Media release: New bushfire safety devices to be installed in Terang

29 April, 2020

Work to install world-leading technology proven to improve the safety of powerlines in high bushfire risk will begin this week in Terang, as part of Powercor’s extensive safety program.

The Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) device operates like a large safety switch on the network and minimises the chance of a spark occurring if a powerline comes into contact with the ground or a tree limb.

REFCL devices are being installed in some of the state’s highest bushfire-risk areas as directed by the Victorian Government in response to recommendations from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Powercor’s REFCL Technical Director Andrew Bailey said the devices have been in operation on the network over the past two summers and have activated over 100 times on days of highest fire risk this past fire season.

“The REFCLs are working and are already keeping communities safer,” Mr Bailey said.

“They have certainly reduced the risk of fires starting from power assets.

They’ve also improved safety with a case reported where people operating heavy machinery hit powerlines, which may have had a far worse outcome if a REFCL was not installed.”

Powercor crews will soon begin a major upgrade of the Terang Zone Substation.

The works will involve expanding the size of the substation to accommodate the REFCL, including the installation of a new switchboard, control room and transformer.

Crews will also upgrade the surrounding distribution network to ensure powerlines and other infrastructure is compatible with the device.

These works will involve some temporary planned power outages to compete work safely. Customers will be notified directly in advance of any planned outages.

“We appreciate any power outages are inconvenient so we take steps to minimise the impact on the community as much as possible,” Mr Bailey said.

“We thank customers for their understanding as we work to further improve the safety of our network.”

The Terang Zone substation supports 6,750 customers within the region, supplied by five feeders and 1,111km of power lines.

Last summer, Powercor had REFCL devices installed in 10 locations and these operated in heightened sensitivity settings on Total Fire Ban days.

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.

Powercor has a dedicated team of engineers, planners and crews working to ensure the devices are installed safely and are operating in line with performance requirements.

Prior to being approved as a compliant substation, testing is observed by the safety regulator, Energy Safe Victoria.

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

The REFCL devices are being rolled out in three phases, with the first phase covering seven zone substations completed by April 2019 including Camperdown in the south-west.

The second phase due for completion by April 2021 includes work on zone substations and networks in Colac, Terang, Ararat, Ballarat, Bendigo and Charlton.

To find out more about how the new devices operate, visit powercor.com.au/REFCL

AUDIO: REFCL technical director Andrew Bailey