The South Australia Power Outage Explained

Jon Capistrano
Jon Capistrano
October 1, 2016

The Guardian reported last Wednesday, the entire state of South Australia experienced a power outage, this is something really unusual since the state is known for renewable power. Known as “system black”, it’s something the Australian Energy market Operator or AEMO had only discussed and prepared for in theory. Never having the unfortunate opportunity to put “black start” processes and procedures into place.

The question is, what started the blackout? Some say that inadequate supply from renewables caused the problem, but the cause was very clear. And it was not due to renewable energy.

One of the heaviest storms to hit the country in 50 years knocked out 22 high-voltage pylons. The lines of those pylons carry power generated near Port Augusta in the rest of the state. When the pylons went down, a series of automatic safety switches appear to have been flipped, in order to protect the rest of the South Australia power network and the rest of the National Electricity market.

Aside from creating power, generators also affect the frequency and the voltage of the electricity network, which should be carefully maintained to protect everything that is connected to it.

When the 22 high-voltage pylons were knocked down, a huge chunk of power generation was cut off from the rest of the network. According to Melbourne Energy Institute stated that the market operator can’t prepare for very rare scenarios like this. He added that if ever the market operator did have a plan for such things, there still will be unexpected events that could happen, for example, an earthquake. Any system that is capable of dealing with such issues would be very expensive.

Thus to protect the generators and other vital equipment in South Australia, the whole voltage power system had to be turned off, which in turn, removed the power supply from the local distribution network.

And at about 4:20 pm, last Wednesday, the entire state of South Australia went into darkness.

Now, as what some people think, what did wind power have to do with the power outage? The answer is nothing. Just before the power outage happened, windfarms were producing half of SA’s electrical requirements, and they were not shut down because of the high winds.  The owner of the electrical pylons, ElectraNet has made it clear that the power outage was caused by the damage to their network.

Click here to read the full story on The Guardian

Featured Image Credit: The Guardian

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