The 'Northern' Port Augusta Coal-Powered Power Station.
The ‘Northern’ Port Augusta Coal-Powered Power Station. (Photo courtesy Alinta Energy)

The Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA) started construction of the Northern Power Station (located 275km North of Adelaide) in 1980 and took 5 years to complete. It was officially opened by the Premier of South Australia, John Bannon, on the 17th of October 1985. The station was built on reclaimed land; on top of nearly half a million cubic meters of ash spoil from the nearby Playford Power Station. Supplied by coal from Leigh Creek and cooled by sea water from Spencer Gulf, for 31 years it produced the cheapest electricity in the State.

After ETSA was privatised in 1999, the Port Augusta Power Stations changed hands several times. They became owned by Alinta Energy in 2007 when Alinta acquired it from former owners, Babcock & Brown Power.

The Process – simplified

Each week, six trains with 160 wagons would deliver more than 57,000 tonnes of coal to the power station. As coal was needed, it moved via conveyor belt to bunkers at the top of the boilers, then ground down to a fine dust and burnt. Two boilers, each 80 metres high and containing 24 huge burners would consume 170 tonnes of coal per hour — heating water inside to a temperature of 1050°C. Water pumped through tubes inside the walls of the boilers turned into steam which was then forced into the turbines under high pressure causing them to spin at 3,000rpm. Each of the sites two generators produced 260 megawatts of electricity at 18,000 volts, which was then transformed to 275,000 volts for transmission across all of South Australia.


The closure of the Leigh Creek Coal Mine and the Northern and Playford B Stations resulted in over 470 job losses. The Leigh Creek Coal Mine ceased operations on 17 November 2015. The last generator at the Northern Power Station was shut down at 9.40am on Monday 9th of May 2016.

It has been described as the “end of an era” for Port Augusta and South Australia for coal-fired electricity generation. Starting with the Playford A station in 1956, the mining and power operations employed thousands of local people over the last 60 years.

Historical Staff Pictures

Over the years, staff of the Port Augusta Power Station passionately preserved photographs of their worksite. Here are a few select images from their wonderful archive:

Over the last year, we visited the Northern Power Station multiple times. It’s now under the operation of demolition contractors with decommissioning works expected to take two years. The chimney is expected to be felled by mid-2017. The images here are 6-12 months old and present a record of the Station at that time.