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Solar uptake shuts down Synergy’s Cockburn power plant

By Daniel Mercer / The West Australian / 14 November 2018

Electricity provider Synergy was forced to take one of its newest power stations offline for repairs because of constant interruptions caused by soaring levels of green energy.

Synergy chief executive Jason Waters yesterday revealed the influx of solar panels on the south-west grid had disrupted operations at the utility’s 240MW gas-fired Cockburn power plant.

Mr Waters said the plant, commissioned in 2003, had suffered an extended outage this year after problems caused by constant “starts and stops” were identified.

He said the problems had been driven by the changing way people were drawing electricity from the grid and the huge amounts of solar power that were making it hard for conventional plants to run according to their design.

“Cockburn is probably one of our newest plants,” Mr Waters told an Upper House Parliamentary hearing.

“(It’s) not an age-related issue but a duty-related issue.

“(Given) the amount of starts and stops Cockburn has been required to undertake due to the changes in the way system demand takes place, the amount of rooftop solar and other factors, we did identify an issue with Cockburn that required an extended outage to sort out.”

Click here for video link: The future of solar power – new tariffs and technology. Where will it end up for WA?

The comments come amid mounting concerns about the technical challenges posed by the uptake of renewable energy, which is galloping along thanks to falling costs and high electricity prices.

Mr Waters noted that an extra 160MW of rooftop solar power was added to the system in the 12 months to June 30 — an increase that takes the total amount of installed photovoltaic capacity on the grid to over 1000MW.

He said there was little sign of the demand for solar power slowing, presenting challenges for Synergy as it tried to manage its fleet of ageing fossil fuel-fired power stations.

Despite this, Mr Waters said Synergy was confident the increases in rooftop solar and an expected wave of large-scale green plants required by the renewable energy target within two years would not compromise its operations.

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