Transgrid completes Snowy Mountain bushfire repairs

Transmission tower with powerlines in the Snowy Mountains
Image: Transgrid

Transgrid has completed bushfire repairs in NSW’s Snowy Mountains using drone technology supplied by Infravision.

Drones were used to assist with restringing transmission lines near Tumut in the Snowy Mountains as part of repairs from the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Transgrid construction delivery manager David Elliot said the bushfires impacted more than 9 per cent of the company’s transmission network in NSW, leading to the largest bushfire repair program Transgrid has ever experienced.

“The damage was extensive. We witnessed damage that we’d never witnessed before across the network. We had conductors melted in the air, we had towers and structures, damaged or completely destroyed,” he said.

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Due to the extent and remote location of some of the damaged transmission infrastructure, an innovative approach to tension line stringing was required to support repairs in the wake of the bushfires.

Transgrid had been supporting Infravision’s drone transmission line stinging solutions since early 2019, focused on reducing risk, cost and environmental impact across various projects.

Utilising Infravision’s fully electric TX Drone Stringing Systems, Transgrid repair teams were able to quickly assess fire damaged 330kV transmission infrastructure in the Snowy Mountains and restring specific fire damaged transmission conductors.

Individual conductors were able to be replaced by using the drones to string in close proximity to existing overhead earth wires/conductors, fly through the centre of transmission towers and tension string above existing vegetation.

Transgrid executive general manager for delivery Craig Stallan said it made the work safer.

“It’s a very challenging environment, with very large cliffs and it’s very dangerous for us to put a bunch of people out there to go and do the repairs. So the drones allowed us to actually take our people away from those hazards and still achieve the outcomes we needed to replace those transmission lines,” Stallan said.

Fostering innovative companies such as Infravision is one way Transgrid is implementing safer, lower cost, more environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions that benefit customers.

Using the new stringing methods delivered significant cost savings, reduced outage windows and the risk to workers in the incredibly challenging terrain and also eliminated the need for a full rebuild of damaged transmission lines.

“The drone technology allowed us to actually focus on certain components of the line because generally if the lines are burnt and damaged to that extent it warrants a full rebuild. So by working with Infravision we were able to focus on specific elements of the line and just restring conductor without having to complete a full rebuild. It was safe, efficient, and takes our people out of harm’s way,” Elliot said.

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Transgrid’s early investment in developing and fostering safe, efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly drone stringing technology is paying dividends for not only Transgrid but the National Electricity Market as a whole.

Infravision CEO Cam Van Der Berg said the technology is now being deployed to support distribution utilities and greenfield transmission projects.

“Infravision has developed a safer, greener, cheaper method of stringing for the industry. And what’s really great about the solution is that it can be deployed with a very low footprint and in very hard-to-reach terrain,” he said.

Transgrid expects drone use will only continue expanding across the energy sector in the future.