The power outage at the Adelaide Hills substation in Western Australia’s north-east was a perfect storm of a few factors, according to an emergency response team that helped the utility save lives.
The electricity system went out on August 4, and was switched off the following day.
“It was really a combination of a lot of factors,” said Matthew Wood, the manager of operations at the company that owns the power grid.
“We had the first of three failures, so it was an issue that we had to deal with at that point.”
But it was the weather, not the fault, that was the key to the outage.
“In the middle of the night when the system was down and the sun was out, it was raining, and there was a huge surge of water,” Mr Wood said.
“There were a lot more people at that station than normal.”
The power was shut off because it was coming back on in the morning.
“But at this point in time the fault was the solar panels, so there was no way to control the power system.”
What happens to the grid when there’s a power outage?
The blackout lasted for five hours, and when it was all over the utility said it would have been a much more dangerous situation had the electricity not been shut off.
“The weather conditions were just absolutely perfect to cause the power to go out,” Mr Brown said.
The company has said it will not shut down the system again until the fault is rectified, or it can be replaced.
“As far as the system goes, the outage was a very good thing for the environment,” Mr Woods said.
What can we learn from this story?
“What we are learning is there are many things that can be done to prevent a power failure, but it is very, very difficult to do in a single event,” Mr Smith said.
It could have been worse.
“They could have shut the system down before it got to the point of no return,” he said.