By Luke Voogt
The “largest ever” upgrade of Geelong and the Surf Coast’s electricity network has begun in response to the region’s “booming” population growth, according to Powercor.
The energy provider on Tuesday announced it would invest $110 million to build two new zone substations at Gheringhap and Torquay with site preparations beginning this month.
The Torquay substation will supply power to about 20,000 customers in Geelong’s south, taking pressure off the existing Waurn Ponds substation, according to Powercor.
The substation in Gheringhap will provide power for another 10,000 homes and businesses in Geelong’s West, the power provider said.
According to Powercor data, more than 7000 new customers have connected to the network in Geelong and the Surf Coast so far in 2021, the fastest growth in annual connections since at least 2013.
Population forecasts indicate greater Geelong will be home to an extra 124,000 people by 2041, with the Surf Coast’s population to increase by 13,000 by 2036.
“This is about creating extra capacity to cater for the growing population in these areas,” Powercor head of network planning Andrew Dinning said.
“This work will also support new and existing customers alike to connect more solar, battery storage and electric vehicles.”
Powercor will fit the new substations with rapid earth fault current limiters (REFCL) to minimise the risk of bushfires starting from powerlines.
The limiters act as a safety switch, reducing voltage levels within milliseconds if a tree strikes powerlines or powerlines hit the ground.
REFCL devices at Waurn Ponds, Gheringhap and Torquay will protect 1450 kilometres of powerlines supplying 60,000 customers across Geelong’s west, south and the Surf Coast.
The devices are part of the third and final stage of the rollout of the technology across the network in response to recommendations from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
Powercor REFCL program manager Andrew Bailey advised some works for the project, which Powercor describes as a ”once-in-a-generation rewiring”, could require traffic changes and temporary outages.
“This is the single largest investment we’ve ever made in one specific region of the Powercor network,” Mr Bailey said.