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Million dollar blackout

Friday, 25th September, 2009

TransGrid and Country Energy are in a race against time and money to repair the five transmission towers that were downed by Monday's storm.

As these photographs show, the huge metal towers, which form part of a network that supplies power to Broken Hill, were flattened by strong winds that tore through the area on Monday evening.

Their failure cut power to Broken Hill and since then the city and surrounding area's supply has come from two giant diesel generators located at Country Energy's substation on the Pinnacles Road. The emergency measure is coming at a huge cost to Country Energy, which is having to truck from Adelaide around 200,000 litres of fuel required daily to operate the generators. A spokesman for Country Energy said yesterday the corporation was paying "about the going rate" for the diesel, which meant a daily fuel bill of about $240,000, based on a price of $1.21 per litre. Country Energy could be left with a total fuel bill of almost $1.5m after TransGrid, which maintains the State's high voltage power grid, advised it will take six days to complete repairs. A spokesman for TransGrid said yesterday that the six day timeframe had not changed, despite Tuesday's dust storm preventing any work from starting. That meant the city should be back on the network sometime over the weekend. "At the moment we're still looking at six days (to complete repairs)."

In the meantime, production has ground to a halt at Perilya's local mine and Bemax Resources' separation plant, and Country Energy has advised local residents to conserve power. Country Energy said it had offered crews and equipment to assist TransGrid repair TransGrid's 220kV transmission line. Regional general manager Far West, Guy Chick, said the company's local understanding and appreciation of geographic isolation contributed to its thorough

planning for such an extreme event. "Making sure we're able to maintain basic emergency power supply through the availability of generators and the fuel they need to run are just two of the many things we have in place to respond to situations where the normal electricity supply can't be provided due to circumstances beyond our control," he said. "Country Energy appreciates that this is an unusual and difficult time for our customers and we thank them for their understanding and patience. "We're working as safely and efficiently as we can, including responding to emergency calls such as the request from the Perilya mine to provide electricity capacity to assist in the safe evacuation of its stranded miners. "We responded immediately to the mine's request for help after it experienced technical difficulties in bringing the employees to the surface and at the same time were able to enabled some of its auxiliary operations." He said Country Energy was continuing to provide the mine with basic emergency electricity capacity.

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