With the billions of dollars worth of wind turbines and solar panels being installed across western Victoria, transmission and distribution infrastructure needs to keep up - and that will mean more high-voltage power lines and massive terminals.
While many projects are waiting for final approvals, there are others that are well into construction, particularly to the south-east of Ballarat - more than 700 turbines are expected to be built around Ballarat in the next few years.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed there has been a surge in renewable energy jobs, including in wind power, over the last 12 months, and the state government is supporting a project to convert the former Ford car factory in Geelong into a wind turbine manufacturing hub.
All this wind energy, when combined with the state government's push into subsidised rooftop solar and experimental solar plants to the state's north, has increased the strain on Victoria's electricity distribution networks.
Ballarat is already home to a battery storage system, which smooths out fluctuations in power generation, and there are terminal stations dotted across western Victoria, but more will be needed as more power generators come online.
The Australian Electricity Market Operator, or AEMO, is investigating how all this new infrastructure will be deployed, before an estimated 5000 megawatts of electricity is added to the network by 2025.
In December, a draft report from AEMO, the renewable integration regulatory investment test - transmission (RIT-T), pointed to western Victoria as the home for a new set of 500 kilovolt lines that will connect the burgeoning wind farms around Ballarat, Geelong, and Warrnambool to the national grid by 2025, as well as upgrades for some existing lines.
The problem at the moment is the lack of capacity, and the report sets out the best way to improve congestion while also providing the best economic benefit.
Consultations on the plan closed at the end of February, with submissions taken from industry, councils, consumer groups, and communities, which are expected to be published online soon.
The final report is due for publication mid-year, and will then face planning and environmental approvals, as well as community engagement for the design before construction begins.
Currently, the project is estimated to cost $370 million. The state government will be working with AEMO to ensure the plans are subject to "rigorous planning and environmental approval processes," a spokesperson said.
WHERE ARE ALL THE NEW WIND FARMS GOING AROUND BALLARAT? CHECK OUT OUR INTERACTIVE MAP:
However, with all the talk about new high-voltage powerlines, some communities are concerned about the safety aspects.
Previously, residents in Elaine, a town near a major terminal station, had expressed concerns about bushfires that could be sparked from all the high-voltage powerlines.
Powercor, the company which owns the distribution infrastructure and runs the terminal nearby, has installed "world-leading" safety technology in high-bushfire risk areas, beginning in Ballarat and eventually to extend across 961 kilometres of high-voltage lines.
In a statement, the company said its Rapid Earth Full Current Limiter device, which is like a large network safety switch, is designed to minimise the chance of a spark occurring if a powerline touches the ground or a tree limb, and in extreme risk areas, lines have been put underground.
These are initiatives that came out of recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Black Saturday bushfires.
A state government spokesperson said a $200 million fund to target high-risk areas had been implemented, replacing about 193km of private overhead lines and 574km of high-voltage lines replaced so far.
Distribution businesses are now obligated to replace infrastructure in those areas with safer aerial-bundled cable, undergrounding or other covered conductor technologies as the powerlines reach the end of their useful lives.
The Elaine terminal station, where lines connect from across the state to the national grid, is equipped with two 50,000 litre water tanks and 10 megalitres of dam water, plus fire systems to alert Powercor's control centre.
This is on top of year-round inspection works for poles, wires, and other equipment.
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