Tarong Power Station – Saving Brisbane from a blackout

26 February 2019

To most consumers, the supply of energy is as simple as flicking a switch. The work that goes into producing and maintaining that supply, however, is far from simple.

With the major South Australian blackout of 2016 a reminder of what a worst case scenario can look like, Stanwell’s Tarong Power Station recently participated in a collaborative ‘trip to house load’ activity with Powerlink, Ergon, Energex and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The purpose of the trip to house load activity was to prove Tarong Power Station’s capability to respond to the system “going black” by restoring power to Brisbane – and Queensland more broadly – in the event of a similar incident. 

Tarong’s role in the trip to house load was to practice restarting the grid in the event of “going black” – as happened in South Australia, when 1.7 million householders were left without power following severe storms.

As part of the activity, Tarong Power Station rolled back to operating at its minimum operational load in response to a signal simulating a system “black” event, then gradually increase generation to allow transmission to be reinstated to energise the transformer at South Pine – the main transmitter north of Brisbane.

Tarong’s success in the pre-emptive activity was proof that we can turn the lights of Brisbane back on, should the city ever face a blackout event.

In the South Australian instance, separate storm cells destroyed three transmission lines, with the automatic safety feature in the network isolating the generators to protect both the generation facilities and the properties of end-consumers.

A key learning from the South Australian event was that there needs to be common knowledge and expectations between the market operator and market participants during extreme events. 

Our recent cooperative industry approach, as part of this “trip to house load” exercise, meant that all the players in Queensland’s energy supply chain, were able to see first-hand how the trip to house load process worked.

Stanwell regularly participates in activities such as this as part of our summer preparedness initiatives to ensure we can continue to deliver the energy Queensland needs.

That preparation has so far paid off, as when Queensland recorded a new peak electricity demand record last week, we maintained a reliable energy supply.