Electricity network upgrades for Victoria to improve bushfire safety

Utility tower

An upgrade to electricity networks in Geelong and Torquay to improve bushfire safety and accommodate the region’s population growth will begin site preparations this month. Powercor, a Victorian electricity distribution company, will deliver the upgrades at a cost of $110 million. 

The upgrades will see two new zone substations built, one in Torquay and one in Gheringhap, to help meet greater power demands in the areas. 

The Torquay substation will ease pressure off an existing substation in Waurn Ponds by providing power to 20,000 homes in Geelong’s south. The Gheringhap station will power 10,000 homes in Geelong’s west. 

Powercor said over 7,000 new customers have connected to the power network so far in 2021, the fastest growth since 2013. 

The substations at Torquay and Gheringhap, along with the Waurn Ponds station, will consist of 1,450kms of power lines supplying 60,000 customers across Geelong’s west, south and the Surf Coast. 

Work is expected to be complete in 2023.

Improved fire safety across the network

The two new substations, as well as the existing Waurn ponds station, will be fitted with Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCL) which minimise the risk of fires starting from power lines. 

REFCL devices are installed at zone substations and protect three-phase 22kV power lines, which are the most common type in Victoria. The devices act as a large safety switch, reducing voltage levels in milliseconds to mitigate the risk of fire caused by a tree striking the power lines or lines hitting the ground. 

The installations are part of a response to recommendations from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. 

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