Severe Cyclone Yasi, with winds reported of up to 290 km per hour, has damaged and taken out of service the 132-kV coastal electricity transmission network south of Innisfail, interrupting electricity supply to the coastal communities of Mission Beach, Cardwell, Tully and Ingham, and surrounds.
Powerlink Queensland, the company responsible for the State’s high voltage network, which transports electricity at high voltages from power stations to Ergon Energy’s distribution network, has also advised the positive news that its ‘backbone’ 275-kV transmission network which supplies Cairns and the Tablelands, and is inland from the coast, remains unaffected.
Chief Operating Officer Simon Bartlett, said that the task ahead, even just to assess the damage to the 132-kV coastal transmission network, was going to be a huge undertaking that would take some time.
"Following cyclones, the first very significant challenge is to get access to try to assess the damage – this is due to a combination of safety considerations, and also the lingering adverse weather and ground conditions," Bartlett said. "There is no high voltage supply to Tully, El Arish, Cardwell, and Ingham, and we will need to access and inspect more than 400-km of 132-kV transmission circuits, including some 500 transmission towers and around 30,000 insulators.
"With the continuing strong winds and cloud in the area, helicopters can’t take to the skies, and inundation and local flooding will make road access very challenging, so at this very early stage it is impossible to know what damage has been caused to the network, how severe it might be, or how long it will take to repair," he said.
In Cyclone Larry in 2006, damage to the coastal network included six transmission towers being flattened, and these can take two weeks to replace. Ergon Energy is Powerlink’s maintenance service provider in North Queensland and specialist crews from Ergon Energy will work with Powerlink staff to investigate the damage and undertake the repairs needed to the coastal network.
“Powerlink pre-despatched trained transmission maintenance staff and emergency resources such as tower structures to Central Queensland ahead of the cyclone, and will deploy them to where they are required in the impacted area as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Ergon Energy and Powerlink are working closely with Emergency Services and our staff have commenced what work it is safe to do to investigate the damage. We will dispatch further crews and resources as soon as it is safe to do so,” Bartlett said.