Western Power is readying the network for the upcoming bushfire season by implementing a range of measures to minimise fire risk and associated impacts.
The ongoing impacts of climate change and increase in extreme weather events along with Bureau of Meteorology forecasting extreme high temperatures for summer this year means the business is doing things differently to manage bushfire risk across the network.
Executive Manager of Asset Management Gair Landsborough said in addition to Western Power’s annual maintenance program, the organisation had invested $158 million in pole and conductor maintenance and replacement, and vegetation management in preparation for summer conditions.
“As part of this, we’ve inspected more than 148,000 poles in high and extreme fire risk areas, significantly increased our vegetation management program and are replacing more than 5,000 insulators,” Mr Landsborough said.
“We’ve enhanced our bushfire mitigation strategy to include a mix of smart network settings, proactive management of poles and wires in high and extreme bushfire zones and how we operate in response to fire restrictions.”
“The safety of our crews and the community underpins everything we do, and we’ve worked closely with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to make sure we have workable and effective exemptions in place to safely restore power on days where Total Fire Bans are in place.”
Mr Landsborough said that as part of a national approach, Western Power had aligned with the new Australian Fire Danger Ratings System to ensure its assets in extreme and high bushfire risk areas are managed safely. This involves altering our network settings to minimise the risk of network infrastructure causing a spark.
“This extra layer of safety means that during summer the devices that we normally use to automatically restore power quickly when there is a fault are modified to make them more sensitive. As a result we may need to inspect power lines before automatically restoring which can result in longer outage times for customers,” he said.
“We understand that safety is critical to the community and we’re working hard to better manage the network during the bushfire season.
“We’re also continuing to improve our ability to predict periods of risk where weather may affect the network by using our pole top fire modelling research and smart technologies.
“Many of our rural distribution feeders are over 100km long and pass-through different grades of bushfire risk areas, often in challenging terrains which are difficult to access.
“We have alternative options and strategies that can sometimes be used while safety restrictions are in place including the use of helicopters and drones to inspect areas that are inaccessible.”
The combination of extreme heat and dry conditions across vast areas mean that we need the communities support to reduce the risk of bushfires and we please ask people to:
- Keep trees away from powerlines on their properties and learning the clearance zones for a safe minimum distance.
- If you see a fallen or damaged powerline or an emergency situation affecting the electricity network, stay clear and make the safe call on 13 13 51.
- If you see a spark or fire in vegetation, no matter how small, call 000 immediately.
For more information visit our bushfire safety page.