26 February 2021
Anyone hiking in the hills behind Wye River’s picturesque coastline earlier this month might have been forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled onto the set of the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
That’s because stalking through the forest was a machine with arms, legs and wheels – resembling something like a Transformer – extra-terrestrial robots made famous by comics, cartoons and the enormously popular film series.
Curious hikers would have witnessed Powercor crews using a type of specialist excavator known as the ‘Spider’ to help navigate the incredibly steep terrain in the area.
It was the first time the technology had been used in the Powercor network, with works at Wye River taking place to support the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
The work included replacing power poles, installing new poles and moving high voltage conductors to higher ground.
Powercor construction crews from Colac used the ‘Spider’ which ‘walks’ on mechanical legs separate from its four large wheels, to work at inclines of up to 43 degrees which make the job impossible for standard vehicles.
The project at Wye River required four months of planning to minimise the community impact, execute a plan for the complex terrain and also minimise the impact to the environment.
The team looked at a range of different excavation technologies for the complex project.
Powercor Construction Project Leader, Jack Horner, said the Spider excavator was the perfect choice to minimise impact on the environment, reduce manual handling risk to field crews and avoid the need for substantial civil works.
“Without this unit we probably would have had to construct an access road to get to the work site,” Mr Horner said.
“This was the first time we have used this equipment and after seeing it in action – it’s hopefully not the last.
“It’s a very versatile excavator and completed all of the vegetation mulching, hole drilling and pole installations. The crews onsite were extremely impressed with its ability to navigate the steep terrain and the operator’s skills and focus on ensuring the safety of everyone on site.”
‘Spider’ excavator fast facts
• Weighs 15 tonnes
• Measures 2.3m wide when compressed but can extend out to a footprint of over 7 metres
• Has more lift capabilities than a 30-tonne excavator and can work on any terrain due to a winch that enables it to lift and lower itself like a spider.