Powercor will stress-test parts of the power network in the Mildura region next week as part of the final stages of installing advanced technology to reduce the risk of fire caused by electricity infrastructure.
Powercor crews have spent seven months on the project to upgrade the Merbein Zone Substation and hundreds of sites in the wider region to prepare the network for the new device, known as a Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL).
The Merbein REFCL will protect 363 kilometres of powerlines serving 10,000 customers across much of Mildura’s central and western areas, and west along the river as far as Cullulleraine.
The devices are already installed in 17 locations across the Powercor network, including in Ballarat, Bendigo, Maryborough, Charlton, Stawell and Ararat.
The REFCL will protect these powerlines by acting like a giant safety switch, reducing voltage levels within milliseconds to mitigate the risk of fire if a tree strikes powerlines or lines hit the ground.
Testing will take place overnight between 4 and 6 October and marks a major milestone for the bushfire mitigation project.
Powercor REFCL Lead Engineer Luke Plocinski said having REFCL technology at Merbein represented a huge leap forward in terms of bushfire safety for the local network.
“Merbein is the 18th zone substation to be fitted with REFCL technology, and there’s no doubt these devices are keeping communities safer,” Mr Plocinski said.
“The testing next week is the first phase of commissioning in the delivery of this important project for the Mildura region.
“It allows us to validate the network upgrades to support the safety device. The next phase will confirm that the REFCL is operating in line with the performance levels we require.”
While no power outages are expected, crews will be on standby to respond in case unplanned outages occur during testing.
Powercor is on track for its scheduled rollout of REFCL devices across central and western Victoria, which is due for completion in 2023 as per the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (VBRC) recommendations.
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.
For more information about REFCLs visit https://www.powercor.com.au/safety/bushfire-mitigation-program/rapid-earth-fault-current-limiter/