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.