Media Release: Annual testing to begin on bushfire safety technology in Gisborne and Woodend

29 May, 2020

Electricity distributor Powercor will conduct annual testing of bushfire mitigation devices in Gisborne and Woodend next week as part of ongoing work to keep communities safer.

Testing of the Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) devices is designed to validate that the technology is continuing to operate safely and effectively, reducing the risk of fires starting from powerlines.

The Gisborne REFCL will be tested on 2 and 3 June, and Woodend on 4 and 5 June. Safety regulator Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) will observe the testing remotely, rather than in person, due to workplace practices in place during COVID-19.

The process involves Powercor creating controlled faults to simulate a fallen powerline on the local network without actually taking any customers off supply.

This allows the team to test and verify how the devices operate and perform. REFCL Technical Director Andrew Bailey said REFCLs and associated infrastructure were inspected and maintained as part of Powercor’s regular maintenance program.

“Annual testing is critical to ensuring the REFCL technology is operating as designed and is providing communities added safety protection,” Mr Bailey said.

The Gisborne REFCL has been operating since 2016 and Woodend REFCLs since 2017 as part of Powercor’s first stage of the rollout.

The REFCL works like a large safety switch.

It is able to detect when one line out of a three-phase powerline has fallen to the ground and almost instantly reduces the voltage on the fallen line.

At the same time, it will boost the voltage on the two remaining lines in service.

This means we can maintain power to homes and businesses while substantially reducing the fire risk.