Let’s talk: Is failed wind energy to blame for the SA blackout?

As you might expect, the blame game has started after the whole of South Australia was left in the dark
Let's Talk

As you might expect, the blame game has started after the whole of South Australia was left in the dark following wild weather on Wednesday, September 28.

While Labor premier Jay Weatherill described the result to the media as “an unprecedented weather event”, deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce claimed the blackout was caused because of a failure of SA’s wind farms.

“With the strong reliance on wind power there’s an exceptional draw that is then put on our network from other sources when that wind power is unable to be generated, Joyce told ABC radio.

“Of course, in the middle of a storm, there are certain areas where wind power works — it works when wind is at a milder style, it doesn’t work when there’s no wind and it doesn’t work when there’s excessive wind — and it obviously wasn’t working too well last night because they had a blackout.”

Weatherill has responded firmly, saying the system performed exactly as it was supposed to when it shut down the interconnector, which supplies energy from Victoria, after part of the network was hit by lightning.

“This is the way the system has been designed to operate. It’s designed when there are sudden surges and drop-offs in power in the system to protect the assets in the system so they can be restored quickly,” Weatherill says, before calling the deputy PM “ignorant”.

“I’ve been working closely with [Federal energy minister] Josh Frydenberg and with the prime minister [Malcolm Turnbull] and we’re on the same page, and you’ve got these ignorant remarks being made by Barnaby Joyce because he hates wind farms and he’s decided to play politics with a crisis.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that at least 80,000 lightning strikes hit SA during the wild weather, which knocked over 22 transmission poles.

More than 70,000 homes remained without power at 9am on Thursday, September 29 following the storms.

Do you think South Australia’s reliance on renewable energy raises questions on the stability of such systems? Do you support renewable energy? If you are based in South Australia, are you without power?

  1. Jayd  

    22 transmission towers were blown over on multiple lines due to wind. This took down a large portion of the state very quickly. With all those customers not needing power so suddenly the generators closed down to protect the devices in everyone else’s homes – if they didn’t do that then we would all have blown up fridges today because the voltage would have spiked.

    Without any generation the interconnect to Victoria tripped, like a fuse blowing when you plug in too many things, the interconnect was never designed to supply the whole state from Victoria.

    And while all this was happening, the wind turbines continued to put out record power, even when feathered to protect from the high winds. That wind power allowed the other generators to be restarted and a reboot performed.

    • Susan Bell  

      great reply. Joyce is the joke.

  2. Dee  

    This was purely, simply an extreme weather event. Now we are seeing politicians from all sides playing politics and trying to make political mileage from this event. The propaganda they are sprouting is sickening and they are a disgrace! Furthermore, they take us for fools which most of us are not.

  3. John  

    The distribution system failed not the power source. It may have been slightly better if SA didn’t rely on Vic to generate so much of its base power. Time for SA to think about generating other base sources. But if your poles fall over you can’t distribute power unless you have a very long extension lead.

  4. Pamela  

    Solar and wind energy cannot supply sufficient power for base load. SA bought power from Victoria for that. Once the towers toppled base load power was no longer available.

    The storm was described as one-in-50-years, so they had 50 years to prepare for it. The towers were not built to a standard strong enough for the weather that had obviously happened in the past.

    If they were going to operate on a cross-your-fingers-and-hope-nothing-happens approach, they should at least had back-up generators in hospitals (with regular maintenance so the fuel line does not burst with use as happened) and community centres to provide for those in need who can’t cope at home without power.

  5. Turnbull and his coal-loving mates would take any opportunity to denegrate alternative energy sources – and this after bowing and scraping to other leaders and promising to lift Australia’s game in the alternative energy stakes. Turnbull and Joyce are pair of idiots and will bring Australia – and the great Barrier reef – down in a shower of coal dust if they can.

    A storm of this magnitude would stop any electricity system no matter what it is generated from or to.

  6. Gavin Weston  

    The cause of the BIG blackout in S.A. was that twenty odd towers were blown down and of course electricity cannot be transmitted then. What puzzles me is where were the backup supply from interstate? We paid good taxes fro these lines from interstate with big bally hoo when they were being looked at etc and opened but where were they when needed. The other thing is that in a line of towers as we have when one goes down there will be a domino effect that will bring down others. The other problem is that these towers were not designed or built to take the winds that can occur in this region of the world. We managed to live through the whole affair safely and with lots and lots of common sense and raid manners by motorists.

  7. Bron  

    Barnaby Joyce should keep quiet or become more informed about the system in place in SA. The stantions bearing cables bringing coal powered electricity from Victoria, which is the back up for times that renewable sources could not produce, did not hold up to the wild winds. Seems to me poor construction might come into it somewhere. And if all governments set their minds to R&D for continuous supply of renewable energy we might be able to eliminate the coal powered step altogether? Wouldn’t that be great for our environment, our kids and their future!

  8. Alan  

    I am quite frankly surprised at the towers being BENT by the wind like that. Here in W.A. winds like that are not unknown, and out towers never lean over and play dead. But, that is the only thing that really went wrong. Sure, the towers need to be stronger to withstand those kinds of winds, however rare they may be, but essentially the system worked as it should. Now all we have is a bunch of politicians trying to get the advantage in what is really a very unfortunate incident. SHAME ON YOU ALL!!! (The damn pollies that is)

  9. if the towers had been made from australian steel things would have been different. china towers were not strong enough . should have stood 200kph winds not fail at 120kph. are they covered by insurance for being faulty?

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