, during one of the power blackout, many different interconnectors switched off though some were immediately switched on before the power failure. The report by Australian Energy Market Operator indicates that the first interconnector switch-off was realized near Adelaide though it was later automatically reset. The second switch-off was between Brinkworth and Templars which was followed by Davenport Belalie line, this line was reset and tripped some nine seconds later. At the point of these interconnector trips, Hallet Wind Farm reduced its power output by 123 MW followed by a massive fault that saw 257kV transmission line fails. At the end of the fault, nearly nine wind power farms shutdown casting doubt on the capacity of these power farms. Furthermore, most of the power farms reduced their power output causing irregular transmission and subsequently interconnectors tripped (Fischer et al 2012, pp1).

Human and political factors also contribute to system engineering failure that has highly contributed to a power failure in South Australia State. Firstly, human errors and failure to inspect the system contributes to the power issue. It reported that there are continuous reductions of wind power output that can be attributed to human errors. Secondly, political factors such as licensing of supplier firms also contributed to power failures resulting in power blackouts. AEMO signed contracts with different companies to supply various systems some which failure or damaged raising the credibility concerns of these firms (Weber 2016, pp 1). For instance, AEMO signed a contract with system restart ancillary service to restart the network yet it did not due to its location within the power network. This was after Mintaro Emergency Diesel generator was severely damaged by the storms experienced in the country. Conclusively, power failures can also be attributed to power licensing and selection of energy equipment suppliers in the country. The political class of Australia lead by the prime minister who indicated the massive failure of wind power farms (Bourke & Koziol 2016, pp 1).


Storms and weather is another factor that contributes to power problems witnessed in South Australia State. Frequent storms and bad weather that destroy grid are critical factors that have to lead to failure of the system (Edwards, Puddy & Owen 2016). This is causing massive system engineering challenges as the storms sometimes destroy important power generators. Moreover, weather changes especially wind direction and fluctuation of breeze affects the wind power generation which forms 40% of power in South Australia State. Political interference on the power generation stations is another important issue as was the case of one failure (Courier Mail 2013).

Transmission Power Problems in South Australia State

Greener stable and cheaper energy is an important solution for the power issue that has been experienced in South Australia State. Finding greener stable cheaper energy solutions entails many different factors that need to interplay. Firstly, development of energy regulations and policies is an important factor for consideration. To find a greener stable and cheap energy solution requires establishing policies by the government that will help set energy policies such as cheap energy sources. In addition, policies need to open ground for establishing of energy suppliers that will be ready to offer cheaper energy at a cheaper price. Greener energy solution should factor in the need for renewable and cleaner energy source. The energy solution should be stable with minimal power failures as compared to the current power system. Energy regulations should give the greener companies opportunity and capacity to provide energy without any restriction. The regulation should also change the national electricity market given its fragility and need to bring other greener energy solutions such as solar power (Tziouvaras 2007, pp. 251-270). 

The government regulation on greener energy solution should consider those companies that are providing greener energy first. Empowering companies which are the major stakeholders in the energy system is important for an energy solution. This implies that those companies that are already venturing into greener energy should be allowed to provide the energy to their full capacity without any political interference. The progress of this company will give the direction on other companies that can also be allowed to provide greener energy within South Australia. Energy licensing agency, therefore, an important role in ensuring current greener companies is given the opportunity to supply power. Moreover, the strategy gives priority to a first company that is already providing greener energy before allowing the second company to come in and provide energy (Renew Economy 2016).   

Greener energy needs to be stable, cheaper and compliment the current source of energy that is characterized by system failures. Firstly, with the current high energy bills that are affecting most Australians, there is a need for a cheaper greener energy solution. Cheaper energy sources need to have low pollution and complies with the current green energy regulations. Secondly, greener energy solution needs to be stable with the ability to reduce power outages as compared to the current energy source used in South Australia State. A greener energy needs to be developed in a way that has minimal transmission challenges in order to maintain stability throughout the year. Thirdly, greener energy allows interconnectivity with other energy networks without compromising the stability of the network. The connection of a greener energy source to the current energy system can allow usage of energy mix which is stable and cheaper as compared to other sources of energy (Climate Council 2016). 

Human and Political Factors Contributing to Power Issue in South Australia State

One example of greener stable and cheaper energy solution is the solar power energy solutions. Solar power has been shown to be one of the greener energy sources due to its renewable nature. Solar power energy has a continuous power supply, especially when connected with a suitable battery capable of storing power for a long time. Solar power energy solutions have proved to be cheaper as compared to other energy sources that require maintenance cost for continuous power supply. The stability of the solar energy rests on it continuous supply and lack of interconnectors required to make the transmission lines. It only takes a supply of solar components that are provided to households. For instance, the Virtual Power Plant that is currently under trial in South Australia. The solar energy system consists of a 5Kw solar panel and 1.3kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery supplied to each household. This greener energy is cheaper and estimated to cost a bill of 30% lower as compared to current electricity bill in South Australia (Heniche, Kamwa & Dobrescu 2013, pp. 1-5.143 ). 

Conclusion

In conclusion, massive power blackout experienced in South Australia is attributed to several factors. Some of these factors include power generation problems, energy sources issue, power transmission issue, physical factors and human or political factors. The interplay of these factors result in faulty transmission and subsequent power shutdown or power blackouts experienced. To help find a lasting solution to these challenges finding a greener cheaper and stable energy solution is the best alternative. This, therefore, necessitate the need for energy regulations that allow those current companies that offer greener energy to provide energy in full capacity before introducing other companies.

References

Bourke, L. & Koziol, M. (2016) Minister Josh Frydenberg, senator Nick Xenophon question renewable in wake of South Australia blackout. Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/energy-minister-josh-frydenberg-says-south-australia-blackout-raises-questions-about-renewables-20160928-grques.html [Accessed on 30 September 2016]

Climate Council (2016) Myth busting: electricity prices in South Australia. Stock A and Stock P. Available at:

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/e993194468726947cbd7c4f7216a2316.pdf

Courier Mail, (2013) Almost 250,000 homes without power as weather hits SEQ electricity grid. Available at

https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/almost­250000­homes­without­power­as­weather­hits­seq­electricity­grid/story­e6freon6­1226563631914 [Accessed on January 28, 2013]

Edwards, V.; Puddy, R. & Owen, M. (2016) Storm leaves SA without power, heads to NSW, Victoria, Tasmania. The Australian. Available at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/cyclonic-storm-plunges-south-australia-into-the-dark-ages/news-story/480dadb0440519a433b7631b7de1e293 [Accessed on 30 September 2016]

Fischer, G. et al, (2012) Tutorial on Power Swing Blocking and Out-of-step Tripping, presented at 39th Annual Western Protective Relay Conference, October, available at https://cdn.selinc.com/assets/Literature/Publications/Technical%20Papers/6577_TutorialPower_JBF_20120911_Web.pdf?v=20151125-094320

Heniche, A. Kamwa I. & Dobrescu, M. (2013) Hydro-Québec's defense plan: Present and future, 2013 IEEE Power & Energy Society General Meeting, Vancouver, BC, pp. 1-5.143

Renew Economy, (2016) SA Blackout may lead to more batteries and micro­grids. Available at: https://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/s­a­blackout­may­lead­to­more­batteries­and­micro­grids-­67618

SA Power Networks, (2016) Power Outages. Available at:

https://outage.apps.sapowernetworks.com.au/OutageReport/OutageSearch?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Sykes, J., Adamiak M. & Brunello, G. (2006) Implementation and Operational Experience of a Wide Area Special Protection Scheme on the SRP System, 2006 Power Systems Advanced Metering, Protection, Control, Communication, and Distributed Resources, Clemson, SC, pp. 145-158

Tziouvaras, D. (2007) Relay Performance During Major System Disturbances, presented at 60th Annual Conference for Protective Relay Engineers, pp. 251-270, available at https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/4201100/

Verzosa, Q. (2011) Realistic Testing of Power Swing Blocking and Out-of-Step Tripping Functions, Proceedings of the 38th Annual Western Protective Relay Conference, Spokane, WA, October.

Waldhuter, L. (2016) SA weather: Worsening conditions cause more blackouts as BOM warns of more storms. ABC News. Available at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-29/worsening-conditions-cause-more-blackouts-across-sa/7887020 [Accessed on 29 September 2016]

Weber, D. (2016) Western Australia sends transmission towers to storm-affected SA. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ABC News. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-29/wa-sends-power-towers-to-help-out-sa/7891014?section=wa [Accessed on 30 September 2016]

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