Testing continues for Ballarat substation safety devices


Testing of a new bushfire mitigation device being installed in Ballarat will continue this week as part of electricity distributor Powercor’s program to further improve the safety of the network.

Powercor is installing Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter devices (REFCLs) at the Ballarat North and Ballarat South zone substations. The devices operate in a similar way to a large safety switch on the network and are 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 work to install the device in Ballarat North, Powercor crews will be conducting testing around between 1am and 6am from April 21 to 23. Similar testing will also occur overnight on May 4 to 6.

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Powercor REFCL technical director Andrew Bailey said the REFCL rollout was one of the most technically complex changes the electricity industry had seen in more than 30 years.

“The testing validates the replacement work that we have already conducted and identifies whether other upgrades or changes need to be made to the local network to support the safety device,” Mr Bailey said.

There are no outages planned during this work, however testing can occasionally cause unplanned outages.

“In the unlikely event of an outage, we have crews ready to respond as quickly and as safely as possible to get power back on to homes and businesses,” Mr Bailey said.

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On November 21, 2019, which was Victoria’s first code-red declared Total Fire Ban day since Black Saturday, REFCLs detected and activated for six permanent faults and 32 temporary 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 and 75 temporary faults.

“REFCLs are keeping communities safer,” Mr Bailey said.

“They are providing our communities added protection and are improving the safety of our networks.”

Ballarat’s REFCLs will both be in operation by April 2021.

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