Severe storm triggers blackout: AEMO preliminary report

05.10.16 By

The severe storm that ravaged South Australia triggered the statewide electricity network blackout according to a preliminary report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

In its preliminary report released today, AEMO outlines the extraordinary stress put on the South Australian electricity system as high winds, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, hail and heavy rainfall caused multiple transmission system outages. This included, in the space of 12 seconds, the loss of three major 275 kilovolts (kV) transmission lines north of Adelaide.

Climate Councillor and energy expert Andrew Stock said: “This extraordinary weather event severely damaged the infrastructure that South Australia relies on to transmit its power around the state, putting the entire system under extreme stress. It’s very clear that no matter what the source of power you can’t keep the lights on if electricity pylons are twisted and bent in half, and powerlines are ripped away.”

AEMO’s preliminary report also explained that these multiple faults within seconds then led to 315 megawatts of wind generation disconnecting, which increased flow on the main Victorian interconnector to make up the deficit which become overloaded. To avoid further damage, the system automatically switched off.

“This report raises more questions than it answers in relation to how every part of the system responded under this extreme weather event. However, AEMO’s event timeline does show that before any wind farm stopped producing power nearby transmission lines failed. So, claims that wind farms in SA stopped operating in those high winds are wrong. The report makes this clear.”

Mr Stock said with extreme weather events like this becoming more common under climate change all governments and electricity operators have a duty to make infrastructure as climate resilient as possible.

“It is too early to say what lessons there are to learn for each component of the electricity system of South Australia when extreme weather like this hits, or what could be applied nationally. What we do know is a super storm triggered this event.

“Storms have since hit Victoria, New South Wales, ACT and West Australia – resulting in power outages in all of those places. We need to look at how to protect essential infrastructure, and how we are addressing climate change itself.”

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Andrew Stock is in Adelaide and available for interviews.

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