The power industry is installing guards around poles to prevent possums from using transmission lines as highways — and triggering major outages if they are electrocuted.
- Possums are the main cause of momentary power interruptions in South Australia
- On average, possums are found to be the cause of 60 sustained high-voltage interruptions each year
- Interruptions usually occur at night when possums are most active
Poles along a 33,000-volt transmission corridor through regional South Australia will be fitted with possum guards to stop the native animals from accessing the potentially lethal powerlines.
According to SA Power Networks, possums are climbing up stobie poles and using them as a tightrope to move across the Limestone Coast landscape.
A transmission line near Millicent — which feeds power to thousands of customers — is at risk due to the furry and agile animals.
The Adelaide Hills and the Limestone Coast are two major hotspots in South Australia given their possum populations.
“We’ve had a number of outages caused by possums climbing up the poles and using the lines as their transit routes,” SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts said.
He said that since January 2020, there had been a number of power blackouts caused by possums.
As a result, possum guards are being installed on power poles running from Snuggery, near Millicent, to Robe.
“It’s a big job and hopefully it is going to make a difference. It should deter the possums from climbing up the poles,” Mr Roberts said.
He said the guards worked in a similar way to those that were often wrapped around trees to prevent possum access.
Mr Roberts said the project, which was nearly completed, would not prevent all power outages, as some were sparked by lightning strikes.
But he said it was important the SA Power Networks reduced the risk of the outages.
“We are a regulated business and the regulator wants us to invest efficiently,” Mr Roberts said.
“We need to look at and weigh up the cost versus the reward. In this case, quite clearly given the number of customers, this is a job that we should invest in.”
Electrocution ‘is horrific’
South Australian regional wildlife rescuer Julia Dangerfield welcomed the initiative, saying possums could suffer “horrific injuries” from electrocution.
Ms Dangerfield urged rural landholders to report injuries to wildlife caused by powerlines and said people in urban areas were more likely to call wildlife rescuers.
She said flying foxes were also at risk of being injured by coming into contact with powerlines, and could be killed instantly if they struck high-voltage lines.
“It can be a big issue, particularly interstate where there are higher voltage lines,” she said