Media Release: Ararat bushfire safety technology passes final test

30 April, 2020

A bushfire safety device installed in Ararat by electricity distributor Powercor that provides extra protection for the community has this month been given official approval by Victoria’s energy safety regulator.

Powercor has received confirmation from Energy Safety Victoria that the Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) device at the Ararat zone substation is fully compliant.

Powercor’s REFCL program is being rolled out in three phases, with the first completed last year.

The Ararat REFCL is the first device to be formally completed as part of phase two.

While the device was first switched on in December last year and has been operating in its most sensitive setting on Total Fire Ban Days since, the ESV compliance approval marks the final stage of the Ararat installation.

Powercor REFCL technical director Andrew Bailey said Ararat was one of 10 zone substations supplying numerous communities across the Powercor network to now have the device installed.

“The REFCL device is part of our broader bushfire mitigation program and is already keeping communities safer,” Mr Bailey said.

“While the Ararat safety device is in operation all year round, on days of Total Fire Ban it operates at heightened fault sensitivity, in line with regulatory requirements.

“When it operates, crews patrol the line to determine the cause of the fault and ensure it is safe for the community before switching power back on.

“While this can mean it can take longer to restore a fault on a Total Fire Ban day, it also is providing added protection to communities and reducing the risk of fires starting from powerlines.”

The Ararat Zone Substation supports 6,699 customers within the region, supplied by four feeders and 793km of power lines. REFCL devices are being installed in some of the state’s highest bushfire-risk areas as directed by the Victorian Government’s program in response to recommendations from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

On 21 November 2019, which was Victoria’s first code-red declared Total Fire Ban day since Black Saturday, REFCLs detected and activated for six permanent faults and 32 temporary faults. Between October and the end of March, there were 18 total fire ban days in western Victoria.

On these days, REFCLs activated 13 times for permanent faults and 75 temporary faults. Other communities that will receive REFCLs under phase two are Ballarat North and South, Bendigo, Charlton and Terang.

These are required to be compliant by ESV by 1 April 2021.

For more information about how REFCLs work, visit www.powercor.com.au/safety/bushfire-mitigation-program/rapid-earth-fault-current-limiter/