Delays proved to be a blessing in disguise as they saved a multimillion dollar project from washing away during Queensland’s devastating 2011 floods.

Energex was in the process of three major multi-staged projects worth $25 million to upgrade the power supply and benefit more than 10,000 homes across the Lockyer Valley in South East Queensland. A combination of glitches, however, pushed out the original timelines for the long-awaited upgrades.

Planners had to go back to the drawing board when they could not get past the first hurdle of land access for part of their 33kV overhead powerline corridor. After coming up with an alternate route for the lines, nearby Grantham was decimated by a massive wall of water.

While most of Queensland was severely affected in the 2011 floods, the Lockyer Valley in the south-east was one of the areas hardest hit, with 17 deaths recorded and hundreds left homeless after their homes were wiped out.

Some of the crucial areas to connect were Lockrose, Tarampa, Lowood and Fernvale. The upgrade would ensure its future power security in times of extreme temperatures or severe storms through three substation upgrades and new powerlines.

However, one of the key infrastructure areas had been submerged.  Designers once again went back to the drawing board.

Energex Senior Project Manager Leslie Yeow said the prior hold-up over land access was a blessing in disguise as the company had not started construction.

“We had planned to cross the Brisbane River twice in the vicinity of Lowood Substation with 33kV overhead powerlines to connect the Lowood Substation to the future Fernvale 33/11kV Substation, but we had to rethink our design as Wivenhoe Pocket was taken out,” Mr Yeow said.

Energex chose an alternate route, part of which included the historic Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. The Trail was a disused rail line that proved to be a popular local recreational tourist attraction since its transformation upon closure of the line in 1989. Energex had to adapt its alternate route to minimise disruption to the Trail’s visual aspects and the physical route itself.

The upgrade progressed until designers found that along one side of the trail ran sewage pipes, impacting on the digging that was required to erect power poles. In addition, some of the drainage culverts along the trail were not designed to bear the weight of the trucks required in the construction.

Once again designers went back to the drawing board, devising more solutions to achieve the vital upgrade through detailed design to ensure the project was delivered.

In all, across the regional community, more than 30km of new 33,000 volt powerlines were installed and will operate in conjunction with substations upgraded in Lowood, Tarampa and Lockrose.

At the same time, across the other side of the Lockyer Valley, Energex was also working on the $12.3 million Glenore Grove substation and powerline upgrade to bolster power to more than 6,000 homes.

“The Glenore Grove substation upgrade saw equipment that had served the community for more than 50 years replaced with the most up-to-date electrical infrastructure,” Mr Yeow said.

“The substation improvements also allowed Energex to directly connect it to Laidley substation via a new powerline which, in most cases, will allow our crews to get the lights on faster after storm damage because they’ll be able to divert power between both facilities.”

By the end of 2013, the Lockyer Valley, after being devastated by floods just two years before, has newly upgraded substations and new powerlines to bolster the power supply of more than 10,000 homes.

Michelle is a freelance journalist and editor who, as well as covering all the latest and breaking industry news, is a gun proofreader and editor who never misses a trick.

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