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Continuously upgrading electricity infrastructure is vital to maintaining an effective and secure power supply. Switchgear is a significant aspect of this infrastructure, helping to streamline equipment from overload and preventing damage to electrical circuits. Here, we take a look at a few sites around the country where electrical infrastructure and switchgear is currently being upgraded.

The growing investment in renewable energy projects and increased demand for safe and secure electrical distribution systems are expected to result in the switchgear worldwide market growing to $150 billion by 20291.

Queensland is currently undergoing a massive upgrade of its electrical infrastructure with the State Government investing $2.2 billion to ensure the network.

As Queensland Energy Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, said, “A safe, reliable, affordable energy supply underpins economic growth, jobs and business opportunities”.

SunCoast – the multi-million dollar project

As the Sunshine Coast grows and expands in population, so does the demand for secure and reliable energy. State owned energy company, Energex, is currently implementing its $106.7 million development of a new dual-circuit 132kV power line on the Sunshine Coast between Palmwoods and West Maroochydore – the SunCoast project.

The SunCoast project was originally approved in 2011, and then relaunched in 2017 when then State Energy Minister, Mark Bailey, announced that the work would form an important foundation for the area’s expansion.

The project has been altered to fit the immediate needs of the community and Engex decided not to proceed with the Pacific Paradise leg of the upgrade.

Currently, civil construction is well underway on various sections of the 17km electricity easement.

Energex has completed an assessment of environmental impacts and will deliver environmental offsets in accordance with commitments made to the community within the Project Environmental Impact Statement at the time of Project Designation.

Almost 70 per cent of necessary vegetation removal has been completed with revegetation taking place along watercourse embankments where required to ensure creek bank stability.

Energy Queensland’s Head of Corporate Strategy and Executive General Manager for Asset Safety and Performance, Peter Price, said that the project was being built to keep up with the significant investment, development and rapid growth planned for the Sunshine Coast.

“Energex’s SunCoast project is crucial for the future safety and reliability of electricity supply in this whole region.”

Mackay power boost

Established in 1967, the Tennyson Street Zone Substation is a 50-year old substation supplying electricity to the Mackay CBD and eastern suburbs.

Ergon Energy will upgrade the current assets which are facing operational capacity constraints due to the economic growth of the area and aging equipment.

The $28 million Tennyson Street Substation Upgrade Project will replace the existing zone substation equipment with two new transformers, operating switchgear, and new powerline cables exiting the substation.

The project aims to replace the aging assets which have been difficult to substitute in previous planned works. The switch to the new substation needs to be executed quickly, safely, and result in minimal disruption to customers.

The new modular indoor HV switch rooms will be installed on Ergon Energy land adjacent to the substation.

Local contractor NF Corbett was awarded the contract for the project’s civil construction works. NF Corbett previously worked on the Cairns North Substation and Calliope River Substation.

Ergon expects that the investment will benefit around 4660 premises in central and eastern Mackay and support future economic growth, as well as providing the city with new options for restoring power during unplanned outages.

When planning a major project, Ergon Energy Area Manager, Dan Werthenbach, said that it is important to prioritise the community’s needs.

“We have made the community’s needs a priority to ensure the least possible disruption to businesses and residents during the construction phase.”

The project is expected to be completed in October 2020.

Re-energising Townsville

In February 2019, Townsville suffered a devastating flood which led to over 17,000 homes cut off from electricity.

The floodwaters not only severely damaged major components of the city’s power network, they filled vital electrical equipment in affected suburbs with mud and silt, all of which needed to be spotlessly cleaned before they could be safely re-energised.

Ergon Energy, supported by Energex, immediately set to work cleaning up the disaster aftermath and restoring Townsville’s energy.

The major restoration project involved the assessment, cleaning and repairing of the inundated substations, nearly 1700 pillar boxes and around 180 padmount transformers and high voltage switchgear.

Crews were also required to replace two damaged padmount transformers, two switching stations and four poles.

Ergon’s Executive General Manager for Distribution, Paul Jordon, praised the resilience, understanding and support from the Townsville community.

“For our crews, the restoration effort was dirty, muddy and, in many cases extremely challenging.

“I personally want to say a big thanks to every one of our local staff and those who have travelled from every corner of the state to get the job done.

“I also sincerely thank the community for welcoming our staff and remaining patient while they worked around the clock to reconnect their properties.”

Powerlink completed a $9 million project replacing two 40-year-old transformers at Garbutt station in Townsville in September.

The project, which began in 2018, was necessary to secure the power supply for the region and help to manage demand in the circumstance of natural disasters such as the February floods.

The future of the electrical infrastructure

To help guarantee the functionality of the upgraded assets, staff need to be adequately trained. Energex and Ergon partnered to launch a training centre which provides technical training, ensuring the reliability of their distribution networks.

Esitrain enables external companies to sign up to 70 training courses across seven locations, which will qualify workers to work on the State’s 212,000km long network.

The courses offer training in areas such as high voltage live line and overhead, underground cable joining and high voltage switching.

As the current electrical infrastructure continues to age and the demand for power grows, Australia will need to invest in upgrading its switchgear to secure its supply and keep the lights on.

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