SA-style power blackout ‘not impossible’ in WA

WA could one day experience a state-wide blackout like the one which saw South Australia left without power on Wednesday.

Extreme weather wrecked havoc across the southern state and caused one of the biggest blackouts on record in Australia.

Curtin University professor of science and engineering Syed Islam said WA could probably cope with a storm as severe as that which hit Adelaide. But blackouts were sometimes caused by other factors.

“Western Australia doesn’t have an interconnected system to the rest of the country like South Australia because of geographical issues,” he said.

“If you also look at the amount of renewables on Western Power’s grid, it is not to the same extent as South Australia, where an estimated 40 per cent of energy comes from renewables, so I think that the power stations will have enough capacity to cover for a fall in renewables.

“But a blackout can happen anywhere.”

Prof Islam said the issues in South Australia were caused by a “perfect storm”.

“In power systems you have to balance between the load and the generation. If the load is higher than the generation, then it causes lower frequency,” he said.

“If the frequency falls beyond a threshold level and isn’t resolved, then it will eventually cascade and lead to mass blackouts.

“What happened in South Australia was initiated by storms and high winds which disrupted renewable energy sources, as well the state’s heavy reliance on interconnected power from Victoria which was knocked out due to a massive drop in frequency.”

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg announced this morning on the ABC a unified energy grid would become a focus for the Federal Government.

“We will get together with the COAG ministers hopefully in the coming days to work out a better system overall for the country,” he said.

“What happened in South Australia last night and what has happened previously in South Australia, combined with some of the challenges that are posed in other states across the grid is not good and we have to do better because energy security has to be a fundamental priority.”