Early Fault Detection finds another breaking powerline

electricity networks, powerlines, REFCL, Powercor

A hi-tech Early Fault Detection (EFD) system installed on a 13,000-volt powerline in a high fire danger area at Porcupine Ridge near Daylesford in Victoria has found a broken conductor strand in time for repairs by Powercor’s line crews to prevent the powerline’s fall. 

Dr Alan Wong, CEO of Melbourne-based company IND Technology (IND.T), which develops and sells EFD systems around the world explained: “The EFD system covering the Porcupine Ridge powerline first picked up indications of trouble in mid-April and we confirmed the breakage when we visited the site in mid-May.

“We alerted Powercor, which immediately sent a crew to make the conductor safe, so it couldn’t fall or unravel further to create an electrocution risk from hanging strands of wire. They came back and fully repaired it two days later.” 

Landowner Michael Thorne was very happy the problem had been found and fixed.

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“I often walk through this paddock with the children and we look at the stock and the pasture but never think to look at the powerline above. If that strand had kept unravelling and one of us had walked into it, we could have been killed,” Mr Thorne said.

Mr Thorne is active in the local CFA and is very conscious of the fire risk of fallen powerlines.

“If a fire started under this powerline in the peak of summer it would likely run up the hill to destroy our property and others further along Porcupine Ridge,” he said.

“An afternoon wind change would then likely drive it into the State Forest only a few hundred metres away. The outcome could be very bad.”

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The line had been inspected just a few months earlier and would not have been inspected again until after two more fire seasons. 

Broken conductor strands like this one were implicated in Victoria’s worst-ever powerline fire disaster, the Kilmore East Kinglake fire which killed more than 120 people on Black Saturday.

Mr Wong commented that this is the third powerline at risk of falling that EFD has found in a small-scale Government-funded trial covering less than half a per cent of Victoria’s high fire risk powerlines.

He explained the results of the trial indicated all 30,000km of Victoria’s single-wire powerlines in high fire-risk areas could have EFD monitoring installed for about $30-40 million. 

The trial finished 12 months ago in mid-2019 but IND.T has kept the trial systems running. Both AusNet and Powercor are taking over ownership of the trial systems on their networks and are committed to keep them running as they consider future use of EFD systems.