Climate in Sydney / Power Stations

This page is about Sydney’s electric providers and how well they’re transitioning to climate-neutral energy sources.

1. It’s Carbon-Fired Power Stations that electrify Sydney

1.1 Sydney burns vast amounts of coal to make its electricity.

1.2 Sydney’s Coal Mega-Monsters

2. Sydney gets a some electricity from the Wind too.

2.1 Check out these wind farms near Sydney

3. Sydney gets some electricity from the Sun.

3.1 Sydney’s In-the-City Solar Farms

3.2 These are the biggest solar farms serving Sydney

Sydney citizen Tony Lucas, Origin Energy’s Head of Future Energy & Business Development. Origin Energy is one of Sydney’s “Big Four” electric providers. Origin owns and operates one of the biggest coal-fired power stations in New South Wales, and the company also specializes in sending jumbo-tankers full of Australia’s coal and gas to China.

1. Sydney’s Coal-Fired Power Stations

After the late 1800s, Sydney grew to be Australia’s biggest city largely by setting coal alight to boil water that makes steam that spins turbines that magically make electricity. Sydney’s NSW location, downhill from the Snowy Mountains, receives some electricity from turbines in uphill reservoirs, but those stores of water are mainly for city water and irrigation. On the far edge of the world, Sydney sat in a beautiful landscape with few large-scale energy resources – except for two regionally ubiquitous minerals – black coal and brown coal.

So it is neither a surprise nor a judgement that Sydney’s modern society uses a primitive way of making energy – by burning things. Coal is what was in Sydney’s backyard, and coal is what people used. It was fair dinkum power.

Coal-fired power stations are cooking the atmosphere. Until recent decades, Sydneysider could not have known that smoke from their coal-fired power stations would disrupt long-term weather patterns across the whole world. Nor could they have imagined that rows of blue panels and giant windmills could electrify everything in the city – with no smoke.

1.1 It’s 2020 and Sydney’s electricity comes mainly from burning coal and gas.

The resource mix that makes electricity for modern life in the Land of Oz is skewed heavily towards carbon fuels.

Sydney’s energy mix closely mirrors Australia as a whole, with 86 percent of its electricity made from burning coal and gas. Coal-fire makes 73 percent of Sydney’s electricity, and gas-fire makes 13 percent. Burning coal and gas makes waste gas which makes the atmosphere heat up.

1.2 These are the most gigantic of the Sydney region’s carbon-fired power stations.

The Australian Electric Grid that feeds Sydney gets most of its electricity from a constellation of dozens of coal-burning power stations. Many big cities across the world have been heating the atmosphere with the equivalent of 1 or 2 supergiant coal-fired power stations. Sydney and surrounding New South Wales have 5 of them. One will be shut down, but the other 4 will be burning massive amounts of coal for many years to come.

From the most gigantic to just plain big, these are the 5 biggest of Sydney’s carbon monsters. They’re among the most massive burners of carbon in the world. This list of the big ones is a good illustration of the oversized role coal plays in Sydney’s (and Australia’s) electric grid.

Wikipedia: Power Stations in New South Wales. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_stations_in_New_South_Wales March 9, 2020.

1.2.1 Eraring Coal Fired Power Station MIGHT GET TURNED OFF in 2030.

Bayswater Coal-Fired Power Station is gargantuan; it is the biggest, most powerful of Sydney’s (and Australia’s) coal-fired power stations. It burns nearly 5 times as much carbon and makes 5 times as much electricity as a typical coal-fired power station. It also spews out 5 times as much carbon gas.

Electricity enough for 2.2 million homes / up to 5 million people) Carbon Spew: 14.9 million tons each year / 40,800 tons daily / 37 million kilograms daily

Location: 130 kilometers north of Sydney, on the western shore of Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia.

Generating Capacity: 2,880 Megawatts. Batteries: None. This power station must burn coal continuously, 24/7, to feed the electric grid that supplies Sydney. OwnerOperator: Origin Energy. Switched on: 1982 Scheduled turn off: 2030 or 2032

Origin Energy, the power station’s owner/operator, had been resisting shareholder activists who want to bring Eraring’s 2032 shutdown date forward to 2030. As of February 2020, the company says it’s open to bringing down this old Godzilla. Origin says it will explore it’s options, in light of the changing climate, the 20192020 mega-bushfires, and growing public interest solar and wind energy. The company says these factors could influence the timing off Eraring’s turn-off.

photo: Rob Homer

smh.com.au/business/companies/origin-energy-says-coal-plant-closure-date-open-to-review-20200220-p542pd.html

Industry news: R

1.2.2 Mount Piper Coal-Fired Power Station is NOT SET FOR TURN OFF until at least 2043.

This beast of a coal-burning power station is much newer than the other New South Wales carbon monsters. It has many years of life in it. To ensure its longevity, EnergyAustralia, its owner, is investing $11 million to upgrade the coal-fired station. Mount Piper Coal-Fired Power Station will be good-as-new by 2022, and can keep spewing millions of tonnes of carbon for another 20 years.

Electricity enough for 2.2 million homes / up to 5 million people) Carbon Spew: 6.8 million tons each year / 18,600 tons daily / 16.9 million kilograms daily

Location: 135 kilometers northwest of Sydney, in the Tablelands of New South Wales.

Generating Capacity: 2,800 Megawatts. Batteries: None. This power station must burn coal continuously, 24/7, to feed the electric grid that supplies Sydney. OwnerOperator: EnergyAustralia, a CLP Group. Switched on: 1993 Scheduled to turn off: 2043

Mt. Piper, like all carbon-fired power plants, makes huge plumes of scalding steam. This hot vapor is the millions of gallons of water each day that get boiled by big coal burners to spin giant turbines that make electricity for Sydney. The boiled water is hot and must be vented in big cooling towers before draining back into Thompson creek. The constant blast of hot wastewater makes things difficult for sea life in the area.

Industry news: power-technology.com/news/energyaustralia-piper-power-station/

nature.org.au/media-releases/2019/02/climate-pollution-from-nsw-power-stations-keeps-climbing/

1.2.3 Bayswater Coal-Fired Power Station WON’T BE TURNED OFF until 2035.

Bayswater Coal-Fired Power Station is gargantuan. It burns 4 times as much carbon and makes 4 times as much electricity as a typical large coal-fired power station. It also spews out 4 times as much carbon gas. As with all carbon-fired power plants, millions of liters of water must be boiled to make high-pressure steam that spins turbines that generate electricity. Bayswater’s water comes from a nearby river. The government of New South Wales allows the power station’s owners to use stream water that would normally flow into the nearby Hunter River.

Electricity enough for 2,000,000 homes / up to 4,500,000 people) Carbon Spew: 19.8 million tonnes each year / 54,000 tonnes daily / 49 million kilograms daily

Location: 120 kilometers north of Sydney in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia

Generating Capacity: 2,640 Megawatts. Batteries: None. This power station must burn coal continuously, 24/7, to feed the electric grid that supplies Sydney. Owner: AGL Macquarie Energy. Switched on: 1986. Scheduled turn off: 2035

In December 2018, New South Wales OK’d an expansion of Bayswater’s generating capacity. Sydney declared itself to be in a Climate Emergency in June 2019. But Bayswater Coal-Fired Power Station will soon be spewing even more carbon gas, and is scheduled to keep on damaging the climate until 2035.

wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayswater_Power_Station

Industry news: R

1.2.4 Liddell Coal-Fired Power Station is set for TURN OFF soon, in 2023.

Photo of Liddell Coal-Fired Power Station spewing Climate-damaging carbon gas into the atmosphere.

Liddell Coal-Fired Power Station is ancient, in terms of the lifespan of a power station. This giant coal burner started blasting carbon into the atmosphere in 1973. It will be 50 years old when it reaches the end of it’s run in 2023. Liddell, just down the road from Bayswater Power Station, is another oversized carbon monster. It burns over 3 times as much carbon and makes 3 times as much electricity as a typical large coal-fired power station. It also spews out 3 times as much carbon gas.

Location: 120 kilometers north of Sydney, on the western shore of Lake Liddell, New South Wales, Australia  

Electricity enough for 1.3 million homes / up to 3.25 million people) Carbon Spew: 14.7 million tonnes each year / 40,300 tons daily / 36.5 million kilograms daily

Generating Capacity: 2,050 Megawatts. Batteries: None. This power station must burn coal continuously, 24/7, to feed the electric grid that supplies Sydney. Owner: AGL Macquarie Energy. Switched on: 1973 Scheduled turn off: 2023

These piles of Australian black coal at Liddell Power Plant are 12-stories high, and they’re about to become a part of the atmosphere. When burnt to make fire, coal’s carbon molecules fuse with oxygen in the air to create carbon dioxide, which absorbs the sun’s heat and holds it in the atmosphere.

Company site: Origin Energy, Electricity Generation Across Australia, 2020. Originenergy.com.au/blog/electricity-generation-in-australia/

photo: jonathan carroll

energymatters.com.au/renewable-news/liddell-coal-fired-power-station/

Industry news: R

1.2.5 Vales Point Coal-Fired Power Station’s owner wants to keep burning carbon until 2049.

The giant state-owned Vales Point Coal-Fired Power Station was scheduled to be turned-off in 2021. But in a political effort to privatize its infrastructure, in 2015, New South Wales instead gave the power station to billionaire Trevor St. Baker (Sunset Energy) for a token $1 million. Two years later, in 2017, auditors revealed that the power station is valued at $730 million dollars. Since then, Sunset Energy has been in negotiations with state regulators to keep this coal-fired monster alight until the year 2049.

Photo of Trevor St. Baker, a billionaire who got the New South Wales government to give him a coal-burning power plant for almost nothing.

Electricity enough for 804,000 homes / up to 2.1 million people) Carbon Spew: 9.3 million tonnes each year / 25,500 tons daily / 23.1 million kilograms daily

Location: 130 kilometers north of Sydney, on the south shore of Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia.

Generating Capacity: 1,320 Megawatts. Batteries: None. This power station must burn coal continuously, 24/7, to feed the electric grid that supplies Sydney. Owner: Sunset Energy. Switched on: 1978 Scheduled turn off: 2049

Like all carbon-fired power stations, the carbon spew from Vales Point Coal-Fired Power Station will hold heat in the atmosphere for at least the next two hundred years, because it takes that long for the average airborne carbon dioxide molecule to be absorbed by the oceans and plantlife.

Photo: Trevor St. Baker

centralcoastnews.net/2019/06/19/power-station-sale-contracts-sought-to-explain-1b-loss-mystery/

nature.org.au/media-releases/2019/02/climate-pollution-from-nsw-power-stations-keeps-climbing/

wikipedia.org/wiki/Vales_Point_Power_Station

Industry news: R