Major wind farm operators to face legal proceedings

Four wind farm operators will face Federal Court proceedings over alleged breaches of the National Electricity Rules. 

Proceedings have been brought against subsidiaries of AGL Energy (Hallet Wind Farms), Neoen SA (Hornsdale Wind Farm), Pacific Hydro (Clements Wind Farm) and Tilt Renewables (Snowtown 2 Wind Farm) in connection with wind farms they operated in South Australia.

The proceedings concern events on 28 September 2016 when severe weather conditions led to significant damage to South Australian transmission lines, causing voltage disturbances. A subsequent loss of wind generation contributed to a state-wide blackout or black system event.

Approximately 850,000 customer connections in SA lost power on the day.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) alleges that each of these wind farm operators failed to ensure that their plant and associated facilities at the relevant wind farms complied with their generator performance standard requirement to ride-through certain disturbances.

In addition, the AER alleges that the wind farm operators failed to provide automatic protection systems to enable them to ride-through voltage disturbances to ensure continuity of supply, in contravention of the National Electricity Rules.

AER Chair, Paula Conboy, said, “The AER has brought these proceedings to send a strong signal to all energy businesses about the importance of compliance with performance standards to promote system security and reliability.

“These alleged failures contributed to the black system event, and meant that AEMO was not fully informed when responding to system wide failure in South Australia in September 2016.

“Providing timely and accurate information to AEMO is critical in ensuring power system security and the effective operation of the wholesale energy markets,” Ms Conboy said.

The AER is seeking declarations, penalties, compliance program orders and costs.

The AER released an investigation report into the blackout in 2018 and these proceedings are the culmination of a series of detailed actions undertaken since the event.

Generators are required to operate their plant in line with generator performance standards that they agree to with AEMO. These describe how their systems will perform if adverse events occur. This data is critical to AEMO in operating the power system safely and reliably.

The provision of timely and accurate information to AEMO is an enforcement and compliance priority for the AER.

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