Mid North SA: leading Australia in renewable energy

The people of Mid North South Australia should be intensely proud of the fact that we hosted the biggest development of new renewable energy in the nation in the wind power pioneering year from 2005 to 2017. This region showed how the fight against climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise and the air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels that kills millions of people world wide each year can be won while the local people benefit too.

At the time of writing, mid-2014, in the Mid North we had 21 000 Watts of installed wind power per person. The top nation in the world, Denmark, had about 860. Also, the Mid North was probably the first region in Australia to become carbon-negative; that is, to be responsible for abating more carbon than its emissions.

In a country in which the government cannot see beyond coal (the Australian coal exporting industry could be said to be exporting death) where many of the people have been convinced that climate change is not happening and where others have accepted nonsensical scare-campaign claims about wind turbines being somehow harmful, mixed in with pride we have ignorance, delusion and apathy.

Written 2014/05/23, last edited 2021/01/09
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
 




Mid North SA is a variably defined area that extends from around Rhynie (85 km north of Adelaide) in the south to around Jamestown (180 km north of Adelaide) in the north and from Burra in the east to Port Pirie in the west. It is about 80 km wide and is mainly in the northern Mount Lofty Ranges.

A wonderful achievement

 
Snowtown Stage 1, Mid North SA
Snowtown Wind Farm
On a hot, dusty, summer's day
Snowtown stages 1 and 2 have a total of 138 turbines with an installed capacity of 371MW.
 
Brown Hill Range, one of the Hallett wind farms, Mid North SA
BHR Wind Farm
Late winter
The 167 turbines of the four operating wind farms in the Hallett area have a total installed capacity of 351MW
 
Waterloo, Mid North SA
Waterloo Wind Farm
Sunrise in late autumn
As of late 2016 the 43 turbines of Waterloo stages 1 and 2 had a total installed capacity of 129MW
 
Clements Gap turbines with a low fog, Mid North SA
Clements Gap Wind Farm
Early morning in spring
There are 27 turbines at Clements Gap with a total installed capacity of 57MW
 
Hornsdale Wind Farm, from a drone
Hornsdale
Early morning in early summer
The first stage of Hornsdale was finished in late 2016. It consited of 32 turbines with a total installed capacity of 100MW
Stages 2 and 3 were then contracted; Stage 2 being under construction. These would add a further 67 turbines and 209MW bringing the total for Hornsdale to 309MW.

Mid North South Australia is carbon-negative

The Mid North is probably the first region in the nation to abate more carbon than it releases into the atmosphere and this is due mainly to wind power!

Total emissions for Australia (about 2014) were 538 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses per year, so on average each Australian is responsible for 23 tonnes each year. Figuring on a population of 43,000 for the Mid North we can calculate the region's annual emissions at around one million tonnes.

On the other side of the equation our wind farms abated something like three million tonnes of greenhouse carbon dioxide each year by replacing fossil fuel-generated electricity with clean, renewable electricity.

All those who have had some part in supporting the construction of these environmental assets deserve a pat on the back. They will be able to tell their grandchildren that they did their bit to minimise the climate change disaster.

Data sources:

  1. Total annual per-capita emissions for Australia were published by the Department of the Environment in their National Greenhouse Inventory, December 2019 via Wikipedia, 22-25 tonnes.
     
  2. Population of the five council districts that make up the Mid North (Clare & Gilbert Valleys, Goyder, Northern Areas, Pt Pirie Regional, Wakefield Plains) were taken from Australian Bureau of Statistics figures; total 42,726; so approximate annual emissions would be expected to be between 940,000 and 1,070,000 tonnes.
  3. Abatement per megawatt-hour generated by wind farms was from a report by Sinclair Knight Merz, for the Clean Energy Council; 1.02 tonnes CO2 in South Australia.
  4. The two Snowtown Wind Farms, stage 1 and 2, alone abate 1,045,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.
Mid North wind farms include:
Bluff Range
53 MW
Brown Hill Range
95 MW
Clements Gap
57 MW
Hallett Hill
71 MW
Hornsdale
315 MW
North Brown Hill
132 MW
Snowtown, stages 1 and 2
369 MW
Waterloo, stages 1 and 2
129 MW
Willogoleche
119 MW
That is a total of 1,340 MW.


The calculations, for those who are interested

Assuming a conservative capacity factor of 30%, one can calculate an annual generation of about 3,500,000 MWh/year (1,340 × 0.3 × 24 × 365 = 3,521,520), abating about three and a half million tonnes of CO2 per year (3,521,520 × 1.02 = 3,591,950).

So more than three times the amount of emissions that the population of the Mid North would be expected to be responsible for.

Mid North SA, with its wind farms, is showing what can be done

At the end of 2015 Australia had about 3 GW of installed solar PV power and about the same amount of installed wind power. There was also some bio-gas energy – mainly from land fill methane recovery – very little solar thermal, geothermal and wave energy, and no tidal energy development.

Australia's wind farms were generating about 9000 GWh of electricity each year and its solar was generating around half that (solar PV has about half the capacity factor of wind turbines).

The big new Snowtown Stage 2 Wind Farm, which I can see from near where I live, had recently been completed. It added 270 MW to Australia's renewable energy generating capacity and increased South Australia's installed wind power to 1475 MW; close to half of Australia's total at the time. In SA 890 MW, 60% of our wind power, was in the Mid North.

The Mid North's wind farms reduce Australia's greenhouse gas production by around three million tonnes each year from what it would have been if our power was still being generated by burning fossil fuels. This is a wonderful achievement; a great step toward taking on the climate change and ocean acidification problems.

The population of the five council districts in the Mid North is 43 000 so our wind farms were generating around 7200 Watts per Mid North resident. Average home power consumption per person in the Mid North was around 260 Watts.

In terms of installed wind power the Watts per person in the Mid North was 21 000, compared to Denmark (by far the leading nation in the world) which had about 860. Australia, as a whole, had about 117 Watts of installed wind power per person and was ranked about 15th among the world's nations.
 

In a world that is being greatly damaged by climate change and in which the oceans are steadily becoming more acidic because of the carbon dioxide that they are being forced to absorb, this renewable energy development in our own back yard is something of which we, the people of the Mid North, should be intensely proud. Instead, because we are in what may be the slowest nation in the world to wake up to the climate change threat, rather than pride we have apathy, and among a significant number of people, ill-informed fear.

Local benefits

A local wind farm provides employment, especially during construction, but also some long-term jobs. During construction it brings work for local contractors and business for accommodation providers, cafes, delis, hotels, etc. (See Why Support Wind Power?) The farmers who host the turbines receive substantial additional income and wind farm operators in Australia almost always provide funding for local developments.

Unlike coal-fired power stations, which kill millions of people each year world wide and cause many more serious illnesses from their air pollution, the Mid North's wind turbines harm no one. In fact our wind turbines save lives by displacing coal-fired power stations. For example, one of Port Augusta's coal-fired power stations has been closed down and another only operates about half of each year, largely because of the electricity generated by the Mid North's wind farms.

The Mid North wind farms

The biggest is Snowtown which, including the recently finished second stage, has an installed capacity of 371 MW and is second in Australia after Macarthur in Victoria (420 MW). Interestingly, while Snowtown WF is not quite as big as Macarthur in terms of installed capacity, Snowtown is more productive in electricity generation; it generates more electricity than any other wind farm in Australia.

Coming next in the Mid North, and in Australia, is the Hallett group at 351 MW; (the third biggest wind farm in Australia if considered as one unit).

There are also Waterloo at 111 MW and Clements Gap at 57 MW.

The Mid North wind farms are among the most productive in Australia. While the weighted average capacity factor for SE Australia's wind farms is about 35%, the figure for those in the Mid North is close to 40%. (The weighted average takes into account not just the capacity factor of the wind farms but also the size of each.)

Update – late 2016

Not included in the calculations above was the Hornsdale Wind Farm and the second stage of Waterloo Wind farm.

In late 2016 the first stage of Hornsdale was completed and operating, with an installed capacity of 100MW. The second stage, another 100MW, was under construction and the third stage, 109MW, was contracted.

The second stage of Waterloo Wind Farm, 18MW, was operating.

News, August 2017

I recently heard that work had started on yet another wind farm between Jamestown and Burra, Willogoleche Wind Farm; another 32 state-of-the-art turbines.

Reality check

 
In a time when climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise are obviously going to be disastrous for the planet and consequently the reduction of greenhouse emissions should be high on everyone's agendas my impression is that most Australians don't care much; at least not enough to try to do anything about the problem. Also, most people in the Mid North seem to me to be unaware of the exemplary nature of the renewable energy developments in their region.


Snowtown: outstanding

Note the turbines on the ridge in the background.

Unlike most of the residents of the Mid North, who are largely apathetic about climate change and wind farms, the people of Snowtown are proud of their wind farm and are very pleased to make it a positive for their town.

They deserve to be proud of themselves; the world needs more people like them.

The completed Snowtown Wind Farm, first and second stages; 2014/06/11
Snowtown 1 + 2
Click on the image to view full size; use your browser's back arrow to come back to this page after viewing.


Catchy, simplistic, but true

"For every hour that a wind turbine operates there will be about one tonne less CO2 going into the atmosphere."

"A wind turbine operating for three hours reduces CO2 emissions as much as taking one car off the roads for a year."

"A wind turbine generates as much emissions-free electricity as about 2000 typical roof-top solar PV installations."

"Up to February 2014 Port Pirie, the only city in Mid North SA, had a total of 6MW of solar installations. These would generate about as much emissions-free electricity as one wind turbine."

The above statements apply to utility scale wind turbines (about 3 MW) operating in mainland Australia including in SA's Mid North at the average capacity factor of 35% seen in the National Electricity Market. The abatement figures are based on a report by Sinclair Knight Merz.

Similar, simple but true, statements are combined with turbine images on another page.

Graphic produced mid 2014
Turbine and message
 





Some Mid-North SA Windfarm photos

Hornsdale

My wife, dog, drone and I, with several cameras visited the Hornsdale and North Brown Hill wind farms on 2021/09/23.

Substation

Hornsdale Wind Farm substation and batteries (Hornsdale Power Reserve). The original (100MW, 129MWh) battery is near the centre of the image, the newer addition (another 50MW/64.5MWh battery) is on the left.

Flowering fields of canola can be seen on the left and there are three of the total 99 wind turbines in the picture.

 
Hornsdale substation
Another angle on the substation and batteries.

Our car can just be seen near the T junction; its relatively tiny size shows the scale of the wind turbine.

 
Ruins
There are a number of ruined farm houses in the area of the wind farm, apart from the one on the right there is another in the small patch of trees on the left.

The annual payments to the farmers for hosting the turbines must have made a huge difference to the viability of the farms.

 
Turbines
Some of the Hornsdale turbines are on flat ground on the west side of the range (as the substation and batteries are), these are getting up into the hills.

 


 
Turbines
Just some of the hornsdale turbines on the flatter ground.

There is a yellow flowering canola crop in the distance.

This group of photos were taken using my DJI Mavik Mini drone.

Turbines

Looking north at some of the turbines of Stage 3 of Hornsdale Wind Farm.


 
Cottage, windmill and turbines
Cottage, windmill and turbines; again showing the scale of the wind turbines.

This and the next few photos were taken with my Canon Powershot S3 IS. The Powershot does not have the very high definition of the Mavik Mini drone (and is about 20 years older), so there is no high definition version of this image on this page.

 
Silhouette
The turbine tower was almost wide enough to shield my camera from the direct Sun.

The photo was taken from near the Hornsdale substation.

Interestingly, in the three hours or so that we were at the wind farm, we heard very little sound from the turbines. There was mostly just a low hum from some machinery in the turbines, perhaps a cooling fam or a motor to turn the turbines into the wind. At the beginning of our visit there was little wind, but it built up during the day. At no time did we hear the 'swish, swish' sound that one often hears from wind turbines.

 
Turbines and homestead
Turbines and old homestead. It looks like the house in this photo is abandoned while the sheds are probably still in use.

 


 
Hills and turbines
Looking south from the northern part of the Hornsdale Wind Farm, Stage 3.

 
Turbine on flat land
The same turbine in the foreground as the above photo, but this time looking more toward the right (more toward the west).

Canon Powershot S3 IS

North Brown Hill, also 2021/09/23

 
Canola and turbine
We timed our visit to the Jamestown area to try to catch the canola in full flower. Unfortunately we were too early for the crops in the hills, which must have been a bit later than those on the flats because of the slightly cooler temperatures.

This photo is on one of the turbines of the North Brown Hill Wind Farm, which was built a few years before Hornsdale WF. It was taken using my DJI Mavik Mini drone.

 
Turbine and canola
The same turbine and canola field as in the above photo. This image taken with the Canon Powershot.

 
Turbine in canola
A turbine in a field of canola (unfortunately the canola is not fully out in flower).

Canon Powershot S3 IS





Updates

Update October 2019

Operating

Since writing this page Snowtown Stage 2 Wind Farm (270 MW) has been completed, Willogoleche Wind Farm (119 MW) has been built near Hallett, Stage 2 of Waterloo Wind Farm (18 MW) has been built and all three stages of Hornsdale Wind Farm (315 MW) have been built near Jamestown, all in Mid North South Australia.

Proposed and approved

Both the Crystal Brook Energy Park, involving wind, solar and a battery (total of up to 125 MW wind and up to 150 MW solar) and Twin Creek Wind Farm (up to 185 MW) have received government approval. (Note: While it was widely reported that Twin Creek has been given approval I have also read that it was approved by the State Commission Assessment Panel [SCAP] I have not heard that it has received ministerial approval.)

Proposed

The giant Goyder Renewables Zone project was announced in September. It involves up to 2000 MW of wind power, up to 1000 MW of solar and a battery of up to 1500 MW.

Then there are the proposed solar projects (without linked wind power):

  • Robertstown Solar, 500 MW, about 5 kM northeast of Robertstown;
  • Solar River Project, 30 kM from Robertstown, first stage 200 MW solar and 100 MW battery, aiming at a December 2019 construction start; second stage is another 200 MW aiming at a Q3 2021 construction start;
  • Chaff Mill Solar Farm near Mintaro, 100 MW;
  • Bungama Solar near Port Pirie, 240 MW and a 140 MW/560 MWh battery.

That's a total of 4,700 MW proposed new renewable energy in the Mid North (2,310 MW of wind and 2,390 MW of solar), nearly equal to all the wind power in Australia at the end of 2017 (solar at the time was a small fraction of that). Even if only half of it is built, Mid North South Australia looks like holding its place as Renewables Leader in Australia for the foreseeable future.

Late October

I've just read of an 8.9 MW (DC) solar farm that has been built at Baroota, near Port Germein on northern Spencer Gulf. It is discussed in an article in RenewEconomy, dated 2019/10/22 and written by Sophie Vorrath. It was reported that the 23,200 panels were installed in only eight weeks using Meralli's "Belectric PEG frame system" and that a battery is being considered as a future addition.



Update September 2021

Quoting from Giles Parkinson's article in RenewEconomy of 2021/09/21:
"The final turbine has been installed at what will be Australia’s biggest wind and solar hybrid facility, with “energisation” expected soon as the connection approval is finalised and first production due in the next three months. The 317MW Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park (PAREP) combines 50 wind turbines and more than 250,000 solar modules, with 210MW of wind capacity and 107MW of solar capacity."