Western Power has completed a project to move 6.5km of powerlines underground, as part of restoration efforts following the January 2016 bushfire in Waroona, Western Australia.

More than 300 Western Power employees worked on rebuilding the network after the fire destroyed almost 950 poles and approximately 50km of powerlines.

Western Power’s Asset Operations Executive Manager, Dave Fyfe, said the Waroona bushfire restoration was a massive task that tested Western Power’s crews and challenged them to come up with innovative solutions including the new underground line.

“Our crews and engineers have carried out the rebuild with an eye on finding the most efficient and affordable ways to rebuild the network that will best suit our customers’ needs,” Mr Fyfe said.

“Undergrounding power between Forrest Highway to the outskirts of Preston Beach will help add another layer of reliability to the power supply for the community and help protect their supply from any future fire events.”

The total cost of the underground cable project was $1.4million and the line follows a similar path to the former overground network, except where soil conditions required contractors to tunnel underneath the road.

Mr Fyfe said that after initial preparation works the undergrounding of the line took two weeks to complete and utilised the latest in tunnelling technology.

During construction, Western Power placed three emergency generators in the town to provide electricity supply.

The safe energisation of the cable in February 2016 allowed Preston Beach customers to return to network for the first time since the bushfire damaged the network on 7 January.

Mr Fyfe said Western Power would continue to work with the Yarloop community to help families and businesses rebuild and reconnect to the network when the time is right for them.

As part of this commitment Western Power has waived fees that would usually accompany a standard reconnection.

The total cost of damage to parts of the South West electricity network caused by the devastating bushfire has been estimated at up to $26million.

Jessica Dickers is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator who is currently the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Infrastructure. With a strong writing background, Jessica has experience in journalism, editing, print production, content marketing, event program creation, PR and editorial management. Her favourite part of her role as editor is collaborating with the sector to put together the best industry-leading content for the audience.

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