Powerline Bushfire Safety Program - Research and Development Grant

The next round of research and development funding opened on Monday 10 August 2020.

There is $2 million allocated to round 2 of the Powerline Bushfire Safety Program (PBSP) Research and Development grant program to support emerging powerline safety technologies and systems with the potential to reduce powerline bushfire ignition.

The objective will focus on the identification and deployment of next generation technologies and systems to further enhance the risk reduction outcomes of PBSP.  In line with the Grimes Review recommendation 29, preference was given to proposals jointly managed with distribution businesses, include input from universities, and at least match government funding (dollar for dollar).

powerline within forest

Applications

PBSP R&D-II applications closed on Monday 5 October 2020. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of November 2020.

Links:

  • Guidelines
  • FAQs - updated with four additional questions as of 4 September 2020

Any queries can be emailed to safer.powerlines@delwp.vic.gov.au

Research and development programs

The Powerline Bushfire Safety Program (PBSP) invested $10 million to support the testing and development of new powerline bushfire protection technology and fault detection capabilities. It did this in partnership with Victoria’s electricity distribution businesses.

The aim of the following R&D projects was to foster commercial development of new or enhanced products to further technology that prevents bushfires occurring from powerlines. These are:

Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) 2014 - 2016

During 2014-2015, the Victorian Government undertook a program which conclusively demonstrated the capabilities of a range of fully optimised REFCL technologies. Research confirmed the use of REFCLs reduce bushfire risk as a result of powerline faults or breakages.

This research at Kilmore South was conducted in partnership with Victorian electricity distributors, confirming and refining the findings of the 2014 Frankston South REFCL trials.

More information on this research can be found in the Network Assets Program.

Vegetation Conduction Ignition Testing 2015

In 2015, the Victorian Government undertook research on over 20 vegetation species (native and non-native) to determine their fault signature and how easily they started a fire from electricity conduction in the Victorian environment.

Powerline faults can start in a variety of ways. The least known and most challenging ignition process is ignition through conduction of high voltage electricity through vegetation.

This world-first research into fault signature detection technology, provides a legacy of information for:

  • Identifying which plant species are found around or under powerlines in Victoria, and are the most and least likely to start a fire through the conduction of electricity; and
  • Delivering a reference database of related fault signatures to drive the development of fault detection technology.

Findings from this research is publicly available, to foster further:

  • research
  • innovative solutions; and
  • business enterprise

to improve detection equipment and technologies to prevent bushfires from powerlines.  The Vegetation Conduction Ignition Report provides further information.

The full authorised data set including 300GB of photos, videos, test logs and report, is available on the DataVic website.

Covered Conductor Grant Program 2016 - 2017

In April 2016, PBSP opened a grant program for business and research institutes to develop an innovative technology to reduce the risk of bushfires from powerlines.

Bendigo engineering firm, Groundline Australia, was awarded a grant to develop a safer and lower cost conductor solution to replace bare-wire powerlines to reduce the risk of bushfires starting from powerlines. Its final report, Covered Conductor Research and Development Project, was published in September 2017.

image of powerline

Early Fault Detection (EFD) System Trial 2017 - 2019

The PBSP approved a grant program in December 2016 designed to learn more about powerline fault detection technology on the SWER network. The project involved putting hardware devices on the network to report back to Victorian electricity distribution businesses when a fault was detected.

Two trials took place on the electricity network in the north and west of Victoria. Half-way through the trial, two hard-to-detect faults were identified by the Early Fault Detection (EFD) system. Further trials validated making powerlines safer an reduce bushfire risk. The findings in the final report show the ability to bring this EFD system to market.

Vegetation Detection Challenge 2017

The objective of the 2017 Vegetation Detection Challenge competition was for participants to develop an algorithm and concept identifying what particular plant species was likely to cause a fault when touching a 22 kilovolt SWER powerlines.

The Vegetation Detection Challenge focused on three particular plant species:

  • Salix Species (Willow) – high fire probability
  • Franxinus Angustifolia (Desert Ash) – medium fire probability
  • Schinus Molle (Peppercorn) – low fire probability

A consolidation of the fault signature data for the above three species is available on the DataVic website – Vegetation Detection Challenge data

From a shortlist of four scientific teams, the winner of the Challenge was announced on 1 December 2017 to Melbourne-based mechanical engineering and computer science team, Yidan Shang and Nan Li.

  • Learn more about the short-listed concepts by each team in this video.

Broken Single Wire Fault Return (SWER) Conductor Detection Research Project 2018 - 2019

The PBSP approved a grant in April 2018 for the development of a protection device to detect a break in a Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) overhead conductor. It had to send a trip command to de-energise the circuit before the conductor hit the ground.

The objectives of the grant were to:

  • Develop a prototype to ascertain whether the device is capable of detecting a break in a SWER overhead conductor; and
  • Speed up the development of a potentially cost-effective project that may be commercialised and used on the Victorian network.

This project was a collaborative effort between United Energy, Victoria University and DELWP. Simulations and testing undertaken in the laboratory utilising a prototype protection system demonstrated that it could potentially perform well on a real SWER network.

Further development is now required to install the prototype protection system on a real SWER network in order to monitor and improve upon the design.

Page last updated: 08/10/20