Bats proving a challenge for power reliability
Adelaide’s north eastern suburbs have borne the brunt of a recent surge in the night-time activities of Adelaide’s Grey-headed flying fox (bat) colony.
There were 82 longer-duration outages involving bats in 2021 and 20 longer-duration outages so far this year during January and February 2022. People are also experiencing short ‘momentary’ outages as equipment reconnects power if the animal falls clear after contacting our infrastructure.
We understand this is frustrating, but unfortunately there is no easy solution to deal with the issue.
Grey-headed flying foxes are a protected species and among the world’s largest bats, with a wingspan of up to one metre. They have established a permanent and growing colony in Botanic Park near the Adelaide Zoo with their numbers now exceeding 28,000.
The flying foxes are most active at night when looking for food (nectar, pollen and fruit). They fly significant range covering much of metropolitan Adelaide and the nearby horticultural areas. They cause a power outage when they contact power lines and equipment at the top of Stobie poles including powerlines, lightning surge arrestors, transformer bushings and switching equipment. With a typical spacing of between half a metre and one metre between powerlines, it’s easy to understand why the bats with a wingspan of up to one metre can become entangled.
The random nature of outages involving bats makes it difficult to eliminate or minimise their occurrence. However, installation of animal guards and insulation of some overhead equipment where repeat outages occur, plus a program of “sectionalising” lines has helped reduce some of the impact.
We are working with the Department of Environment, Fauna Rescue and Bat Rescue SA to find solutions and ensure that the injured bats are treated humanely and cared for. They are a protected native species that perform important environmental services like pollinating plants and crops.
SA Power Networks has discussed the problem with other electricity distribution companies in Australia and various animal experts, but no-one currently has a viable solution that we can implement cost efficiently.
In short, we are open to ideas that might help reduce injury for these animals and minimise their impact on electricity supply.
February 2021: Animals and powerlines