Hamilton bushfire safety technology faces first test

16 May, 2022

Powercor will stress-test parts of the power network in the Hamilton region next week as part of its work to install advanced technology to reduce the risk of fire starting from electricity infrastructure.

Powercor crews have spent more than a year on the project to upgrade the Hamilton 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 Hamilton REFCL will protect more than 1,467 kilometres of powerlines serving 13,300 customers from Casterton in the west to Glenthompson in the east, Mooralla in the north to Macarthur in the south.

RADIO GRABS: Powercor’s Luke Plocinski speaks about Powercor’s REFCL technology ahead of stress testing in Hamilton.

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 next Monday 23 May and marks a major milestone for the bushfire mitigation project.

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

“Hamilton is Powercor’s 19th zone substation 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.

Crews will conduct further testing over coming weeks to confirm the REFCL is operating in line with the performance levels we require.

“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.”

Once the Hamilton device is operational, REFCLs will be protecting a network of 5,573 kilometres, including 28 main powerlines supplying 50,000 customers in Victoria’s south-west region.

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/