Powercor calls in helicopters for high-wire act

Powercor helicopter in air restringing powerlines (helicopters)
Image: Powercor

Electricity distributor Powercor is using helicopters to fit new powerlines above the Otways to upgrade the network in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Victoria.
 
Powercor lineworkers called in the helicopters to assist with the reconductoring job, as steep slopes, plunging valleys and heavy vegetation make the job using vehicles and ground-based crews near impossible.
 
Powercor project manager Brendan Doyle said the specialist role of helicopters for the work was rare for Victorian electricity distribution networks but is commonly used overseas in remote and mountainous terrain and on the higher and larger electricity transmission lines.

Related article: Powercor begins major pole replacement program
 
He said a large crew would also support from the ground, helping to upgrade approximately 6km of line between Lavers Hill and Yuulong.
 
“The Otways region has some of the longest powerline spans in our entire network,” Doyle said.
 
“We decided to bring in the helicopter to not only make it easier and safer for our crews, but also to minimise the impact on our customers and the environment during this work.”
 
“If we had conducted this purely from the ground, the work would have taken a lot longer, had a greater impact on the environment and resulted in longer outages for the customers.”
 
About 95 customers in the Lavers Hill, Yuulong and Johanna area were impacted by planned outages as part of the work to help crews conduct the upgrades safely.
 
“Our ongoing year-round reconducting program works to upgrade sections of powerline like this will support customers by creating a safer, more reliable power supply for those in the south western parts of the Otways,” Doyle said.
 
Helicopter works have taken place over four days, including helping fit new powerlines to a small section of the network near Geelong.

Related article: Powercor gets head start on vegetation inspection
 
Work crews are on schedule with all network inspection, maintenance and testing requirements ahead of the annual bushfire season.

A $503 million extensive program of works throughout 2021, including through Victoria’s COVID restrictions, has helped ensure the CitiPower and Powercor networks are as prepared as possible for the coming summer.

Powercor manages its network of almost 90,000km of powerline and 588,000 poles through a rigorous inspection and maintenance program, on top of a network-wide vegetation management program clearing trees and shrubs well away from powerlines.