South Australia remains islanded from NEM

Toppled transmission tower just outside Tailem Bend, south-east of Adelaide (South Australia)
Toppled transmission tower just outside Tailem Bend, south-east of Adelaide (Image: ElectraNet)

Wind and solar is likely to be switched off in South Australia to prevent the state’s system from becoming overloaded during low-demand periods.

The state remains cut off from the national electricity market (NEM) after key infrastructure was lashed by extreme weather in the east.  Experts say more blackouts could follow.

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Transmission company ElectraNet told ABC News it hopes to have a temporary fix in place for its crumpled giant pylon along the SA-Victoria interconnector, but has warned of potential stability issues in the meantime as South Australia continues to generate power without the capacity to export the surplus.

In a scene reminiscent of the 2016 statewide blackout, wild weather ripped down the transmission tower just south of Tailem Bend about 5pm on Saturday, isolating South Australia from the rest of the NEM.

This event created the risk of what some experts call a “solar spill”—where too much electricity from renewables is generated during periods of low demand and threatens to overload the system.

ElectraNet chief executive Simon Emms said the “highest risk” of that occurring would be today (Thursday) because of sunny weather forecast for Adelaide.

Emms said construction of a new pylon would take months but crews were working to safely remove the collapsed pylon and replace it with temporary towers.

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“We’re currently aiming to have the interconnector back on by the end of the weekend,” he said.

“The interconnector to Victoria was built in the 1980s, so the towers are approximately 30 or 40 years old, they’re about 50m tall, and it obviously takes a very localised severe event to cause that sort of damage to such a significant piece of infrastructure.”

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