Blackout tracker finds Queensland the worse for power outages

Thursday, 24 March, 2011

A vandalised car that was left to roll into a power pole, causing a power outage for nearby Victorian residents, has been nominated as one of the top five most unusual reasons for power blackouts in Australia and New Zealand during 2010. Among the other notable causes of blackouts were a bee flying into the cab of a truck resulting in the driver losing control and crashing into a power pole, and a snake spanning two wires atop a power pole which created a short-circuit that blacked out two towns in the Northern Territory for over an hour in November 2010.

The findings are contained in the Australian and New Zealand Blackout Tracker Annual Report for 2010, an annual compilation of reported power outages prepared by diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Industries.

The report identifies power outages as being responsible for interruptions to service in at least three data centres in 2010, beginning with Centrelink in Canberra in June, followed by IBM’s Newton Data Centre in Auckland and Vocus in Victoria, both occurring in December. The impacts included interruptions to airline booking and check-in systems, and online banking services.

Queensland reported the greatest number of power outages (29) followed by a tie between New South Wales and Victoria with 17 outages each. Storms were responsible for the three most significant blackouts reported during the year with the biggest outage occurring in Perth, Western Australia, when storm gusts and torrential rain cut power to 150,000 people. A lightning strike in Darwin took second-place honours when it cut power to 130,000 people for over 10 hours, while the third most significant outage occurred when strong winds downed power lines and interrupted power for 100,000 people in Palm Beach, Queensland. Not all outages were caused by natural forces, however, with the remaining two of the top five issues occurring during maintenance work.

“Data centres and power availability are increasingly important to IT and business activity,” said Michael Mallia, Marketing Manager of Eaton’s Power Quality division. “From the huge, far-reaching power failures brought on by coastal storms to the smaller, local disruptions which may have affected the people in only one neighbourhood, power outages caused problems for people and businesses across Australia and New Zealand. This report underscores the importance of a power protection plan to every organisation.”

The report notes that although power outages are common and detrimental for organisations, outages can be easily remedied. Uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), generators and surge protection devices are the most common power protection devices to protect data and equipment. To download the entire annual report, go to www.eaton.com/blackouttracker.

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