In 1943, commercial coal mining began in Leigh Creek. The South Australian government of the day wanted to develop a self-sufficient energy supply following coal shortages during the Second World War. As such, the Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA) needed a station with boilers capable of burning Leigh Creek coal, and commissioned the Playford Power Station in 1954. The decision to build the first power station in Port Augusta was made due to the gulf providing deep and cold water needed for steam turbines. The Thomas Playford Power Station, now known simply as Playford A, was completed in 1957.
90,000 kilowatts of generating capacity was installed using 30,000 kilowatt turbo-alternators and two 132,000 volt transmission lines were used to convey the power to the Adelaide metropolitan area. Surveys taken at the coal fields later found enough deposits to justify building another station, and Playford B was opened in 1960 and generated 240,000 kilowatts from four 60,000 kilowatt turbo-alternators, which was twice the capacity of Playford A. During the full output both stations would consume 40,000 tonnes of coal per week, and the peak consumption of the Leigh Creek coal was 2.1 million tonnes for the year ending June, 1969.
In 1985, the Northern power Station was commissioned. It too was coal powered with two 260 MW steam turbines generating a total of 520 MW of electricity.
After ETSA was privatised in 1999, the power stations changed hands several times. They became affiliated with Alinta Energy in 2007 when former owners, Babcock & Brown Power, acquired Alinta Energy.
Playford A was closed and made redundant during the late 1990s, at which time the turbines and machinery were removed leaving only the building shell. Due to renewable energy and decreasing power demand, Playford B Station was mothballed in 2012, but was available for use on a 90 day recall if required.
On 9 May 2016, with the Pt Augusta Station accounting for only 15 per cent of South Australia’s power supply, Alinta Energy closed Flinders Operations, which encompassed Augusta Power Station (Northern and Playford B Power Station) and the Leigh Creek Coal Mine in South Australia. An oversupply of power generation in South Australia as a result of falling electricity demand and significant growth in renewable energy were cited as the reasons for the closure decision.
Decommissioning and demolition work is already well advanced.