Bendigo outage planned for bushfire safety device install

Work to install new bushfire mitigation devices in the Bendigo region is well underway, with Powercor continuing upgrades to the local network required to support the new technology.

Powercor has begun the installation of the Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter devices (REFCLs) at the Bendigo Zone Substation and at the Bendigo Terminal Station.

The device operates in a similar way 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, this Sunday Powercor crews will be conducting upgrades, including replacing lightning surge arrestors, which will require power to be switched off to 851 customers in the Golden Triangle commercial and industrial area and parts of Golden Square, Golden Gully and Quarry Hill.

The outage will occur between 9am and 4pm.

Powercor has notified impacted customers directly about the outages.

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Powercor REFCL Technical Director Andrew Bailey said Powercor had taken steps to minimise the outages and the impact on the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are making these essential changes to our network so we can safely incorporate these devices into the region and reduce the risk of fires starting from electricity assets,” Mr Bailey said.

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

Further planned outages will also occur over the next few months in different areas in Bendigo as the installation continues. Powercor will aim to provide more than four business days’ notice of any works or maintenance requiring localised power outages to help customers prepare.

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Once installation is completed, there will be three REFCLs installed in the Bendigo area, with the REFCL at Eaglehawk zone substation commissioned in December 2018. REFCLs are also installed in Castlemaine, Maryborough and Charlton.

During the 2019-2020 summer, Powercor had REFCLs at 10 Zone Substations in service and operating at heightened sensitivity settings on total fire ban days.

On November 21, 2019, which was Victoria’s first code-red declared Total Fire Ban day (in Mallee and Northern Country) since Black Saturday, REFCLs detected and activated for six permanent faults and eight other faults. Between October and the end of January, there were 17 total fire ban days in western Victoria. On these days, REFCLs activated 13 times for permanent faults, 22 other and 75 temporary faults.

“REFCLs are keeping communities safer. They are providing our communities added protection and are improving the safety of our networks,” Mr Bailey said.

The Bendigo REFCLs will be in operation by April 2021.