Software glitch, not wind farms, blacked out 60,000 in South Australia

Senate committee told SA Power 'sat on' a problem for a while while SA sweltered

Wind turbine, image via Shutterstock

Yet another reason that isn't wind farms has emerged for recent blackouts in the Australian State of South Australia: dodgy software.

The ongoing politicking sparked by last year's “megastorm”-driven blackouts was revived earlier this month, when a heatwave swept across the country and caused another round of blackouts in the state.

This time around, the aircon-driven demand spike meant the state's generation capacity was shy of demand by 100 megawatts, leading to "load-shedding" - the term for simply deciding to selectively stop supply - to tens of thousands of households.

However, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) on Monday told the Senate committee investigating the blackouts that it ordered 100 MW of load shedding, but SA Power Networks implemented a 300 MW shut-down, unnecessarily adding 60,000 households to the power cut.

The reason? An unspecified problem with SA Power Networks' IT systems – as it blandly states in this statement, “an automated load shedding software system”. Human network controllers spotted the mistake and put in place a process for restoring power.

The Senate committee has already heard that a gas-powered generator at Pelican Point wasn't used to pick up the shortfall.

Yesterday, the power station's owner Engie said that's because its number two unit was accumulating losses and has been mothballed since July 2015.

Ever since last year's blackouts in South Australia, the state's high proportion of wind power has been blamed as the reason for blackouts, leading to a push for “clean coal” to provide “stability” to the grid. ®


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