Early fault detection technology developed at RMIT is helping utility providers across Victoria reduce the high number of bushfires caused by powerline sparks.
Reducing power faults to cut bushfire risk
A first in the utilities services industry, the award-winning technology provides continuous monitoring and analysis of power lines, providing asset owners with real time diagnostic alerts via text message.
Created by RMIT researchers in collaboration with IND Technology, the Early Fault Detection (EFD) service has been implemented by three major Victorian power utilities providers and a metro train network in Asia.
A 2017 report by the Climate Council listed Melbourne’s rural-urban fringe as among the most vulnerable in the world to bushfires. As the city’s population continues to grow, it encroaches into surrounding bushland, increasing risk to life and property from bushfires.
State-wide, Victoria has sustained around half of the Australian annual economic cost of bushfires, approximately $180 million, despite comprising only 3% of the continent.
Associate Professor Alan Wong from RMIT’s School of Engineering is an expert in partial discharge and fault detection on aging infrastructure. He is also the founder and managing director of IND Technology and lead researcher on the project.
Awarded the PACE Zenith “Best Network Implementation” Award, as well as the Victoria’s Fire Awareness Award for “Innovation and Design”, Wong said the system is unlike anything else in the market due to the patented sensing method and data processing algorithm behind it.
“An incipient fault is simply a fault that is going to happen through deterioration but hasn’t occurred yet. Faults like this can now be detected in time for preventative action to be taken, significantly improving the reliability and safety of power supply,” he said.
Alerts are sent to asset owners to warn of early signs of defects including vegetation proximity, pole top fires and smouldering on wooden poles, surface pollution on insulators, insulation defects in underground cables and SWER networks.
With a projected 500% return on investment on the cost of roll out, the EDF system is designed to provide affordable, remote monitoring capability, enabling utilities providers to reduce the risk of fire causing faults across the state.