Angry birds blamed for blackouts

Hungry eagles, curious cats and a hapless golfer were among the most unusual reasons for power outages last year, while severe weather caused the most significant cuts, according to a new report.

The Australian and New Zealand Blackout Tracker Annual Report 2015, compiled Eaton Industries, revealed 174 power cuts (the second highest total in five years) affected almost one million people across Australia and New Zealand in 2015, with 12 days of power lost. The average outage lasted more than 99 minutes.

In Western Australia, more than 2000 customers lost power for 15 hours when an eagle dropped a sheep’s head onto a power line in Geraldton. A Tea Tree Gully golfer (now nicknamed Sparky) also short-circuited two 11,000V power cables when his club slipped out of his hands while teeing off and hit the power lines simultaneously, leaving 2000 customers powerless for two-and-a-half hours.

Across the Tasman, a cat left 10,000 North Island customers in the dark when it climbed onto outdoor electrical switchgear in Tauranga, while a dump truck wreaked havoc in Hamilton when it caused an outage, started a fire and forced an evacuation of local businesses following a gas leak after it hit live wires.

Nonetheless, nothing beats extreme weather when it comes to power cuts. The biggest incident followed a severe storm in New South Wales in April that left 200,000 customers powerless across a large part of the state, while a powerful cyclone in Queensland downed 1800 power lines and knocked out power to 50,000 properties for three days in February.

Technical faults also caused major outages, including a control room issue in Lismore, NSW, that left 66,000 customers without power and an interconnector failure that left 45,000 customers in the dark from Sellicks Beach to the Barossa Valley in South Australia.

New Zealand’s North Island had 61 blackouts – three-times that of the South Island.

Queensland experienced 24 power cuts, while other Australian states fared better, with Victoria and WA each recording 13, Tasmania four, South Australia three and Canberra two.

The Northern Territory was the power continuity champion, with no reported outages.

The report brought together information from new services, newspapers, websites and personal accounts regarding the occurrence, cause and duration of power outages across the region.

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