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Victorian Coal Power Station Unit Fails – Again

Time: 1/11/2018 9:52:07 AM                       Publisher: Staff

A troublesome generation unit at the brown coal-fired Loy Yang A power station again experienced problems early yesterday morning – reportedly the sixth incident in just a few weeks.
AGL Loy Yang, which consists of the Loy Yang A power station (four generation units with a combined 2,200MW capacity) and adjacent 800-hectare brown coal mine, generates approximately 15 terawatt-hours of electricity each year. It supplies around 30% of Victoria’s electricity requirements.
Another clunker in Australia’s ageing coal power fleet, Loy Yang A is a source of significant carbon and toxic emissions. Built between 1984 and 1988, the plant and mine won’t be retired until 2048.
Just recently returned to service after planned maintenance resulting from a generator fault in October, SMH reports the latest issue with Unit One occurred late on Tuesday evening and then again at 1.10am on Wednesday morning, “instantly shedding 230 megawatts and 161 megawatts of output respectively.”
The situation has led to a comparison with AGL’s Liddell Power Station, which is to be closed in 2022 and replaced with gas peaker plants, renewable energy, battery storage and demand response.
In a related SMH piece, The Age’s economics editor Peter Martin points out while renewables such as wind and solar power without storage may be intermittent (some prefer the term “variable”), there is some predictability through forecasting. The same can’t be said these days for coal.
“But in summer it’s becoming impossible to know when and where coal-fired power stations will blow. They are becoming unpredictably intermittent, all the more so each year they age,” he said.
Mr. Martin believes the more Australia moves away from coal, the more secure the nation’s electricity system becomes.
The Loy Yang A incident on Tuesday/Wednesday fortunately occurred at a time of low demand. A reduction in output puts extra pressure on other generators; a particularly troublesome situation if it occurs during peak periods on hot days.
A report published by The Australia Institute late last year says extreme heat presents the greatest threat to the security of electricity supply in eastern Australia.
The report recommended there should be a requirement of “heat safe” firming power to act as backup for gas and coal plants. This could include dispatchable solar thermal plants with storage (such as the Aurora project near Port Augusta) and/or additional solar PV capacity to reduce peak demand on hot days, backed by battery storage to provide dispatchable electricity supply into the evenings.
Renewables backed by energy storage have already demonstrated their potential, with Tesla’s “big battery” in South Australia diving in after Loy Yang A 3 tripped without warning last month.
“Even before the Loy Yang A unit had finished tripping, the 100MW/129MWh had responded, injecting 7.3MW into the network to help arrest a slump in frequency that had fallen below 49.80 Hertz,” said RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson.
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