Western Power installs generator as short-term fix to widespread outages in Northampton

Phoebe PinMidwest Times
Northampton residents are furious they have to continually fill up their generators wilth fuel to keep the lights on.
Camera IconNorthampton residents are furious they have to continually fill up their generators wilth fuel to keep the lights on. Credit: Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardi/RegionalHUB

A new generator is hoped to deliver short-term relief to Northampton residents forced to swelter through summer without air-conditioning because of widespread power outages.

The Mid West town has been hit by at least three major outages in the last fortnight, with some blackouts lasting days.

A Western Power spokesperson on Tuesday told the Geraldton Guardian a 500kW generator has now been installed in Northampton, which will “assist in future power outages in the short-term”.

“Western Power is prioritising improved reliability performance in Northampton and surrounding areas,” the spokesperson said.

“We have formed a dedicated planning and operations team that is currently working on options for immediate reliability improvement including network reconfiguration and additional maintenance of the Northampton line.”

Close to 1300 homes and businesses in and around Northampton were affected when the lights went out about 4.40am on January 5, with temperatures reaching 40C before power was restored later that afternoon.

It followed a blackout on Boxing Day which lasted 40 hours and another power failure on December 30 which went for more than 10 hours.

Wren’s Place is just one business counting the cost of continued blackouts after the bakery had to throw out large quantities of hand-made food that could not survive the heat.

Manager Alex Nguyen said it had been an incredibly stressful couple of weeks trying to keep the small business’ generator running so it could keep its doors open.

She said the bakery had not applied for power outage payments because the paperwork took too long to complete.

“We’re too busy to get it done,” she said.

“As a bakery, if we run out of power, we are in trouble.

“Everyone is very tired and hot.”

Northampton residents Britt Lock, Tara Smith and Clarry Chishlon.
Camera IconNorthampton residents Britt Lock, Tara Smith and Clarry Chishlon. Credit: Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardi/Geraldton Guardi

Clarry Chishlon, who lives 3km out of town, said the situation was beyond a joke.

“We’ve had to invest in another generator because everything at our place relies on power,” he said.

“Even just to flush the toilet we need a pressure pump because we aren’t on mains water.”

Moore MLA Shane Love said a review of the network was long overdue.

“These blackouts have been reoccurring in the region for weeks — the fault should have been discovered and fixed well before now,” he said.

“Access to electricity during the peak of the summer months is a basic human right in Western Australia — this must be resolved as quickly as possible.”

Mr Love said it was time to look at installing a micro-grid system in Northampton, similar to the setup in Kalbarri.

A spokesperson for Energy Minister Bill Johnston said a micro-grid in Northampton was not being considered, but “could be a longer-term option”.

“As part of the rapidly changing energy sector, Western Power is transforming the network to a more modular grid using emerging technologies and innovative solutions to integrate greater renewables and deliver improved power reliability for regional WA,” the spokesperson said. Repair times are also a source of serious frustration in Northampton, with Western Power maintaining it cannot operate when the fire danger risk is too high.

Denying elderly and infirm persons power during periods of extreme heat when it could be restored poses an unnecessary risk to their lives.

But Mr Love said there needed to be a rethink on the policy so repair work could be carried out more efficiently.

“Western Power appear to have adopted a narrow and risk-averse approach to the matter of power restoration during total fire bans to the point where community safety is threatened as residents needlessly go without power,” he said.

“Denying elderly and infirm persons power during periods of extreme heat when it could be restored poses an unnecessary risk to their lives.”

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