Wind farms too risky, says Western Power

Electricity distributor Western Power is pushing to limit new wind farms in WA amid fears they increase the risk of blackouts during peak demand.

As wind farm investment in WA gathers pace, Western Power has warned that an over-dependence on the technology could compromise the electricity grid’s security of supply.

The State-owned utility’s system manager Ken Brown said wind farms were unreliable and this could leave the network dangerously exposed to blackouts if peak demand coincided with a still day.

He has urged the State Government to wind back incentives for wind farms to come to WA, saying it should instead encourage a diversity of renewable energy sources.

“My number one focus is security,” Mr Brown said.

“I would just find it really awkward if we got into a position and said ‘oh well, we have to turn the lights off because the wind didn’t blow on this hot summer day’.

“Everyone would just say ‘that seems really obvious’. I think everyone would give us a hard time, plus the politicians.”

In a submission to WA’s energy market operator, which is considering changes to the way renewable energy generators are paid, Western Power has called on the Government to reduce the generosity it shows wind farm operators.

Wind power providers are paid an annual contribution of 40 per cent for every megawatt hour of capacity a farm can generate.

Mr Brown said the payment, based on an assumption that wind farms could be relied on to produce 40 per cent capacity when it was most needed, had to be at least halved to better reflect their intermittent nature.

The renewable energy lobby warned Western Power’s position would cause project delays and uncertainty in the renewable market.

Sustainable Energy Association chief executive Ray Wills said the group accepted the need to reform the way reserve capacity was accounted for but it disagreed with the scale of Western Power’s proposed changes.

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