A VICTORIAN power line fault detection trial could help communities avoid a repeat of electrical fires like Horsham’s Remlaw Fire in 2009.
The state government has funded a Melbourne-based company IND Technology to trial its Early Fault Detection system on the state’s electricity network.
The system, aimed at stopping power lines sparking bushfires, can discover faults that current systems find difficult to detect.
This week, the government announced the trial – which has reached its halfway point and has a year left to run – had detected a fault on a network at Ross Creek near Ballarat.
The government said this fault – where there was a broken strand on the line – was the same type of failure that sparked the Kilmore East fire during the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. A power pole in Remlaw Road, Horsham, sparked a fire during the same period.
The fire burnt more than 2300 hectares and 13 houses on the outskirts of the city, and led to a class action against Powercor.
Country Fire Authority District 17 operations manager Craig Brittain welcomed the trial and its potential to help the region.
“Any increases in technology that can mitigate or prevent any fire – whether bushfire or fire in the home – is a positive step and something we would encourage and support,” he said.
If these positive results continue, this technology could be lifesaving.Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio
“This is a positive initiative by the government to bring this in. We would welcome any new initiative that could prevent or mitigate the risk of fire in the Wimmera.”
The Early Fault Detection system comprises 61 devices along two 80-kilometre Single Wire Earth Return networks in the state’s west and north-east.
Victoria has about 30,000 kilometres of SWER lines.
Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said many of the bushfires that occurred on Black Saturday came from faults on single-wire lines.
“Importantly, there was an event in May this year where two faults were detected, which gave early warning signals to Powercor that there were faults in the line,” she said.
“If these positive results continue, this technology could be lifesaving.”
The outcome of the trial – part of the government’s $750-million Powerline Bushfire Safety Program – will dictate whether the system will be marketed.
IND Technology chairman Tony Marxsen said the system was a world-first.
“The box on the pole is sending data up to the cloud for processing every second, and that is combined with data from other boxes up to five kilometres away,” he said
“Any fault along that path at any time will be signalled so the owner of the network can take action to remedy the fault before it turns into a fire or outage.
“The really good thing is we had a chance to trial it in rural areas where the fire risk was highest. The single-wire lines are regarded as the worst type of lines that recorded the most damage at Black Saturday.”
Powercor electricity networks general manager Steven Neave said having an overhead network in a fire zone meant fires were bound to happen.
“It is our highest priority to mitigate the chance of bushfires, and technology like this goes a long way to do that,” he said.
“We’ll let the trial play out and then we’ll look at the deployment across our network.”