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Bats again on the move and proving a challenge to power reliability

Media Release

Adelaide's Grey-Headed Flying Fox* colony is on the move with a new brood of young causing a number of power outages.

Customers experience either extended outages or short ‘momentary’ outages as equipment reconnects power if the animal falls clear after contacting electricity infrastructure. Most of these outages occur in the early hours of the morning.

So far in 2023 there have been 27 bat-related power outages including the ones over the weekend impacting more than 30,000 customers mainly in the western and northern suburbs (stretching from Mile End and Thebarton down to West Beach all the way to Bolivar).

In 2021 there were 82 bat-related outages impacting 92,000 customers and in 2022 there were 89 outages affecting 109,000 customers.

“We expect outages to increase in coming weeks as juvenile bats become more active and forage for food,” said SA Power Networks Head of Corporate Affairs, Paul Roberts.

“This is a significant issue for us and our customers, though thankfully most outages occur in the early hours of the morning while most of us are sleeping,” Mr Roberts said.

“We are actively working to minimise these power outages, and the risk of electrocution to the flying fox colony. However, there is no simple and easy fix.

“We suspect that it is mainly juvenile bats that are getting caught up in our infrastructure. They haven’t fully developed so they get fatigued while foraging at night for food and look for a place to land and rest.”

Mr Roberts said to reduce bat-related outages, SA Power Networks had been installing animal guards on pole top equipment on the most impacted powerlines and at spots where there were repeat outages. Also, a program of installing additional switch points has helped reduce the number of customers impacted by these outages when they do occur.

“The colony has grown significantly in recent years and bat-related outages are widespread across the metropolitan area and occur at random locations,” Mr Roberts said.

“Given we have hundreds of thousands of poles we have a lot of work to do over the next decade installing animal guards and covering more of our equipment to be able to significantly reduce bat-related outages.

“This has become a much more serious problem in recent years, and we will be seeking funding in the 2025-2030 regulatory period to step up our preventive work,” Mr Roberts said.

Map of outages

A map of Adelaide gives an indication of where in Adelaide the outages have occurred so far in 2023.

An indicative map of power outages related to Grey-Headed Flying Foxes in 2023 from January to March. 

What to do if you see a Grey-Headed Flying Fox in powerlines

The welfare of animals is important to us. Please report injured animals to either of the following organisations:

Report power outages to SA Power Networks - 13 13 66.

Do not touch injured animals if you have not been trained in how to do it safely.

*The Grey Headed Flying Fox, commonly referred to as a ‘fruit bat’, is a protected species listed as vulnerable. The colony arrived in SA in 2010 from the eastern states and nests in Botanic Park near the Adelaide Zoo. Their numbers may now exceed 30,000.

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