Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Katherine Times editor Chris McLennan.
A cloud passed above Alice Springs on October 13 this year. The result was chaos.
As many as 10,000 residents lost electrical power on a scorching 40-degree day for almost 10 hours. Just from a cloud.
The aftermath has been equally savage.
The two key power company bosses in the Northern Territory lost their jobs and the Government is scrambling to reassure people that renewable power is still the way of the future.
The exhaustive investigation into what caused such a massive blackout has cleared the town's solar farm from most of the blame.
Alice Springs has two other power stations, powered by gas with diesel back-up generators. They should have been able to cope with a cloud.
But they didn't, hence we have two high-flying CEOs without a job this Christmas.
Because of that cloud, within the blink of an eye the 3.3 megawatt output from the Uterne solar station fell to 0.5 megawatts.
Yes it has some battery storage, but that is only designed to even out flows for seconds, or minutes, not for hours.
Combined with the many folks who happily connect their roof-top solar to the grid in return for free power and even power credits, the cloud caught local power providers napping.
Investigators have recommended power companies in this part of the world buy a cloud forecasting service so they can at least see the power dip coming.
Courts are still trying to untangle the mess from the statewide blackout in South Australia back in 2016.
The outage was triggered by a severe storm which swept across the state, bringing down major transmission lines.
About 850,000 customers lost power, with some in the north and on the Eyre Peninsula left without electricity for several days.
An Australian Energy Market Operator report, released about a month later, found nine of 13 wind farms online at the time of the blackout switched off when the transmission lines came down.
The NT does not have wind turbines to spread the risk. Until someone figures out how to capture the power of a wet season cyclone, it relies on its world's leading solar credentials for renewables.
But it is clear, converting empty paddocks to fields of solar panels, is not enough on its own to provide reliable baseload power.
There are only two seasons up here - wet and dry. In the wet you can go days without seeing the sun.
The public has forced politicians to play the climate change game, well most of them anyway.
The NT Government has a 50 per cent renewables target by 2030.
There is an audacious $20 billion plan to capture solar energy at Tennant Creek and send it via a very, very long cable to Singapore.
Until that cloud passed above Alice Springs most of us thought solar would do the job in the NT nicely.
It is not going to be so easy.
Chris McLennan, editor, Katherine Times
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