This coming Saturday will mark the 62-year anniversary of the opening of the Port Augusta Playford A Power Station. The Governor, Sir Robert George, officially opened the Port Augusta Power Station on 23 July 1954. It was the first South Australian Power Station to use local fuel exclusively. Prior to the discovery of brown coal at Leigh Creek, South Australia had to import its needs from other states.

During the first 12 months of operation, the station generated 164,746,800 kilowatt-hours of electricity. The second 12 months over doubled that amount issuing in an era of cheap electricity for South Australians.

Port Augusta Playford A and Playford B Power Stations.
Port Augusta Power Station. Playford A Station (left) and Playford B Station (right).

On 20 July 1960, Premier Sir Thomas Playford opened the second power station – “Station B”.  Costing £21,000,000, with the addition of the “A” Station and the Leigh Creek Coal Field brought the total cost of the State project to almost £40,000,000. The power stations were re-named to “Playford A” and “Playford B” in his honour.

Port Augusta Playford B Turbine.
Playford B Turbine transmitting 275,000 volts.

Large turbines drove an electrical alternator generating 60,000 kilowatts at 11,000 volts. The power then passed through cables to massive transformers in the switchyard where it was transformed to 275,000 volts for transmission to Adelaide. All this was controlled and operated from the stations Control Room. From this Control Room, which served both “A” and “B” Stations, the operators were in direct touch with the centre in Adelaide which, from there, controlled the distribution throughout the network.

Port Augusta Playford A and B Control Room.
Playford A and B Control Room — the nerve centre of station operations.

By the end of the Playford era, South Australia had one of the cheapest and most efficient electricity networks in the world.

Playford B was mothballed in 2012 and its permanent closure was announced by operator Alinta Energy in October 2015. Currently, it’s in the advanced stages of demolition. Nothing remains of Playford A except its exterior walls.