THE $1 billion Macarthur wind farm is performing well despite its power output dropping off in recent months, operator AGL says.
The southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm has only been generating 23 per cent of its energy capacity over summer, but the company insists the figures are in line with expectations.
Lagging figures from “low-yield” conditions over summer put the spotlight on wind farms’ inability to alleviate pressure on coal-fired power. The 140-turbine, 420-megawatt wind farm has been operating since late 2012 . Data shows its strongest performing months were over winter.
“AGL’s wind farms have consistently been the second largest daily power output of its portfolio production, with AGL (coal-fired) Loy Yang being first,” an AGL spokeswoman told The Standard.
“For our first year of operating, our best month so far has been last August with a capacity factor of 52.13 per cent. The July-September quarter achieved over 40 per cent capacity factor.”
Associate Professor Iain MacGill, of the University of New South Wales Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets, said wind power was reliable but would always need a back-up.
He said 30 to 40 per cent was a good capacity number for wind farms in Australia.
“Ideally, of course, a generating plant is available whenever you need it, and able to run at its total rated capacity if required,” Associate Professor MacGill said.
“This is pretty much what coal and gas-fired generators can do. You can turn them on as required and set their output at the level you wish up to maximum.
“In a windy month their (wind farms) capacity factor may be 50-60 per cent or more. In a fairly calm month their capacity factor may only be 15-20 per cent or so.
“It doesn’t mean that the wind farm doesn’t have any value. Most of the time it is generating at least some power and this power is very low operating cost.”