Electric Grid. (stock photo)

Blackouts were averted in SA on Friday (March 3rd) after an incident that saw more than 600MW of electricity generation capacity suddenly lost – just as Adelaide was welcoming the start of Clipsal 500 and Adelaide Festival.

At 3.35pm on Friday, spot fires occurred at ElectraNet’s switchyard after a voltage transformer exploded. The switch yards are immediately adjacent to Torrens Island Power Station B.

The incident, while causing no injuries, caused three of the power station’s four generating units to trip; resulting in approximately 400 MW of generation being disconnected. 220 MW of generation from Pelican Point Power Station also tripped off.

According to Electranet, the loss of supply was replaced with additional import of power from Victoria via the Heywood interconnector – the system worked as it should under such circumstances.

Wind and solar power also played a role in averting load shedding.

South Australian Energy Minister, Tom Koutsantonis, reportedly stated that if it wasn’t for wind and solar energy, blackouts would have occurred.

Information from the Australian PV Institute indicates small-scale solar power system owners were generating 13.73% of the state’s power at 3.45pm – the highest level of any state in the nation at that point in time. Earlier on in the day before the incident, solar panels were meeting nearly 20% of the state’s electricity requirements.

According to Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator, more than 205,000 small scale solar panel systems are installed across South Australia. With a population of under 1.7 million, the state has one of nation’s highest installation rates per capita.

South Australia also boasts 1,576MW of wind power capacity – the largest amount in Australia. 40 per cent of the state’s power needs were supplied by renewable energy sources in 2015.

ElectraNet is continuing to work on repairing the damaged equipment, with repairs to the first connection point expected to have been completed late last night. However, the other connection point may take up to a couple of weeks to repair.

An independent investigation has been launched into the incident; the latest in a series that kicked off with a statewide blackout in September, another major event in November and a controversial load shedding incident in February.

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