Media Release: New bushfire safety device to be installed in Ballarat

26 March 2019

Work to install world-leading technology designed to improve the safety of powerlines in high bushfire risk areas has started in Ballarat as part of Powercor’s extensive safety program.

The Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) device operates similar to a large safety switch on the network and is designed to minimise the chance of a spark occurring if a powerline comes into contact with the ground or a tree limb, thereby reducing the risk of fires starting from powerline faults.

As part of the installation, Powercor will conduct overnight works in Ballarat, North Ballarat and Wendouree from 1 April to 4 April to ensure the least possible impact to the community.

The work will impact power supply to 2,282 and these customers have been notified directly.

Additional works will continue throughout the year during installation and commissioning.

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.

The Ballarat North and Ballarat South Zone Substations supports 69,684 customers within the region, supplied by 21 feeders and 2,788km of powerlines.

Powercor REFCL Technical Director Andrew Bailey said the works were an important improvement for public safety.

“We are focused on delivering safe power to homes and business and these devices will significantly improve the safety of the infrastructure and reduce the risk of fires starting from electricity assets,” Mr Bailey said.

“Powercor crews will be upgrading infrastructure throughout 2019 in Ballarat to accommodate this new technology.

“We will always be mindful of the community when scheduling planned outages to safely upgrade the network. We thank customers for their understanding as we work to further improve the safety of our network.”

The technology provides an additional safety measure on the Powercor network and is part of Powercor’s extensive bushfire mitigation program. While these devices have been installed to improve reliability in other parts of the world, this is the first time REFCL devices are being installed to reduce bushfire risk.

While the safety devices are effective all year round, on days of Total Fire Ban they will operate at heightened fault sensitivity, in line with regulatory requirements. When they do operate, crews will patrol the line to determine the cause of the fault and ensure it is safe for the community before switching power back on.

Powercor has a dedicated team of engineers, planners and crews working to ensure this technology is installed safely and is operating in line with requirements set by the regulators. The REFCL devices are being rolled out in three phases, with the first phase covering eight zone substations and due for completion at the end of April 2019. The Ballarat REFCL installation is part of phase two.

The REFCL is just one of a series of safety devices on the network, designed to reduce bushfire risk and improve safety.

To find out more about how the new devices operate, visit our REFCL page.