Northern Power Station
LocationPort Paterson, South Australia[1]
Coordinates32°32′34″S 137°47′15″E / 32.5429°S 137.7874°E / -32.5429; 137.7874
StatusClosed and completely demolished
Commission date1985
Decommission date
  • May 2016
Operator(s)Alinta Energy
Thermal power station
Primary fuelCoal
Turbine technology
  • 1
Cooling source
Power generation
Units operational0
Units decommissioned2 × 260 MW
Nameplate capacity
  • 520 MW
External links

Northern Power Station was located at Port Paterson in the Australian state of South Australia about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south of the city centre of Port Augusta.[1] It was coal powered with two 260 MW steam turbines that generated a total of 520 MW of electricity. It was operated and maintained by Alinta Energy and was commissioned in 1985.[2] Northern received coal by rail from the Leigh Creek Coal Mine, 280 km to the north. The plant ceased electricity production in May 2016 and decommissioned and demolished over the following few years.



Carbon Monitoring for Action estimated that this power station emitted 3.62 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year as a result of burning coal.[3] Other air-borne emissions were reported annually to the National Pollution Inventory. As of 2012-13, from greatest to smallest quantity, airborne emissions included: sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, hydrochloric acid, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, manganese, mercury, chromium, boron, chlorine, zinc, nickel, copper, lead and others.[4]


Northern Power Station drew cooling water from Upper Spencer Gulf and returned it to the sea at an elevated temperature. The water was returned 7 °C warmer than the original intake water. The flow rate was 47 m³ per second.[5] Its outfall channel is intended to be used by Sundrop Farms to disperse desalination brine from a proposed seawater desalination plant to create freshwater for a greenhouse, expected to be completed in 2016.[6][7]

Additional marine emissions included (from largest to smallest quantities): boron, fluoride, arsenic, manganese, chromium, nickel and mercury.[4]

Closure and alternative uses

Despite being the lowest marginal cost fossil fuel generator in South Australia,[2] Northern's economic viability was progressively eroded as wind and solar generation increased in South Australia. During the operation of carbon pricing in Australia under the Clean Energy Act, Northern reduced operation to seasonal summer-only operation.[8]

In recent years its long-term future has been subject to much consideration, including life extension and complete replacement. In 2013, Alinta Energy announced that it was investigating developing a new low-grade coal deposit which could extend the working lives of both Northern and adjacent Playford B power stations until the year 2030.[9] Concept level proposals have been discussed for the replacement of the plant with either a gas-fired, a concentrated solar thermal plant[10] or a nuclear power plant.

On 11 June 2015, Alinta Energy announced its intent to permanently close the power station by March 2018, along with the related Playford B Power Station, and the Leigh Creek coal mine that supplies them both with fuel.[11] This was updated on 30 July 2015 to bring the closure dates of all three facilities forward by 12 months, with closure to occur between March 2016 and March 2017.[12]

On 7 October 2015, Alinta Energy announced that Northern and Playford B would close around 31 March 2016.[13] Alinta Energy shut off the Northern Power Station at about 9:30am on 9 May 2016.[14]

A few months after the shutdown, South Australia experienced a major storm in late September 2016 which damaged electricity distribution infrastructure and tripped out several wind farms and other generators. It resulted in a state-wide blackout for a few hours, and the power was off in some areas for a couple of days.[citation needed]. Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said large energy users and interstate power operators had discussed the reopening of the Northern Power Station but this was dismissed by the South Australian Government.[citation needed]

The power stations were demolished and the 1068ha site rehabilitated, including saltbush cover over the ash pond. Replanting was completed in May 2019, but challenged by drought.[15] The site was sold to Cu-River Mining to develop a trans-shipping port for iron ore, grain and other commodities.[16]

Fly ash playa and health concerns

With the permanent closure of the Playford and Northern power stations at Port Augusta, dampening flows of water across the adjacent fly ash playa ceased. This allowed the fly ash, which contains crystalline silica, to become airborne. On several occasions in 2016 and 2017, plumes of the fine grey fly ash powder became visible rising from the power station site and blew into the town of Port Augusta, concerning residents and impacting air quality.[17][18]

In February 2017, topsoil application trials were underway and liquid odour suppressant was being applied periodically to the flyash dam.[19]

Flyash Australia collected, processed and sold flyash from the Northern Power Station. The company, which is a joint venture between Boral and Cement Australia Pty. Ltd.,[20] delivered flyash directly to its customers or via its distribution centre in Regency Park, Adelaide. It now imports flyash to South Australia.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Search result for "Port Paterson (Locality Bounded)" (Record no SA0040645) with the following layers being selected - "Suburbs and Localities" and "Place names (gazetteer)"". Government of South Australia. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Port Augusta Power Stations | Flinders Operations". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Carbon Monitoring for Action". Center for Global Development. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b "2012/2013 report for FLINDERS OPERATING SERVICES PTY LTD, NORTHERN POWER STATION - Port Augusta, SA". National Pollution Inventory. Australian Government. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  5. ^ Nyrstar Port Pirie Smelter Transformation Proposal Public Environment Report (PDF). Port Pirie, South Australia: Nyrstar. 2013. p. 179.
  6. ^ "Giant greenhouse grows tomatoes using solar-powered desalination". Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Construction begins on huge solar tower plant for Port Augusta farm". Renew Economy. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Carbon price claims SA's largest coal-fired generator | Beyond Zero Emissions". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  9. ^ Changerathil, Valerina (23 February 2015). "Alinta's ageing coal-fired Northern Power Station, Playford Station at Port Augusta likely to stay until 2030". The Advertiser. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Latest Electricity and Natural Gas News | Alinta Energy". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  11. ^ "Alinta Energy to close power stations at Port Augusta and coal mine at Leigh Creek". ABC Online. 11 June 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  12. ^ "Latest Electricity and Natural Gas News | Alinta Energy". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Flinders Operations Update | Alinta Energy". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  14. ^ "SA's coal era ends, but what's next?". Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  15. ^ Spence, Andrew (14 May 2019). "Massive power station revegetation project completed in Australia". The Lead SA. Archived from the original on 27 May 2020.
  16. ^ Spence, Andrew (10 May 2019). "Final curtain falls on SA's coal-fired era". InDaily. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  17. ^ Carcich, Matt (21 August 2016). "Concerns over Port Augusta ash cloud". The Transcontinental. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  18. ^ Henson, Elizabeth (2 January 2017). "Concerns grow over ash cloud at Port Augusta following closure of Northern Power Station". The Advertiser. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  19. ^ Carcich, Matt (24 February 2017). "Flinders Power begins topsoil trial". The Transcontinental. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  20. ^ "Welcome to Flyash Australia". Flyash Australia. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  21. ^ "Our Plants". Flyash Australia. Retrieved 13 May 2019.