SA Power outage Blackstart in relatively plain English

On Wednesday 28 September 2016 at 4:16pm South Australia had a state wide power outage, a black start event.

I, like most people were still at work and managed to continue working for a couple of hours thanks to laptop batteries and mobile phone internet. Although riding my bike home would have been crazy given the storm and lack of traffic lights. Thankfully I got a lift home. By 11:06pm the power came back on at my place. Having the entire state’s power go out is certainly not something that happens very often, as such it begs the question as to what happened.

The short version

3 main power lines got damaged by the storm, all within less than a minute. The loss of power from them meant an increase in load from Victoria, the load was more than that connection could handle, to protect itself from overloading it disconnected. With such a sudden drop in power the remaining power generators also tripped.

The 3 main connections which were severed by the storm were 275,000 volt transmission lines. The really big ones that usually buzz. It is believed that a Tornado or at least very high wind gust caused the damage.

One of the High Voltage Power Lines Destroyed by the Storm
One of the High Voltage Power Lines Destroyed by the Storm (Source: ABC)

 

The more detailed explanation

It was the storm which caused the outage as it caused 3 high voltage power lines from the North of the state to be damaged with 22 towers damaged or destroyed. The 4th high voltage line also tripped, but was not directly damaged.
They all disconnected within the space of about 40 seconds. South Australia was using about 1,826MW of power at the time and without the 315MW of (wind) power from the connectors the energy needed to come from somewhere. There was increased load on the Heywood Interconnector to Victoria to compensate. This went from delivering 525MW to well over the 600MW maximum rating it was designed to transmit. As a protection measure the connection was dropped, meaning that within less than a minute (and most of it happening within a couple of seconds) the state was now 850MW-900MW short of power.
The unexpected disconnections also caused the frequency of the electricity supply to change to fast. The power in Australia aims to run at 50hz (the US has 60 cycles a second) and the frequency is allowed to change by 1 Hz/second and the power generators don’t run if it’s below 47 Hz. The loss of the link to Victoria caused the frequency to drop by 6 and 7 Hz per second, far more than is tolerable, thus the rest of the power generation, the wind generators and Torrens Island power station were all dropped and the state went black.

To restore power the electricity companies had to initiate a black start procedure. From 5:23pm Electranet went and selectively turned on the Heywood interconnector, trying to get power to Torrens Island. This was important as it’s a gas fired power station able to generate up to 1,280MW of power and thus can help offset the lost power from the disconnected power lines. unfortunately the power station needs a lot of electricity to start and attempts to do that with the backup power didn’t work and storm damage caused the secondary backup to fail. The priority was getting the power from Victoria to Torrens Island. The power station was back up and running at 9pm. Pelican Point power station was also switched on (it hadn’t been running prior to the blackout) and was generating power by 10:05pm
By midnight on Wednesday (28th), 80–90% of electricity that could be reconnected was. Unfortunately due to the power line failures the North was effectively cut off from the rest of the state and it wasn’t until 9pm on Friday (30th September) 2016, that the last remaining transmission line to the southern Eyre Peninsula, was restored.

There’s an interesting part about how the 4th line that tripped but wasn’t destroyed. Because of the damage to the lines it is practice and ElectraNet’s operating procedure to conduct a patrol before reconnecting a line when such a ground fault occurs. Unfortunately the continued rain, poor weather and high winds (with gusts up to 120Km/h) meant the helicopters were grounded. This meant some poor sods had to drive along hundreds of km’s of power lines making sure they were fine. Thankfully the 4th line was confirmed intact and reconnected around noon on Thursday. I would like to thank the people who had to put in heroic efforts to get the power restored. Thank you.

 

Power Generation before Blackstart
Power Generation before Blackstart

Weather

There’s an average of 16 tornadoes we know about a year in Australia and where they occurred is a known higher risk area during a time of higher activity. I’ve been told that whilst the Bureau of Meteorology can identify structures in the radar images that indicate the potential for tornadoes to develop, they can’t directly identify Tornadoes and instead rely on reports, or video from the public, emergency services and the like. Such evidence points to there being 4 tornadoes during the storm around and F1 and F2 in scale, thus it’s certainly possible there was winds up to 140Km/h that likely caused the damage to the towers.

Below is a video of a tornado forming outside Blyth on the day.

 

For those wanting to see a variety of stats related to electricity production check out the AER website.

 

Update :

There was over 200,000+ households without power on the 1st of Dec 2016 after the Heywood Interconnector dropped out the AEMO media statement mentions it was “Due to the need to balance the frequency of the network”, which further strengthens the case for Solar Thermal in Pt Augusta as such a power station would provide not just better energy security but also the Frequency Anxillary Control Services needed in this case.

Personal Weekly Review – 12 item list

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you are doomed to repeat them.

As such, doing a regular review is important and talked about in plenty of life hacking / self-help books.

The thing is, I’ve had a weekly repeating Google Calendar entry about doing a weekly review for years, but it just said “Weekly Review”. When the reminder would notify me I would look at it, spend 10s thinking about the top of mind events that happened and then get on with the rest of my weekend.

I knew that wasn’t good enough and today, whilst sorting some old documents into a filing cabinet I found a review list I wrote back in April 2014 which I’ve just added to my calendar entry. Hopefully you and I will have better reviews and learnings based on these.

Do a personal review of the week and work out the tasks for the next week thinking about :

Review

  1. Finances
  2. Health and Fitness
  3. Family and Friends
  4. Production vs Production Capacity
  5. Household tasks and general organisation
  6. Recent Short Term Wins
  7. Long Term Vision
  8. Important but not urgent tasks
  9. Learning and Education (what to direct my learning towards next)
  10. Teaching, Training, Writing and sharing my knowledge
  11. Willpower challenges and strength
  12. Food/Nutrition

Further Explanation

Finances used to just cover making sure I’d sent my invoices, that I’d paid my bills and ensured I knew when the next bills are. I would occasionally also do a financial snapshot, working out how much money was in my bank accounts, how much I’d spent and received since the last snapshot and what my estimated runway (weeks without money I can go for) is. But since reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad and also Money, Master the Game, I’m more interested in working out my assets and liabilities and how I can create a passive / portfolio based income stream that will allow me to get to financial thriving not just financial surviving.

Fitness is easily tracked in Runkeeper when I’m doing lots of runs, as I was in the lead up to the City to Bay, although I’m concentrating more on my stomach and core which is harder to track, except to remember how sore my muscles are from exercise, that’s a fairly good indicator to me that I’ve been doing well.

Point 4 about production vs production capacity is explained well in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. In this case I’m taking time to consider if I’ve balanced my time between the two. If you just focus on production (doing things) but not on production capacity (being able to do things better), you’ll get stuck in a rut.

Point 8 about Important but Not Urgent tasks is another one explained in the 7 habits and the fact that you need to focus on them, where as it’s easy to spend way too much time on the Not Important or Urgent and get worked up over the important and urgent.

2016-10-09th-important-but-not-urgent-0316pd-squires-fig1

Point 11 about Willpower challenges is talked about well in The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal but setting challenges is also done well with SuperBetter, the game and the book, by her awesome sister Jane McGonigal. I usually try having a weekly Willpower challenge, sometimes related to ensuring I’m exercising, sleeping well, working on the projects I want, or just ensuring I’ve meditated enough and aren’t getting easily distracted.