Underground power a reality for the Pilbara

Karratha-team
Left to right: Karratha Mayor Peter Long, Horizon Power general manager NWIS business Ziggy Wilk and Minister for Energy Dr Mike Nahan

All overhead powerlines and related infrastructure in the West Australian towns of Karratha, Roebourne and Onslow will be moved underground, improving the safety and reliability of power supplies in the Pilbara.

The works, which will affect about 2500 lots in total, include replacement and undergrounding of low- and high-voltage infrastructure, including new cabling, transformers, switchgear, streetlights, property connections and meter board upgrades. The project will also increase electrical capacity of the Karratha network from 11kV to 22kV, accommodating demand of future growth.

Regional Development Minister Terry Redman and Energy Minister Mike Nahan have announced an additional $75 million in funding from Royalties for Regions for phase two of the Pilbara Underground Power Project (PUPP) – a partnership between the state government and local government authorities, delivered by Horizon Power.

Royalties for Regions contributed $100 million in funding to the first phase of the project, which was completed in December 2013 at a cost of $130 million. The first phase resulted in the complete undergrounding of electrical infrastructure in South Hedland, Wedgefield and about 60 per cent of properties in Karratha.

Mr Redman said the first phase of the project had greatly improved the amenity of the community’s streetscapes and resulted in safer and more reliable power in the Pilbara.

“This project is an example of how Royalties for Regions is transforming regional Western Australia and reflects the state government’s continued commitment to regional economic development,” he said.

Dr Nahan said underground networks experienced fewer outages during cyclones, eliminated dangers associated with fallen powerlines and improved the aesthetic appeal of towns.

“Pilbara residents may well be used to cyclones and while undergrounding will not completely prevent any power outages during severe weather, it will greatly reduce the number of residents and businesses who lose power during cyclones,” he said.

“The benefit of the project has been apparent over the past two cyclone seasons. When Cyclone Christine hit the Pilbara coast in December 2013, 7000 customers lost power with the worst affected areas being Karratha, Point Samson and Roebourne. In Port Hedland, where power had been moved underground, only 100 customers lost power due to a remaining overhead component of the network being damaged.”

Work for phase two will begin in Bulgarra and Karratha’s Light Industrial Area within the next 12 months.