United Energy has successfully trialled a new covered powerline system that replaces bare powerlines to protect them from the effects of extreme weather and improve bushfire safety in Cape Schanck.

The two-year trial was held in partnership with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, as part of a project to research and develop a safer Victorian electricity network.

United Energy Principal Engineer, Distribution, Jim Tsirikis, said the program aimed to introduce new technology solutions that could provide significant fire safety and reliability benefits compared to traditional bare powerlines.

“United Energy is focused on delivering safe and reliable power to our customers and this trial is one way we are working to improve our network,” Mr Tsirikis said.

“Covered powerlines or conductors protect against outages caused by an object, such as tree branches or animals, touching powerlines.

“The technology also reduces the risk of fires starting from electricity assets by eliminating sparks if something does come into contact with the powerline.”

The trial, conducted along a 2km stretch of powerlines, began in 2017 after extensive research to identify the conductors best suited to Victorian weather conditions.

Covered conductors were chosen that were easily retrofitted to existing bare powerlines and could span long distances, making them a cost-effective solution.

“Cape Schanck was chosen as a test site because it is a high bushfire risk area susceptible to strong winds and salt spray – conditions common to our network,” Mr Tsirikis said.

A phase of rigorous system design and testing was crucial to the project’s success, and it has since achieved significant network safety improvements. The focus is now to roll out the covered conductors network-wide.

The covered conductors are part of United Energy’s extensive bushfire mitigation program.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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