I looked it up. Apparently, pylons are needed each 75 to 100 metres to support high-voltage overhead transmission lines. In England and Wales there are 7000 kms of high voltage overhead transmission lines and 90,000 pylons. Roughly one pylon per 80 metres. Seems about right. I’ll use this number.
Peter Dutton referred in Parliament to the planned construction, under the Government’s ‘Powering Australia’ plan, of 28,000 kms of transmission lines. He could have added, and 350,000 accompanying pylons, each needing lots of concrete and steel. He described the plan as pie-in-the-sky. But where, I wondered, did he get 28,000 kms from? AEMO’s Integrated System Plan (ISP), issued in June this year, estimates 10,000 kms. Or at least I thought it did. See below.
To my mind, 10,000 kms (plus 125,000 pylons) is already pie-in-the-sky. Quite apart from the missing expert manpower to do the job, the sheer ugliness of it all will mean the need to bribe landowners or engage in extended lawfare. It won’t happen. And it certainly won’t happen on time or on budget; or anywhere near. We know that because it’s an ambitious government project. Think Snowy 2.0.
I found the 28,000 kms. And pass the information on to those equally curious. It has its own inbuilt curiosity.
Appendix 5 of the ISP is where it can be found. Here is where the 10,000 kms is explained as being part of particular favoured scenarios for achieving net zero. The 28,000 kms represents the requirement if, additionally, Australia becomes a ‘Hydrogen Super Power’, as envisaged by Twiggy Forest et al. Becoming a hydrogen superpower would mean having vast acreages of wind and solar farms out in Woop Woop. Hence, I suppose the need for vast arrays of transmission lines. Of course, it’s yet more pie-in-the-sky.
Many advanced countries see themselves as future green hydrogen super powers. Even if the difficulties of producing green hydrogen affordably at scale are ever overcome, an international fallacy of composition is afoot. The world is simply too small to sustain and contain the ambitions of these aspiring hydrogen super powers. They’ll have to duel it out.
But hold on, when I carefully read the aforementioned Appendix 5, I realised that the 10,000 kms of wires is apropos of the “new transmission network.” In addition, the Appendix says, 3,200 kms will be required to connect generation (I assume individual wind and solar farms) to the network. So, at best, without us becoming a green hydrogen superpower, 13,200 kms of new lines will be required plus 165,000 pylons. It’s mindboggling.
And all of this when, just a few short years ago, we relied on coal power stations, sitting on coal fields, abutting population and industrial centres. How convenient and economical. How reliable. And now, an extended, complex, expensive, tangled web is being weaved; and, to boot, to solve a non-problem which, even if it were a problem, we can’t begin to solve. It won’t end well. Pain lies ahead. We are in the hands of nincompoops.