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Powercor will deliver a $110 million upgrade to electricity networks in Geelong and Torquay in an effort to improve bushfire safety and accommodate the region’s population growth.

Starting with site preparations this month, Powercor will build two new zone substations at Gheringhap and Torquay.

The Torquay substation will supply power to about 20,000 customers in Geelong’s south, taking pressure off the existing Waurn Ponds zone substation. Gheringhap will provide power for 10,000 homes and businesses in Geelong’s west.

Data from Powercor shows that more than 7,000 new customers have connected to the power network in Geelong and the Surf Coast so far in 2021. This is the fastest growth reported in annual connections since at least 2013.

Powercor Head of Network Planning, Andrew Dinning, said the new zone substations will help to meet customer power requirements in the region for the long term, with forecasts indicating Geelong is expected to grow by another 124,000 people by 2041, and the Surf Coast is expected to add an extra 13,000 residents by 2036.

“This is about creating extra capacity to cater for the growing population in these areas. This work will also support new and existing customers alike to connect more solar, battery storage and electric vehicles,” Mr Dinning said.

“We constantly review and assess the needs of all parts of the network and these works are aimed at meeting the needs for the Geelong region now and into the future.”

The new zone substations, together with an existing zone substation at Waurn Ponds, will all be fitted with Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCLs). 

REFCL is an important safety technology that minimises the risk of fires starting from powerlines.

REFCL devices are installed at zone substations and protect the three-phase 22kV powerlines – the most common type in Victoria – acting as a large safety switch, reducing voltage levels within milliseconds to mitigate the risk of fire if a tree strikes powerlines or lines hit the ground.

The technology has been installed in 17 locations on the Powercor network and has been keeping communities safe over the past three years in some of the highest-risk bushfire areas in Victoria.

REFCL devices at Waurn Ponds, Gheringhap and Torquay will protect 1,450km of powerlines supplying 60,000 customers across Geelong’s west, south and the Surf Coast.

The installations in Geelong are part of the final phase of a program to roll out REFCL technology across the network in response to recommendations from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Powercor REFCL program delivery manager, Andrew Bailey, said customers may notice more trucks and construction crews in the region, while some works may require traffic changes and localised temporary planned outages so crews can complete work safely.

“This is the single largest investment we’ve ever made in one specific region of the Powercor network,” Mr Bailey said.

“This is about making our communities safer and we thank customers for their understanding as we work to further improve the safety of our network.”

The three devices in the Geelong region are part of the third and final stage of the rollout across the Powercor network, which also includes installations at Koroit, Stawell, Hamilton and Merbein.

Work is expected to be complete in 2023.

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