World-first technology hopes to reduce bushfire risk

World-first technology being trialed in the south-west is showing early signs that it could provide a breakthrough in preventing fires sparked by faulty power lines.

The technology is being tested across the Western District and the state’s north-east. The system is placed on power poles where it can detect faults as they develop.

The Early Fault Detection System has been placed on 61 power poles by Victorian company IND.T in the state government-funded trial.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the government had committed $650,000 to the project.

“We know the devastating impact of bushfires in Victoria – if these positive results continue, this technology could be lifesaving,” she said.

INT.D chairman Tony Marxsen said the technology was a world first.

“The box on the pole is sending data up to the cloud for processing every second and that is combined with data from other boxes up to five kilometres away,” Dr Marxsen said

“Any fault along that path at any time will be signalled so the owner of the network can take action to remedy the fault before it turns into a fire or outage.

“The really good thing is we had a chance to trial it in rural areas where the fire risk was highest, the single wire lines are regarded as the worst type of lines that recorded the most damage at Black Saturday.”

The trial will continue until June next year to gather comprehensive data. 

Powercor general manager electricity networks Steven Neave said having an overhead network in a fire zone meant fires were bound to happen.

“It is our highest priority to mitigate the chance of bushfires and technology like this goes a long way to do that,” Mr Neave said.

“It’s relatively early stages, the trial will go until June, but what we can say is the results have been very promising and it’s worked the way it’s designed to. We’ll let the trial play out and then we’ll look at the deployment across our network.” 

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