Powercor is moving over 15km of powerlines west of Geelong underground, as part of its extensive bushfire mitigation program to maintain electricity infrastructure safety.

The high voltage lines at Paraparap are located in one of the state’s highest risk bushfire areas.

Powercor crews are replacing poles and overhead wires along parts of Grays Road, Flaxbournes Road, Nortons Road Forest Road and Portreath Road.

Works began in July 2020, and are expected to continue through to October.

Powercor Major Projects Manager, Mitchell Droney, said the $3.6 million project would significantly reduce bushfire risk while improving reliability for the community.

“This location is what is known as a Bushfire Construction Area (BCA) and when more than four spans of overhead conductor need to be replaced in a BCA, they must either be placed underground or replaced with a covered conductor,” Mr Droney said.

“By undergrounding these powerlines, we are reducing the risk of bushfires and improving safety for our customers.”

Mr Droney said Powercor was working to minimise disruptions to landowners and local residents in the area as the work takes place.

“People might notice some local traffic changes and some planned power outages so work can take place safely,” Mr Droney said.

“We’ll notify customers well in advance of planned interruptions to their power supply.”

Mr Droney said the works were a significant safety upgrade for local customers.

“We work year round to keep the network safe and this is another example of our bushfire mitigation plan in action.”

The project is part of a suite of preparations Powercor is making on its network ahead of summer.

So far in 2020 in the Geelong and Surf Coast council areas alone, Powercor has cut vegetation back from 3,651 powerline spans, reducing the risk of tree branches coming into contact with high voltage wires.

Other initiatives include extensive asset inspection, maintenance and upgrades and trials of new technology such as high voltage covered conductors.

Powercor is also preparing to install new bushfire devices, called Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCL), into the Geelong and Surf Coast region from 2021.

REFCL devices act like a giant safety switch when trees hit powerlines or when lines hit the ground.

In addition, Powercor is proposing to invest a further $198 million in bushfire management as part of its Regulatory Proposal to the Australian Energy Regulator for the 2021-2026 period.

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