Grid securityMetallic Balloon Causes Massive Blackout in Dresden, Germany

Published 15 September 2021

More than 300,000 buildings and apartments in Dresden, Germany, were without electricity on Monday after a metal-coated party balloon caused a major short circuit at the city’s main power station. The police is investigation whether this was an accident or a deliberate sabotage. Balloons have caused power disruptions in Germany in the past: the most notable cases are Stuttgart in 2017 and Frankfurt in 2015.

A major power failure in Dresden, Germany, on Monday, which saw more than 300,000 buildings and apartments lose power, was caused by a commercially available balloon, typically used in weddings or children birthdays.

In a joint press conference with the utility, Saxony Energy, police spokesperson Thomas Geithner said Tuesday morning that initial investigation indicates that it was likely an accident rather than a deliberate act, even though that possibility cannot be ruled out at this stage.

The problem began Monday afternoon, when about 300,000 households in Dresden and surrounding towns lost power. Tram traffic in the city also came to a halt.

Investigator at the utility main power station discovered the remains of a metal-coated balloon at the site. Using a shower of aluminum foil to disable power stations is not new, and a metal-coated balloon can have the same effects as aluminum foil.

Germany’s general election will be held in less than two weeks, so there were fears initially that the outage was caused by left-extremists in Dresden, who have recently been targeted by the local police.

Metal-coated balloons had caused damage in the past. In September 2017, a balloon triggered a short circuit in a large power station outside the city of Stuttgart. In 2015, a metal-coated helium balloon flew into the power station which powers the Frankfurt S-Bahn, bringing train and underground rail traffic to a halt for several hours.