WA’s Synergy says fossil fuel generators not coping with rooftop solar boom

Western Australia’s booming rooftop solar market has had some unexpected consequences for government-owned utility Synergy, resulting in the company taking one of its newest fossil fuel generators offline for extended repairs.

Synergy chief Jason Waters said on Monday that constant “starts and stops” caused by an influx of solar panels on the south-west grid had disrupted operations at the 240MW gas-fired Cockburn power station.

Waters said the changes in the way consumers used the grid, which were being shaped by the state-wide shift to rooftop solar, had made it hard for conventional plants to run according to their design.

“Cockburn is probably one of our newest plants,” Waters told an Upper House Parliamentary hearing about the combined-cycle plant.

“(Given) the amount of starts and stops Cockburn has been required to undertake due to the changes in the way system demand takes place, the amount of rooftop solar and other factors, we did identify an issue with Cockburn that required an extended outage to sort out.”

But Waters reportedly conceded that there was little sign of demand for rooftop solar slowing, and said Synergy was confident this, as well as large-scale renewable additions to the grid, would not compromise its operations.