Wind Power in South Australia has been a howling success; it now provides more electricity in the state than coal and in just a decade the wind industry has developed into one of the world’s leaders – and all to the benefit of South Australians.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) recently stated that South Australian wholesale electricity prices are now the lowest since the start of the market. Data in a published report shows the wholesale price is half the ‘normal’ price when it’s windy, and that wholesale prices are at least 0.5c per kWh lower thanks to wind power in that state. The analysis was current until 2010; savings on wholesale electricity in 2011 are expected to be even greater.

This means that South Australian householders are paying $18 a year for wind but saving $25 a year on wholesale electricity. In other words, they’re already better off to the tune of $7 and we’ve only just started shifting to renewables. Uninformed critics of wind power claimed that SA would not save significantly on its carbon emissions, that it would burn as much, or more, coal and gas and that it would continue to rely on electricity imports from Victoria to prop up its high penetration renewable power grid.

None of this has proven to be the case.

As AEMO’s report makes clear, while South Australian electricity demand has increased over the period that the majority of the state’s wind has been installed (2005-2011), carbon emissions have reduced by over 15 per cent. During the same period, South Australia deployed just 200MW of new capacity (other than wind) – a tiny amount given  the increase in demand, and especially peak demand, in the state over the period – and 1,000MW of wind farms.

Wind turbines are a blight on the landscape apparently!

This clearly shows that wind power does not require new backup generation. In fact, a huge amount of gas peaker and hydro capacity has always been available on the grid, sized to replace the shocking instantaneous loss of a 500MW coalfired power generator. Liddell Unit 3 in NSW tripped five times in just 40 days last year, with no production for over 3 days at a time. These challenges have been proven to be far greater than the challenge of integrating wind power.

South Australia is burning less coal, less gas and, most importantly, importing less electricity (mostly brown coal)  from Victoria – and wind output can be accurately predicted to 97% plus for each period. Just ask AEMO, the people who run the electricity market.

Wind works. It’s giving South Australia climate security through decarbonising its economy, energy security through reduced imports of expensive fossil fuels. South Australia can now go further and target 50 per cent of the state to run on wind power and put much more solar on rooftops while planning to integrate this with baseload solar thermal plants installed in locations like Port Augusta.

As for the rest of Australia, we should be ratcheting up our efforts and not missing out on the benefits that have been afforded to those in Australia’s least-populated mainland state.

By Matthew Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions. Abridged from the original at