Geelong and Surf Coast bushfire safety technology faces first test

5 September, 2022

One of the largest power infrastructure upgrades ever seen in Geelong and the Surf Coast has reached a critical phase, with Powercor crews set to start stress-testing the network this week.

Powercor has built a new Zone Substation at Torquay, significantly upgraded its existing Waurn Ponds Zone Substation, and installed advanced bushfire safety technology in both.

The technology, known as Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) acts like a giant safety switch on the network, instantly cutting the power if a tree or other object strikes powerlines or a line hits the ground.

On weeknights between Monday 5 September and Friday, 23 September, Powercor will test parts of the electricity network in Geelong’s south and across the Surf Coast.

Powercor crews have spent more than a year on the project to upgrade hundreds of sites in the wider region to prepare the network for the technology, which will protect more than 50,000 customers across Waurn Ponds, Barwon Heads, Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne and surrounding region.

Powercor Manager REFCL Program Delivery Luke Plocinski said having REFCL technology at Waurn Ponds and Torquay represented a huge leap forward in terms of bushfire safety for the local network.

“These zone substations are our 20th and 21st to be fitted with REFCL technology, and there’s no doubt these devices are keeping communities safer,” Mr Plocinski said.

“The testing will allow us to check and validate the upgrades we have conducted on our network are supporting the safety device.

“While no outages are planned with our testing work, we have crews ready to respond quickly and as safely as possible to get power back on to homes and businesses if unplanned outages do happen.”

Powercor is on track for its scheduled rollout of 22 REFCL devices across central and western Victoria, which is due for completion in 2023 as per the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (VBRC) recommendations.

The final REFCL, at the new Gheringhap zone substation, is due for stress testing later this year.

REFCL technology is part of a wide range of network safety devices on the Powercor network. Others include fuses, circuit breakers, high voltage switches and automatic circuit reclosers.

Powercor has completed its other VBRC commitments, including the installation of more than 1,200 enhanced Automatic Circuit Reclosures (ACRs), 220,000 armour rods and vibration dampers and 1,800 line spacers.