Power blackout a ?one-off

By ALEX EASTON

Unlikely to be repeated this summer, but cause still a mystery to Country Energy

THE blackout that cut power to the Northern Rivers on Monday was a one-off that was unlikely to be repeated this summer, Country Energy said yesterday.

The power company also upgraded estimates of the number of homes and businesses hit by the four-hour blackout from 50,000 to 70,000. It confirmed the blackout had cut power to communities from Ocean Shores south to Evans Head and west to Casino and Kyogle.

The company said it was still working to find the exact cause of the blackout, but rejected suggestions it could be linked to the heat wave presently affecting the region.

Temperatures in Lismore, where the bulk supply sub-station that failed is located, and Casino soared to 36 degrees Celsius on Monday. Temperatures peaked yesterday at 38 degrees and were expected to continue around the 35 mark today.

The conditions are similar tothose that caused widespread power failures in Queensland during the summers of 2003 and 2004, when the power grid could not cope with the heavy use of air-conditioners.

The extent of Monday's blackout sparked angry calls from the Ballina Chamber of Commerce yesterday for Country Energy to provide more links into the local grid, rather than leaving the entire region dependent on a single supply point.

Chamber secretary Brian Marriott said that this was the second major blackout in as many years on the Northern Rivers, pointing to a lengthy failure in September last year after a fireball ripped through the Ballina sub-station.

However, a spokesman for Country Energy said the equipment was in good condition, likening the blackout to a good car getting a flat tyre.

The spokesman said the part that failed at the company's Three Chain Road bulk supply point was designed to blow ? like a giant fuse ? to prevent greater damage farther down the line.

The failure of the bulk supply station was connected to an earlier failure at a smaller substation, but Country Energy did not know why the earlier blackout had occurred.

Mr Marriott said the blackout had disrupted hundreds of businesses.



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