Electrical substations are critical to our power infrastructure. They ensure electricity reaches our homes and businesses efficiently and safely. As the demand for electricity continues to grow, these substations often require upgrades to maintain their reliability and safety.
Recently, as part of a regular assessment of ageing infrastructure, the Belgrave Zone Electrical Substation was identified as requiring an upgrade. Specifically, AusNet found that the substation access platform no longer met Australian Standards.
Terra Firma has previously worked with AusNet to deliver and install trench covers across a number of sites. For the Belgrave Zone Electrical Substation upgrade, Terra Firma worked with AusNet and project contractor, FRR Cinel Nominees Pty Ltd, to provide a new, lightweight, non-conductive structure that provided substation access, in compliance with industry safety standards.
The challenge: Time Constraints and Accessibility
With the installation of a new access platform directly in front of a transformer, a section of the substation needed to be temporarily isolated and disconnected for three days to enable safe installation. AusNet carefully scheduled this isolated outage to minimise disruption and potential revenue loss, while Terra Firma had to work within these tight time constraints.
There was also the issue of accessibility which, in a high-risk substation environment, posed a considerable challenge. Traditional platform installation methods often involve cranes, but substations are highly regulated environments, and crane use is restricted.
AusNet recognised the need for an alternative lightweight structure. That’s where Terra Firma came in.
The solution: Safety, Access and Speed
To address the challenge of accessibility, Terra Firma provided an alternative solution that would meet safety standards and provide the required access. With our expertise in composite engineering, we designed and fabricated a lightweight yet sturdy structure that didn’t require a crane to install.
Unlike traditional metal fabrications, which can conduct electricity, Terra Firma’s composite structures are entirely nonconductive. This feature ensures added safety in environments where electrical conductivity could pose a risk. It’s a critical advantage that sets our solutions apart from conventional metal options.
Terra Firma also minimised time on-site through pre-assembly. Instead of shipping individual components to the site and assembling them there, we complete most of the assembly at our own facility. This approach offers advantages in both time and safety, particularly in high-risk environments like substations.
Pre-assembly significantly reduces the installation time on-site. This is crucial, as substations must remain operational and accessible, and extended shutdowns aren’t usually feasible. By pre-assembling most of the components off-site, Terra Firma minimised disruption and downtime for Belgrave residents and businesses.
The process: From concept to completion
For this particular project, Terra Firma handled everything from engineering design to cutting and measuring, including a trial assembly at our facility. The platform was then disassembled and transported to the site for re-assembly.
Our process always begins with understanding the client’s needs – in this case, AusNet. They provide us with load requirements and, if the structure goes into the ground, a geotech report. They also share an as-built drawing to guide our design.
Our team worked closely with AusNet and FRR Cinel Nominees to propose suitable approaches, materials, and configurations. Terra Firma can create solutions from scratch or adapt existing plans to incorporate composite materials, like the ones used in this project.
Calculating weight-bearing capabilities is vital, especially for composites, which behave differently from wood or steel. These materials can be customised during production for specific needs, such as enhanced fire resistance, UV protection, or flexibility.
For projects without strict time constraints, Terra Firma can ship the necessary materials to the site, where a local contractor takes care of the final cutting, measuring, and installation.
The outcome: Delivering Safety and Compliance
A successful installation, in this case, meant meeting modern safety, engineering, and design standards without delays, reworking, or overruns. The benefits to the client are clear: improved safety, reduced downtime, and compliance with evolving standards.
While the Belgrave Substation Upgrade focused on ageing infrastructure, substations are also critical hubs in the journey towards cleaner energy sources. Whether it’s upgrading for renewables or improving existing systems, Terra Firma stands ready to provide solutions.
Terra Firma’s involvement in the Belgrave Zone Electrical Substation Upgrade reflects our commitment to innovation in addressing the challenges faced by different sectors, including telecommunications, gas and water utilities, swimming pools, petroleum forecourts, stormwater management, sewer systems, and highway infrastructure.
If you’d like to know how Terra Firma can help with your next project or would like to discuss our composite solutions more broadly, contact us to start a conversation.