The South Australian Blackout II

Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria
Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria

The South Australian Blackout II

by Terence Cardwell

What does the future hold for South Australia?

It has become clear now that the failure of the South Australian Grid system was caused by the erratic behaviour, and then the sudden auto-shutdown, of the wind generators. This substantially increased the load on the Victoria-to-South Australia interconnector, which exceeded the maximum allowable load and tripped the overload system.

The badly-built towers that fell over would have been isolated in just one-tenth of a second by the system protection mechanism, and if the grid system had sufficient stable base-load power you would have seen just a ‘bump’ on the system voltage and frequency graphs, but this would have been nothing that it couldn’t handle under normal circumstances.

The New South Wales system could lose 2 x 660 MW units and still recover stability after the spinning reserve and the unit’s load maximum rate pickups came into action, all within a matter of seconds. But South Australia was a very under-protected and unstable grid system, with many little gas-fired powered stations trying to prop up an insane setup.

There is no doubt it will happen again and again; this was not a once off.

What now for the future of South Australia?

Any businesses, especially in manufacturing and mining, whether large or small, will tell you that one of the most important factors is the reliability of supply of electricity, and its cost. The bigger the enterprise, the more important it is.

Now that South Australia has shown itself to be unreliable and expensive in this regard, companies will be making every effort to leave it in droves. Any business planning to go there now would be having very serious doubts about whether they should do so.

Any business in South Australia right now would be very nervous, especially a company such as BHP-Billiton that had to pay some $2,400,000 for the essential power it had to have: power that would have cost only $500,000 normally from the S.A. grid. This is because the South Australian price was a staggering $300 a Megawatt.hour; in any other state it would have been much cheaper at about $60 per Megawatt.hour.

The irony is that in all probability the power being used presently comes through the Victorian interconnector, and is supplied from brown-coal power stations. The even bigger hypocrisy is that the Greens want to close down the very power stations that are supplying power to South Australia.

So what can S.A. do to fix this major dilemma?

There is no short term solution.

There is only one way solve the problem: stable power supplies are essential, whether generated by thermal or nuclear power stations. Little power stations are expensive, and a waste of taxpayers’ money. Not to build large and efficient units would be like a return to New South Wales in the 1950s.

Infrastructure planning must be based on advice from skilled and experienced experts; South Australia’s power problems show what happens when planning decisions are based on Environmentalist piety instead.

The South Australian Blackout


The South Australian Blackout.
by Terence Cardwell

This is NOT a once off event- it will happen again in the not too distant future and continue to do so.

Why? Because of the continual instability created in the grid system by the constantly changing wind generators and the reliance of power from Victoria, who have to continually get them out of their insane situation.

Any change in power generation from the wind generators has to be compensated for and chased by thermal power generation units which decreases their efficiency substantially and more than obviates any gain from wind generators. These severe load changes can create a power wave within the grid system that causes instability as the thermal units try to match the wind generators’ severe load changes.

Because the winds were so severe the wind generators would already have been non-operative and locked. So that 40% of the power was already out of service before the blackout. If the wind generators were allowed to operate in such severe winds they would have torn themselves apart.

So YES the wind generators DID cause the blackout by increasing the load substantially on the Victoria to S.A. interconnector.

It is the first time in the history of power generation in Australia that transmission towers have fallen over and we have seen far more severe weather than the S.A. storm. (I have personally operated units in such weather with no blackouts or instability in the grid system even though we lost two units. One of them being mine. The unit transformer was hit by a 20ft sheet of roofing aluminium torn of in the storm.)

Even though the towers had collapsed the grid system should not have gone out because the line protections covering those towers would have tripped within 6 cycles i.e. one tenth of a second, isolating them from the grid and protecting the rest of the grid system.

The hypocrisy of the South Australian Government is unbelievable. Because they had knocked down their black bituminous coal fired thermal power stations they had insufficient power. So then they had to import it from Victoria through the state interconnector which was never intended for that purpose. When the interconnector exceeded its maximum load capacity, it tripped, as it was supposed to do.

Guess where the imported power is generated? Yes Victoria—but where? The brown coal fired thermal power stations that have a thermal efficiency half of that of the black coal fired power stations that South Australia decommissioned to pander to the Greens.

The average price for electricity in South Australia with its 40% renewable energy is over $300 per megawatt hour. The average cost of electricity in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania is around $80.00 per megawatt hour.

To those gullible people who are so passionate about  ‘clean energy’ you can expect similar prices in the other states should they adopt South Australia’s renewable energy program.
Terry Cardwell worked for 25 years for the Electricity Commission of NSW working, commissioning and operating the various power units. His last commission was at the Munmorah Power Station near Newcastle, with four, very large, 350 MW power generating units.

He blogs at