“In the chopper, we’re communicating the whole time about the electricity lines and the space that surrounds them. We sweep our eyes side to side through the nearby vegetation, then up each tower structure, checking the condition of the earthing and insulation in particular.”
Meet Brenden Secombe, one of a team of specialists selected to patrol our network by helicopter ahead of bushfire season to identify maintenance that will minimise bushfire risk.
The patrols are vital to the safety of communities nearby lines, and for the safe and continual supply of electricity across the State.
The teams in the chopper are in the air for approximately eight hours a day, fly over a transmission tower every two minutes, and travel at up to 40 knots an hour.
View from the top (L to R): Patrolling the lines; recording potential risks; boarding the chopper; vegetation near a transmission line.
On a transmission network that spans 13,000 kilometres, it’s vital to record all potential hazards quickly and accurately.
There’s a pilot and two people to check the transmission line and surrounding area. One checks for vegetation that’s growing too close to the line, and the other checks for maintenance that’s needed on the line.
Also flying the lines is Andrew Brice, who brings over 30 years of industry experience, including emergency repairs by helicopter.
“If we see something than needs urgent repair, we report it immediately. For the most part, we record location, proximity to the transmission line, and exactly what the issue is,” says Andrew.
“From the air, we see the lines end-to-end, and can get up close to things we simply can’t see from the ground,” says Brenden.
This information is passed to teams who carry out the maintenance work. The patrols and resulting maintenance work are vital to minimising risk on the lines and surrounding areas ahead of summer. Hot summer days are typically when bushfire risk is highest, and also when the network is under pressure to supply the most electricity.
“There are a few hard yards involved, but it’s a good feeling to know that we play a part in keeping the network in good working order. At the end of the day, it all comes back to keeping people safe,” says Andrew.
2018 aerial patrol dates and locations
We can all help to keep our transmission network safe. If you see a potential hazard on the TransGrid network, call 1800 027 253 to explain the location and nature of the risk.
If you see a low-flying helicopter moving along the electricity transmission lines, you've likely spotted a chopper on an aerial maintenance check. Each year, helicopters patrol almost 13 000 km of transmission lines and infrastructure that make up TransGrid's network. Teams aboard the choppers look for infrastructure that needs to be repaired, or trees and shrubs in easements that could pose danger in a fire or storm.
2018 aerial patrol dates
In 2018, aerial maintenance patrols are occuring between April and August in the following areas and their surrounds.
30 April – 4 May
Northern: Tamworth, Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Boambee South, Raleigh, Nambucca, Macksville, Kempsey, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, Lismore, Koolkhan. |
7 May – 11 May
Northern: Tamworth, Narrabri, Armidale, Glen Innes, Texas, Inverell, Moree, Boggabri, Gunnedah.|
Central: Orange, Molong, Wellington, Wollar, Mudgee, Mt Piper, Mt Lambie, Beryl, Parkes, Forbes, Manildra, Wallerawang, Panorama.
25 June – 29 June
Southern: Wagga Wagga, Uranquinty, Finley, Deniliquin, Coleambally, Darlington Point, Balranald, Buronga, Redcliff’s, Broken Hill, Griffith, Yanco.|
2 – 6 July
Southern: Wagga Wagga, Yanco, Darlington Point, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Talbingo Blowering Dam, Tumut, Gadara, Jindera, Dederang, Yass, Marulan, Bannaby, Porters Retreat, Uranquinty.|
9 – 12 July
Southern: Yass, Tumut, Burrinjuck, Canberra, Murrumburrah, Wagga Wagga, Gullen Range, Bannaby, Kangaroo Valley, Capital Wind Farm. |
16 – 20 July
Metro: Ingleburn, Wallerawang, Regentville, Kemps Creek, Bannaby, Marulan, Avon, Macarthur, Dapto, Kangaroo Valley.
Northern: Stroud, Newcastle, Tuggerah, Munmorah, Vales Point, Newcastle, Tamworth, Muswellbrook.
30 July - 2 August
Aerial patrols form part of a comprehensive, year-round asset inspection and maintenance program.
(Planned patrol locations may change due to weather conditions or scheduling considerations.)
Patrols reduce risk in the event of a bushfire or storm
Maintenance patrols are vital for the safety of communities nearby easements, and for the safe and continual supply of electricity across the State.
You likely know that scrub can burn quickly and with devastating impact on a hot, dry day. You may be surprised to learn that a 10 metre tall tree can have a flame height of more than 30 metres in a bushfire. It’s vital that clearance zones are observed in transmission easements.
Have questions about patrols in your area?
Call TransGrid toll-free on 1800 222 537.
Seventy-five per cent of jobs in the future will require STEM skills, yet women currently occupy just 16 per cent of STEM jobs, according to a report from Australia’s Chief Scientist.
Australia is faced with not only the challenge of more equal gender representation in STEM, but with skilling young people for the future employment market.It makes financial sense: women represent half of the global population, so their participation in their workplace is vital to national productivity and economic growth.
Rebecca El-Khoury, TransGrid Regulatory Analyst, has qualifications in actuarial studies, applied finance, and economics; and an enthusiasm for inspiring young women to pursue STEM careers.
Rebecca recently spent four days mentoring a group of high-achieving female students at the 2018 University of Wollongong Women in STEM camp. The camp connects 15 and 16 year old students with professionals in STEM industries to help them better understand career pathways.
One of the greatest experiences of the camp was making the girls aware of the range of opportunities that they can pursue, explains Rebecca.
“One student who excels in science and sports was connected with a biometrics specialist. It opened a whole world of possibility, well before that student makes a decision about her university study and ultimate career path,” says Rebecca.
“For me, that is the key to the camp – helping educate young women about the opportunities that they can pursue professionally. There was nothing like this when I was at school. I didn’t consider becoming an engineer, partly because I just wasn’t aware of it as a pathway.”
“It’s fantastic for the girls to see female engineers, scientists and economists say: ‘We do exist and the career prospects are really great’,” says Rebecca.
Here at TransGrid, we support opportunities such as these to educate young women about career opportunities in non-traditional roles, as well as STEM more generally. It’s one way that we ‘press for progress’ on
International Women’s Day
, and all days of the year.
Reflecting on the experience of being a mentor at the camp, Rebecca is positive about the knowledge that the girls took away.
“There was a real thirst for knowledge and learning. A lot of the girls asked for advice about selecting a university degree, and the kinds of career pathways that might open up as a result.”
“Empowering girls to be leaders of change is vital. Any initiative that gives women the knowledge, resources and information to go into STEM roles is really good – particularly when it’s something they haven’t previously considered,” says Rebecca.
Have your say
Connecting women with non-traditional roles
One bolt out of place by even a centimetre, and an entire section of an electricity transmission tower might have to be delivered again.
First, there is a risk that the tower will not fit together at all. In addition, the most minor of misalignments between sections of the tower can compromise its strength and safety, and your energy supply. We have strict design and quality checks in place to ensure that works are delivered on time, and make efficient use of materials.
As you can appreciate, cutting corners in tower design is a false economy. The risk of fabricating tower parts that don’t fit together perfectly is significant in terms of additional time and money. We set ourselves a challenge: how can we deliver towers more efficiently, without compromising design, or risking errors that could delay construction of the tower?
The solution; a specialised modelling software, has reduced tower design time by almost 30%
The software has greatly reduced the risk of delay during factory “trial assembly” as there is more certainty in the design and accuracy of fabrication drawings provided to the manufacturer.
Model making: 3D tower visualisation
The software allows engineers to design the tower in 3D (to ensure all elements align), then export the specs direct to a 2D plan. Below are examples of tower design in action. This significantly fast-tracks the production of the tower, so that the team can assist more clients, and deliver work that is of the highest quality.
Image A: 3D view through beam element of structure
Image B: 2D drawing output from 3D model in software
Did you know that the feet of every transmission tower have to be individually designed for the land they stand on? Hilly areas in particular require precise modelling to fit the tower to the land. Comprehensive mapping of the site is done before a designer begins work on the towers.
Making design a reality
The team visited a manufacturer to quality check the output of the new design process. Following this success, the first of the towers will be delivered to TransGrid for construction later this year.
Renovating or developing your property, or a client’s property? This is how to get through the planning process efficiently and cost-effectively when you have a high-voltage electricity easement on your land.
We work with you to check that the proposed works and the existing electricity lines can co-exist safely on your property. The priority is to ensure that your friends and family, or tenants, will be safe on the property.
1. Find out if there is an electricity easement on your property, and who maintains it
Determine whether you have an electricity easement on your property. Your conveyancer or property lawyer can confirm this with Land Registry Services (LRS). If your property has an easement, the LRS will tell you who owns the infrastructure. In NSW, there are several electricity networks: the high-voltage powerlines are operated by TransGrid. We will work with you to ensure that the planned renovation or development maintains a safe clearance from powerlines and other network infrastructure.
2. Seek TransGrid’s permission to develop near the powerline
Contact us to secure advice about what you need to supply to TransGrid, and what you can expect from TransGrid. Each development is different, so advice will be specific to your plans.
Based on feedback, we’ve streamlined the enquiry process so you have permission for an easement development before lodging a Development Application (DA) to your local council. This ensures that the process is as efficient as possible, and reduces risk of incurring additional costs to modify your DA. We’ve also reduced the permission response time from over 2 months to under 21 days.
Time-saving tip: Provide site plans in 3D DFX or CAD file formats
Our engineers and network designers need files in 3D DFX or CAD formats to model the proposed development alongside our network. This is done to ensure that there will be no safety or clearance issues on the site as a result of the development.
- 3D DFX (preferred)
- PDF only accepted for very basic easement development proposals.
What is an electricity easement?
An electricity easement is the right held by TransGrid to control the use of your land near above-ground and underground power lines and substations. We hold this right for your own safety and to allow staff to work on the power lines at all times. Easements also exist for telephone lines, water and sewage mains and natural gas supply lines.
Why are easements necessary?
Easements ensure the safety of the residents living, working and playing near power lines. Easements are also created to give TransGrid clear, 24 hour access to the power lines. It is important to keep the easement clear at all times so regular maintenance, line upgrades, damage or technical faults can be attended to immediately.
Amid continued renewable energy investment in Australia, an increasing number of utility-scale renewable projects are continuing to be connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM), and ultimately supplying electricity to end consumers.
Amongst this flurry of activity, TransGrid is facilitating a number of critical network connections for renewable projects in New South Wales and Victoria.
Connecting 380,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy to the NEM
In Southern NSW, TransGrid will be connecting an additional 380,000 annual megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity to the grid via Neoen’s Coleambally Solar Farm. The project, which has secured funding to proceed with construction, will supply enough energy to power 52 000 homes. Works at the solar farm started in January and will be completed by the end of the year, while connection works undertaken by TransGrid are scheduled to commence in March 2018 and will be commissioned by July 2018. This work comes on the back of TransGrid successfully connecting Neoen’s Parkes and Griffith Solar Farms to the NEM in 2017.
According to Darren Clarke, TransGrid Customer Engagement Manager, renewable connections to the NEM are vital for future energy supply.
“The scheduled decommissioning of baseload coal-fired power stations over the next few decades means that investment in projects such as Coleambally Solar Farm will be critical in securing long-term affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for consumers,” says Darren.
“Naturally, there are challenges that all participants involved the energy system have to overcome in this transition, but TransGrid is willing and able to take the lead in ensuring transmission networks enable this transition to occur in an efficient manner."
Neoen is committed to leading the transition to a renewable future, explains Chris Leonard, Deputy Head of Development, Neoen Australia.
“Coleambally Solar Farm contributes to our target of 1GW of renewable capacity by 2020.”
“TransGrid has been a critical enabler of the project, and shares our commitment to a renewable future.”
“Based on previous projects, TransGrid’s support and responsiveness from the initial enquiry stage to the physical connection has allowed Neoen to focus on delivering its solar farms and manage its time more efficiently,” says Chris.
“We look forward to collaborating with Neoen to successfully deliver the project. We’re absolutely committed to providing complete peace of mind for Neoen through the planning, development and operation of our network connection infrastructure at Coleambally Solar Farm.”
“Fundamentally, through developing confidence in TransGrid’s ability and to deliver and enable them we want to allow customers such as Neoen to be able to focus on connecting efficient and advanced renewable technology to the market,” says Darren.
To find out more about TransGrid’s network connection process and infrastructure services, visit our What We Do
Renewables: the way of the future
- NSW has more renewable generation capacity under construction than any other state, at around 1,000 megawatts.
Source: NSW Planning & Environment
- About 4924MW of the proposed 6532MW of renewable energy capacity that has been outlined under the RET is already under construction or generating energy, with the remainder expected to be completely financed and starting construction in 2018.
Source: Clean Energy Regulator
- Large-scale renewables recorded their best ever year. Throughout 2017, 50 large-scale renewable energy projects were committed, resulting in more than $10 billion of investment, 5200 MW of new capacity and 5500 jobs.
Source: Clean Energy Council
Over the next two decades, the national energy system will be substantially reconfigured as existing coal fired generation retires from service. In New South Wales alone, around 8,000 MW of coal fired generation capacity is expected to retire over the next 20 years.
System of the future: Possible 50 year retirement of coal-fired generators in the NEM, via Australian Energy Council
Significant volumes of new generation will be required to maintain energy security during this transition and large scale renewables represent the lowest cost replacement technology.
TransGrid has identified three renewable energy zones in NSW in a move to develop a plan for future energy needs in collaboration with other networks and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Under the banner of the AEMO-led Integrated System Plan
, transmission network service providers and other system participants are exploring how to jointly develop the National Electricity Market to meet future needs.
The activity follows a recommendation of the Finkel Review
, which emphasised the need for an Integrated System Plan. The Review observes that:
“Incremental planning and investment decision making based on the next marginal investment required is unlikely to produce the best outcomes for consumers or for the system as a whole over the long-term or support a smooth transition. Proactively planning key elements of the network now, in order to create the flexibility to respond to changing technologies and preferences has the potential to reduce the cost of the system over the long term”.
TransGrid has identified areas with:
- Abundant renewable energy
- Existing network infrastructure with capacity to connect new generation
- Proximity to population centres where energy is consumed.
Of six contenders detailed below, those seen to be the most feasible and cost effective are: Northern NSW, Southern NSW and South East NSW and ACT.
The strategically planned connection of large scale energy zones - supported by greater interconnection - would provide consumers with the lowest priced energy and greatest system security.
The benefits include:
- Connection of the lowest-cost generation in regions with the best quality renewable resources.
These large scale generators can operate at higher capacity factors and are able to supply electricity to consumers at lower unit costs than generation in lower quality renewable resource areas.
- Efficient transmission connection through economies of scale. Geographic diversity of renewables across the National Electricity Market (NEM) to provide lowest cost intermittency firming.
- Sharing of energy and ancillary services across regions to provide system security and resilience.
The transmission network provides a platform for the lowest cost electricity generation to be connected and dispatched, enhancing energy market competition.
These priority zones have high quality solar and wind resources, compatible land use with low opportunity cost and low transmission augmentation costs. They are located on corridors between major population centres and maximise the use of the existing network.
The delivery of transmission connections to these zones should be staged over time so that lowest cost connections for new capacity in priority energy zones are completed first, new generation connection is enabled ahead of expected thermal retirements, risk of asset stranding is minimised and future optionality is preserved.
There are currently unprecedented volumes of connection enquiries to the New South Wales transmission network, with over 30 GW of wind, solar and pumped hydro projects at various stages of development. Only a fraction of these projects can be accommodated in the current network.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, each year upwards of 100 thunderstorms in NSW and the ACT are strong enough to produce hailstones, wind gusts, flash flooding or tornadoes. Thunderstorms can be dangerous and the impact can be costly.
While TransGrid manages and maintains our infrastructure to ensure public safety and reduce electricity supply interruptions to your home and business, planning ahead not only helps keep your home safe but can minimise disruption storms can bring to our everyday lives.
Storms and bushfires are the biggest environmental threat to our network. Combined, they for account for approximately 90% of all minor interruptions on our service. We refer to these interruptions as ‘line trips’.
While there is little that can be done to mitigate against the physical impact of a storm, TransGrid’s weather monitoring systems ensure staff are aware of incoming storm paths and can act accordingly to minimise the risk of damage to our network.
Our electronic map monitoring system, details the location of our assets with an overlay of the current weather systems in NSW. The system provides visibility to our control room operators of current and emerging weather patterns such as storm activity across the state. This enables us to identify storms, and their distance from our network so that we can prepare accordingly.
At a residential level, there are a number of things you can do to make your home ‘storm-ready’. In preparing your storm survival plan you might like to consider the following measures:
- Switch off and unplug sensitive electrical and electronic equipment such as TVs, computers, sound systems and DVDs
- Always keep a battery powered radio readily available in your home
- Keep a torch and a supply of candles on hand for power failures
- Do not open the fridge or freezer as food will stay colder for longer if the doors are kept closed.
For more tips on preparing your home for storms visit the State Emergency Services website and download the eight StormSafe tips postcard.
Powering Sydney’s Future is about securing a reliable, safe and economical electricity supply to Inner Sydney. The project will provide a crucial underground transmission circuit between our substations in Potts Hill and Alexandria, and connection for a second circuit to meet future demand.
The Inner Sydney network is intricate and supplies electricity to more than 500,000 customers in the biggest city in Australia. Powering Sydney’s Future is a response to ageing aspects of this network and increasing demand in a growing Sydney – particularly new infrastructure projects such as the Sydney Light Rail, Westconnex and Sydney Metro. A reliable electricity network is essential to support this growth.
Over the last months we have been hard at work refining the concept design for the project, testing the feasibility of the preferred route and continuing to engage with stakeholders. Subject to the Australian Energy Regulator’s approval of our Regulatory submission, in the coming months we will be stepping up this engagement and will be out speaking to affected communities along the route seeking feedback on the proposal. This feedback will help with the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the project which will be published for public comment in late 2018.
TransGrid commenced work at the site of the future Western Sydney Airport in January. In an Australian first, a section of the 330Kv transmission line is to be moved underground to accommodate the airport.
TransGrid’s Line 39 transects the airport site, and 3.2 kilometres of high-voltage line will be moved to an underground cable route wholly located within the airport site. The line is a key part of the transmission network in NSW, connecting Canberra and the Sydney metropolitan area.
This work is a critical and necessary step in preparing the 1780 hectare site for construction and is the culmination of three years of planning, which includes the completion of feasibility and scoping studies and an Environmental Assessment to comply with the requirements of the Airport Plan.
The existing on-site transmission towers will also be removed from the site once the new cable is operational.
TransGrid Chief Executive Officer Paul Italiano said: “This innovative solution supports the benefits of the airport while minimising the impacts on the surrounding community.”
Western Sydney Airport Co-Chair, Paul O’Sullivan, said: “Relocating this transmission line is critical before we can commence a substantial program of works, including moving 22 million cubic metres of earth, building 1,000,000m2 of airside pavements and constructing a terminal and other facilities.”
Trenching work is underway to house the cable route, with the project expected to be completed in mid-2019.