Red lights suddenly flash on the computer screens in Origin Energy’s Monitoring and Support Center (MSC) in Queensland. Output from a big wind turbine farm, 2000 kilometers away in South Australia, has abruptly dropped to zero as a previously strong air current dies.
The wholesale electricity market across Australia reacts in seconds, rocketing the price from AU$50 a megawatt to the capped peak of AU$12,500. If supply is not restored immediately costs will soar and losses will be huge.
People outside this vital industry could see it as a crisis, but for the two controllers sitting in the high-security, high-tech MSC where Origin Energy keeps constant surveillance over its generation and distribution system spread across the vast distances of eastern and southern Australia, it’s all in a day’s work. The high-tech control system Siemens built for Origin, makes solving such emergencies vastly more efficient.