A feature of the $25 million works at the Wonthaggi Sub-station is the installation of the Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) Program designed to reduce bushfires and outages from the system locally. m030418

THERE’s a power of work going on at AusNet’s Wonthaggi electricity substation with earth moving equipment, cherry-pickers and other construction equipment engaged and a significant number of contractors and AusNet staff members on site.
It’s all about a major investment in upgrading the facility, reducing the bushfire risk and cutting back on the impact of unavoidable outages.
A spokesperson for AusNet Services explained:
“We are working on a $25 million project in the Wonthaggi area.
“It involves a major upgrade and refurbishment of existing infrastructure at the Wonthaggi Sub-station.
“Notably it involves the installation of the Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) Program and significant work on the 22kV line.
“The benefit for the community is the upgrade and refurbishment of AusNet Service’s assets in the area, securing supply to the area for the next 40 years.
“AusNet Services is installing this leading-edge technology across its electricity network to reduce the risk of powerline-related bushfires.
“The technology, known as REFCL will be installed in selected high bushfire risk areas over the next seven years (Lang Lang, Wonthaggi, Moe, Sale and Bairnsdale are among the areas in Gippsland to get the upgrades).”
It is estimated that REFCLs could cut powerline fires in Victoria by about 50 per cent, according to the Victorian Government’s Powerline Bushfire Safety Taskforce.
This initiative is mandated by the Victorian Government and is part of a broader Powerline Bushfire Safety Program aimed at improving safety across Victoria’s power network.
Other work aimed at reducing the number of fires started by electricity assets includes:
* Undergrounding of powerlines in very high-fire risk areas;
* More frequent inspections and maintenance; and
* Intensified vegetation management and clearing programs.
AusNet Services will install REFCLs over the next seven years in 22 locations in outer Melbourne and across northern and eastern Victoria.
A Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) is a type of electricity network protection device that operates similar to a safety switch on AusNet Services’ electricity distribution network.
It was originally developed for its reliability benefits in Europe. In Victoria, however, it will be used to help reduce the risk of bushfires.
An earth fault occurs when a connection is made between a powerline and the ground. This could occur as a result of a fallen powerline, a tree falling against a powerline or wildlife touching the pole and powerline at the same time.
When a fault occurs, a REFCL detects and significantly limits the energy flow within a tenth of a second. This reduces the possibility of a fire being started, or of a person or animal nearby receiving an electric shock.
If the fault is able to fix itself quickly (for example a tree branch that had touched the power line then falls away), customers will not be affected. Currently, without a REFCL, these faults can cause power to turn off for several minutes, lead to fires or even property damage. If the fault remains (for example a tree has fallen on a line or a car has hit a powerpole) then all power will be cut around the fault area.”
AusNet Services expects the work in Wonthaggi to be completed by March 2019.