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Strengthening region’s power network

Strengthening region’s power network
Wellington Electricity is targeting having 20 percent of the entire substation strengthening programme completed by the end of March 2020 with the remainder due by April 2021 .

Wellington Electricity is increasing strengthening standards for earthquake-risk buildings to ensure that all of its key buildings in its network, including zone substations and other major switching stations, are raised to 67% of the New Building Standard.

CEO Greg Skelton says that the company has identified 91 substation buildings that needed attention with Miramar being a major priority due to the fact it services Weta Digital, a major employer for the region, and is a backup for Wellington Airport.

The Miramar substation building dates to 1938 and is made out of reinforced concrete. Greg says that while the building had strong components they were not tied together well.

A structural design team assessed the building and came up with a plan to insert reinforced steel into the structure to tie the structural elements together.

The six month long project was completed in October last year. It has resulted in the substation going from late 40% of the New Building Standard to over 67%.

Greg says that strengthening substation buildings will protect the public and workers who operate around and maintain the equipment, make it easier and safer to access equipment, which will speed up the restoration of power, and help equipment to withstand a major earthquake.

Wellington Electricity is targeting having 20% of the entire substation strengthening programme completed by the end of March 2020 with the remainder due by April 2021.

“It’s about identifying vulnerabilities in the event of an earthquake and being better prepared,” says Greg.

Other measures being taken by Wellington Electricity include stock piling critical spares, after identifying that Wellington’s transport network would likely make it difficult to obtain essential parts to repair the network in the event of a major earthquake.

The company is also bringing in equipment capable of building temporary overhead lines.

“Underground cables would likely be damaged and these can take time to repair so by being able to build temporary overhead lines we could restore power much quicker,” he explains.

As an electricity distributor, the core business of Wellington Electricity is to manage the poles, wires and equipment that safely deliver electricity to about 166,000 homes and businesses in the Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua regions of New Zealand.

Alongside residential customers, major customers with significant electricity use include NZ Parliament, major infrastructure providers such as Wellington Airport and CentrePort, Wellington, Kenepuru and Hutt Hospitals, large education institutions such as Victoria University and Massey University and regional and local authorities, including council infrastructure such as water and wastewater treatment and pumping stations, as well as provision of the streetlight network Greg says that the total length of the Wellington Electricity network is 4,680km, of which 62.7% is underground.

The network is specifically designed to be resilient to the high winds in the region.

“Our mission is to provide a safe, reliable, cost-effective and high quality delivery system to our customers and projects such as the Miramar substation upgrade are an important part of this.”

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