Geelong bushfire safety technology faces final hurdle

20 March, 2023

A key part of one of the most important power infrastructure upgrades ever seen in the Geelong region has reached a critical phase, with Powercor crews set to start stress-testing the network at Gheringhap from Monday 20 March.

Powercor has built a new Zone Substation at Gheringhap, and installed new bushfire safety technology to protect more than 10,000 customers to Geelong’s north and west.

This comes after similar installations at Waurn Ponds and at Torquay were commissioned late last year.

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.

Testing of the REFCL will take place overnight on Monday and Tuesday, with potential testing also taking place on Wednesday.

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 the network across Gheringhap, Bannockburn, Lethbridge, Meredith, Bamganie, Lovely Banks, Bell Post Hill, Moorabool, Bell Park, Norlane, Stonehaven, Fyansford, Herne Hill, Murgheboluc, Teesdale, Shelford, Rokewood, Sutherlands Creek, Anakie, Staughton Vale, Balliang, Corio and surrounding areas.

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

“We’ve had REFCL technology installed for four years now 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.”

Gheringhap is the final of 22 REFCL devices across central and western Victoria installed by Powercor as per the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (VBRC) recommendations.

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.