Severe storm causes statewide power blackout in SA

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A severe storm in South Australia damaged the state’s power network on 28 September 2016 and left the entire state without power for over eight hours. The statewide blackout has now raised concerns over South Australia’s reliance on renewables.

The storm damaged parts of the transmission network and resulted in a state-wide blackout at approximately 3:45pm 28 September 2016.

Three out of the four transmission lines moving power between Adelaide and the north of South Australia, and 23 towers across the network were damaged.

Power was restored to the CBD and most of the metro area in the early hours of 29 September, and is being progressively restored throughout the state.

ElectraNet, which operates the South Australian high voltage electricity transmission network, said it will continue to work to restore transmission supply as soon as safely practicable, so that SA Power Networks can progressively restore supply to their customers.

“Works will commence this morning, to assess the full extent of the damage to the network with first light. However, extreme weather with gale-force winds, are forecasted to continue and it may delay restoration efforts or cause further damage.”

The Bureau of Meteorology said the storm lost a significant amount of force as it passed through Victoria.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that while the storm caused the blackout, it raises concerns about the renewable energy policies of some state governments.

“I regret to say that a number of the state Labor governments have over the years set priorities and renewable targets that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security.

“This is not just focused on SA but the same observation can be made about Queensland or indeed Victoria,” Mr Turnbull said.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said that despite the blackout being caused by the storm, there are questions that need to be asked about renewable energy.

“The weather event led to those transmission towers being bowled over, led to the lightning strike in the power station and led to the interconnector being shut down. So there was a cascading effect across the network. That was a weather event.

“We have to ask ourselves when we pursue these RETs, what is the impact on stability, what is the impact on price, how is that transition occurring.”

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio hit back against Mr Turnbull’s comments and said there was no evidence that renewable energy played a part in what had occurred.

“The sheer power of the lightning strikes and wind took down 21 transmission towers, forcing  the shutdown of South Australia from the national grid,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Given this it is unfortunate that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce have joined forces with One Nation in using this event to push their anti-renewable energy agenda.

“It doesn’t matter if energy is created by coal, nuclear, gas or renewable sources. Without power lines it cannot go from point A to point B.

“Rather than peddle mistruths, Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce should start providing some national leadership and focus on developing a renewable vision beyond 2020.”

The Australian Energy Market Operator said initial investigations have identified the root cause of the event is likely to be the multiple loss of 275 kilovolt (kV) power lines during severe storm activity in the state.

These transmission lines form part of the backbone of South Australia’s power system and support supply and generation north of Adelaide.

The reason why a cascading failure of the remainder of the South Australian network occurred is still to be identified and will be subject to further investigation.

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