Power distributor installs guards to protect against bats

Power pole with three flat disc-shaped animal guards installed to protect against bat outages
Image: SA Power Networks

SA Power Networks is continuing to invest in strategies to minimise the number of power outages caused by South Australia’s rapidly growing colony of Grey-Headed Flying Foxes, or fruit bats, based in Adelaide.

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From late January to early April is the busiest period for bat-related outages as a new brood of young get on the move. Customers can experience either extended outages when an animal gets caught on powerlines, or short ‘momentary’ outages, as equipment reconnects power after an animal temporarily contacts overhead powerlines.

Most of these outages occur in the early hours of the morning when the young tire while foraging for food and land on electricity pole tops for a rest.

SA Power Networks has been consulting with animal and environmental experts on potential options to minimise the number of outages.

“In 2023, we had more than 55 instances of ‘sustained’ bat-related outages, impacting about 72,000 customers, with numerous additional momentary outages,” SA Power Networks head of corporate affairs Paul Roberts said.

“Given the rapid growth of the colony now totalling about 46,000 animals, we expect the number of outages to increase in early 2024 as juvenile bats become more active and forage for food. This is a significant issue for us and our customers, though thankfully most outages occur in the early hours of the morning while most of us are sleeping.”

Bat-related outages occur randomly across the metropolitan area and in the state’s south-east where a second colony has formed.

In response, SA Power Networks is installing animal guards on as many Stobie poles as possible in affected areas, using its data to pinpoint powerlines with the highest number of bat impacts.

“Installation of the animal guards is now business as usual when undertaking pole top work. We also have a program underway to install additional switch points on powerlines, which has helped reduce the number of customers impacted when these bat-related outages occur,” Roberts said.

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“We will do everything we can to minimise the impact but given the colonies are growing and we have hundreds of thousands of poles we have a lot of work to do over the next decade installing animal guards and covering more of our powerlines to be able to significantly reduce what tend to be randomly-located bat-related outages.”

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