It has everything to do with wind – because that’s what blew over the transmission lines. But it has nothing to do with South Australia’s wind turbines. Transmission lines are large power lines that take electricity from generators to the smaller distribution lines that bring power to our homes.
South Australia’s energy generation mix is mixture of wind, gas and some solar, and as of this year, zero coal. The state is connected to the rest of eastern Australia’s electricity market through two inter-connectors, one of which is down for service.
Where the transmission lines, managed by ElectraNet, came down is south of Port Augusta. In May this year South Australia closed its last coal-power station at the port. If those coal-power stations were still operating, they still would have dropped offline and seen the cascading failure that tripped the generations. Having those thermal generators there wouldn’t have helped at all.
A lot of generation capacity was lost because of the transmission failure. Because of that there was a voltage drop, which triggered safety protection measures that tripped the Haywood inter-connector that connects South Australia with Victoria. This could have happened in any state or with any generation technology.
Dylan McConnell, Research fellow, Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne. This is an extract from an article which appeared in The Conversation on 29 September 2016.