More than 26,000 homes and business have had their power restored in the four days of April 12 to 16 following the devastating impacts of Tropical Cyclone Seroja, which damaged homes and around 20 per cent of the electricity network across the south-west of the state.
Western Power CEO Ed Kalajzic said the response and repair effort has been massive—the largest the business has ever undertaken—with a focus on meeting community needs as safely and quickly as possible.
“We thank and appreciate the understanding and patience of the communities affected,” he said.
“It’s been a challenging time for all, and our approach has been to plan and work as efficiently as possible to ensure the majority of people have their power restored. Safety is always a priority for us in these challenging times.
“The size of the storm area is huge, 700km long and 150km wide, equivalent to half the size of Victoria, and it’s taken time with telecommunication difficulties, access and safety issues to determine the extent of network damage.
“The cyclone was devastating for people in these areas and decimated a large number of network assets including several hundred poles and insulators reported to date, with more to come.
“Our crews and network operations team concentrated their initial efforts on making hazards safe and assessing damage across the northern and eastern parts of the network once they were able to access areas.
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“We’ve also been focused on repairing three significant transmission lines centred around Geraldton, which are the backbone of the network that supplies Kalbarri, Northampton, Port Gregory, Horrocks, Mullewa and surrounding areas. This has involved the replacement of 140 transmission poles in around a week, which is about 30 per cent of what we normally do in a year.
“With assistance from Synergy, we were able to restore power to Geraldton via the Mungarra power station, and we’re working on consolidating this as we’re relying on one single source of power to the area which is not as secure as when its connected to the network. We’re working to establish full reconnection to the SWIS early next week as repairs are completed to parts of the transmission network that were affected by the cyclone.
“We have a large number of crews, more than 150 employees, on the ground in Kalbarri, Northampton, Horrocks and Port Gregory and we’re establishing a temporary depot in Kalbarri to house necessary equipment for repair and restoration, as well as provide a base for our employees involved on the ground.”
Mr Kalajzic said significant progress was being made in the Wheatbelt region with around 70 employees on the ground restoring power to a large number of towns and locations including Merredin, Bencubbin, Muckinbudin, Goomalling and Kalannie.
“Around 5840 homes and businesses remain without power in various locations throughout the Mid-West and Wheatbelt regions, and we anticipate that some of these will be without power for weeks.
“I assure the community that we’re working alongside emergency services and other State Government agencies to ensure the community has safe access to power as soon as possible.”
Mr Kalajzic said part of Western Power’s approach in repairing the network was looking at where it can include enhancements and upgrades to improve power reliability and quality for communities.
“We’ve begun assessing these options as part of our recovery effort, and while we’re extremely mindful that these communities want their power back on as soon as possible, we’re aiming to improve resilience and transform the grid using alternative solutions such as stand-alone power systems and undergrounding where possible,” he said.
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“To the people who have damaged homes, businesses or have been displaced, we’re thinking of you and thank you for your perseverance during this time.
“I would also like to thank the local businesses who have been collaborating and supporting our rebuild through materials, accommodation and food – we’ re extremely grateful for your assistance.
“Also, to all our crews and employees who having been working tirelessly for the community.”
Mr Kalajzic said Western Power community engagement officers were onsite at community meetings in Kalbarri and Northampton to help people with questions regarding power supply to their properties.