Harnessing the wind for the generation of electricity is one of the most advanced and commercially deployed renewable energy technologies. Wind energy is one of the cheaper renewable energy technologies and is a major source of power in over 70 countries across the world.
Resources in Western Australia
Western Australia has some of the best wind resources in Australia. The southern part of Australia is in a wind climate zone known as the ‘roaring forties’. This means Western Australia’s south west coastal areas between Geraldton and Esperance have average wind speeds of around 27 kilometres per hour.
Most of this area is also close to Western Australia’s largest electricity network, the South West Interconnected System (SWIS).
Current use in Western Australia
Western Australia had installed capacity of 424 megawatts of wind generation as at the end of 2011/12, with most of this connected to the SWIS. The output from wind accounted for about 65% of the electricity produced by renewable energy sources in the State, and 75% of renewable energy produced on the SWIS.
Most of Western Australia’s wind-generated electricity currently comes from three large wind farms:
- Collgar (206 megawatts)
- Walkaway (90 megawatts)
- Emu Downs (80 megawatts)
The Albany wind farm expansion was completed in 2012, bringing the capacity to 36 megawatts. On average it will supply around 80% of Albany’s electricity needs.
The 55 megawatt Mumbida wind farm in the Mid West is also under construction, due to be completed early 2013.
While much smaller in scale, wind generation is also located in isolated and ‘fringe of grid’ power systems at Esperance, Hopetoun, Bremer Bay, Rottnest Island, Kalbarri, Denham and Coral Bay. In these towns, wind contributes a high relatively high proportion of the town’s electricity supply requirements, displacing diesel or improving reliability.
Future use in Western Australia
Fluctuations in wind speed can result in rapid power output changes that lead to voltage variations in the electricity grid.
Wind is also an intermittent energy source and cannot guarantee supply at any given time. This poses challenges for integrating large amounts of wind-based generation into existing electricity networks without impacting on the reliable operation of the system.
Better forecasting of the output from wind facilities and the introduction of ‘smarter’ technology may help to address some of these issues.