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Port Augusta : major industries : electricity

In 1948 the South Australian government built an electricity generating power station at the top of Spencer Gulf to make use of Leigh Creek coal.

Rather than relying on the privately owned Adelaide Electricity Supply Co (AESCo) which imported coal from New South Wales to burn at the Osborne site, the government wanted the AESCo to utilise Leigh Creek coal. Leigh Creek coal is an inferior type of coal called brown coal and to use this coal required modifications to the Osborne power station at Port Adelaide. The government nationalised AESCo to become ETSA (Electricity Trust of South Australia).  ETSA's first job was to determine whether electricity could be generated in a strategic location to the Leigh Creek coal field. Because of the need of water to cool condensers and steam turbines and access for large ocean-going vessels to unload heavy plant right on site, the power station was located 5 kilometres south of Port Augusta where the gulf is deeper and cooler.

The generator site was fully operational by 1957 and the overall cost of constuction was £10 million.

Building of a second or B station commenced in 1955. In 1960 the power station complex was officially opened and named the Playford Power Station after the South Australian premier Sir Thomas Playford who had pushed for the construction of the power station and the development of the Leigh Creek coal field. However the B station was not fully operational until 1964.

More coal deposits were found at Leigh Creek (the amount of coal at Leigh Creek is expected to last 40 years) and in October 1977 building of a further power station (the Northern Power Station) was commenced. It was commissioned in 1985, and further upgraded in 1999.

Today the Port Augusta power stations and the Leigh Creek coal fields are operated by Alinta Energy.

Further reading:

Anderson, RJ Solid town: the history of Port Augusta, [Port Augusta, S. Aust.]: R.J. Anderson, 1988:  see particularly chapter 22.

Flinders Ranges research : The battle for Leigh Creek.

Estimates for electric power supply (images 1-10)
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Estimates for electric power supply (images 11-20)
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Estimates for electric power supply (images 21-22)
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