Lithgow locals up early on Sunday morning may have noticed a large shape inching its way down the Castlereagh Highway towards EnergyAustralia’s Mt Piper power station, completing a journey that started ten weeks ago in China.
The object, a 240 tonne generator transformer used to change the voltage of electricity produced by the power station, landed at the Port of Newcastle in December. It was carefully loaded on to a 140 metre-long prime mover truck, before beginning a meticulously planned 500-kilometre trek to Lithgow.
Planning the exercise took four months and was focussed on moving the enormous generator transformer safely and with minimal disruption to towns and road users. The size and weight of the load meant working with local police to control traffic along the way from Newcastle to Lithgow as well as two railway crossing approvals to ensure the weight of the load was supported.
Luke Welfare, EnergyAustralia’s Head of NSW Assets, said the transformer would serve as a back up in case one of the power station’s four other transformers failed. Without a ready replacement, the power station would otherwise have to run at less than 75 per cent of its 1400MW capacity for up to two years.
"It was a long and complex logistical exercise to transport a 240-tonne transformer all the way from China to Lithgow but it is a critical piece of kit," Mr Welfare said.
"When a generator transformer trips or fails it can have a significant impact on the entire electricity market. Having a ready replacement onsite means we can cut the time it takes to get the power station back to full capacity from two years to only three weeks.
"An operation of this size takes extensive planning and organisation so we were really pleased to see it completed successfully, on time and safely."
Generator transformers are used at power stations such as Mt Piper to increase electricity voltage to transmit power over long distances. Built over two stages in 1992 and 1993, the Mount Piper Power Station comprises two 700 MW coal-fired steam turbine generators which have the capacity to meet the energy needs of approximately 1.18 million homes in New South Wales every year.