Ardeer, Sunshine West and high voltage power lines

Now you see it, now you don’t – this is the story of the high voltage power lines that were planned to pass through Ardeer and Sunshine West, but thanks to community action never came to be.

Unused power lines beside the tracks at Ardeer

A mystery

My story starts in April 2010, when I paid a visit to Ardeer to photograph the procession of passing trains bound for Ballarat, and found a row of brand new power poles awaiting the installation of overhead cables.

New poles ready to carry 66 kV lines from Deer Park Terminal Station to Sunshine Zone Substation

I visited again in March 2011, and the poles were still in the same unfinished state.

VLocity 3VL44 and VL38 on the down at Ardeer

And again in September 2011.

N455 leads an up service out of Ardeer

At the time I didn’t think too much about the power lines, but on closer inspection they were nowhere to be seen! So where did they go?

The backstory

As Melbourne’s west has expanded, so has the load placed on the electrical network that serves it – with Keilor Terminal Station bearing the brunt of demand.

500 kV end of the Keilor Terminal Station

So the Australian Energy Market Operator made the decision that a new 220kV / 66kV terminal station should be built to share the load, located beside the existing high voltage power lines at Deer Park.

The new Deer Park Terminal Station at Christies Road in Ravenhall has been completed

As well as a new 66kV / 22kV zone substation to supply the growing suburbs and industry of Truganina.

And a web of new 66kV high voltage power lines to tie together the new and existing zone substations.

66 kV lines outside Sunshine Zone Substation

Local communities caught unaware

However for the residents of Ridgeway Parade in Sunshine West, the appearance of 66 kV power lines along their street in June 2010 caught them by surprise – leading to work being suspended.

Power struggle in Sunshine and Ardeer on lines
Brimbank Leader
1 June 2010
Andre Awadalla

Sunshine West and Ardeer residents have vowed to fight a move to install new overhead power lines in their area.

And while electricity supplier Powercor says it has temporarily suspended work on the project to listen to community concerns, it maintains the project will go ahead.

Sunshine West resident Larissa Stewart said about 70 residents concerned about the overhead power lines gathered at Ridgeway Parade Kindergarten last week.

“People are very angry that this has proceeded without consultation,” Ms Stewart said. She said residents in and around Ridgeway Pde were worried about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation, the visual impact of the powerlines and property values if the power lines were not placed underground.

“It’s going to devalue the properties in the area, absolutely,” Ms Stewart said.

Derrimut state Greens candidate and former councillor Geraldine Brooks said an unanimous resolution was passed at last week’s meeting that the community wanted the lines placed underground.

Ms Brooks said Powercor had failed to consult with residents and that some of the power poles were only 10m from houses and 8.5m from the railway line, raising safety concerns.

Powercor spokesman Damien Batey said it was “regrettable” that Powercor had not consulted with residents before work began.

He said that was an “oversight”, rather than a deliberate attempt to withhold information.

Mr Batey said work had been suspended “while we work through community concerns”.

But he said that while placing the power lines underground had been considered, it would be “incredibly cost prohibitive”.

Mr Batey also said that a report Powercor had commissioned from an independent consultant showed that there was “a very, very low risk of any health concerns” as a result of the power lines and that any electromagnetic radiation would be “well below” levels of acceptable exposure.

The project will supply power to growing industrial areas in the west and supplement residential power.

With the Brimbank City Council becoming involved in the fight

Powerlines raise ruckus
The Advocate
26 July 26, 2010
Ruza Zivkusic

As Sunshine West and Ardeer residents step up their fight against the installation of new overhead powerlines in the area, an electricity supplier is planning a beautification program to replace trees it removed.

Brimbank Council is negotiating with Powercor to pay $40,000 for street tree planting. The company had removed three trees on Ridgeway Parade because of the risk of them growing into the overhead lines.

Powercor spokesman Damien Batey said the company would present its plans to residents shortly.

Ardeer resident Larissa Stewart yesterday met with concerned neighbours to form an action group to oppose the overhead lines.

Work has been stopped since last month while Powercor conducts consultation. Residents fear electro-magnetic frequency emissions from the lines will result in increased health risks.

Ms Stewart claimed residents’ calls and emails to Powercor were going unanswered. “A lot of us have made multiple attempts to make phone calls but haven’t had any response.

“Powercor has only distributed letters to our residents about their intentions in English, but 90 per cent are from non-English-speaking backgrounds and most are Vietnamese.”

Installation of the lines by Powercor will supply power to Paramount Industrial Park and nearby residential areas. The council last week adopted a report to continue advocating on behalf of the community affected by the proposal, requesting that Powercor minimise the impact of the powerlines on streetscape character through tree planting and alternative route alignments.

But Ms Stewart repeated calls for the lines to be placed underground.

“They wouldn’t have the lines through the eastern suburbs 13 kilometres from the CBD,” Ms Stewart said. “They have put powerlines in an open space area where we used to walk the dogs and the kids and have a little bit of open space.

“We thought we’d buy something we knew. We knew where the railway line was, where the schools and the facilities are and all of a sudden, nine years down the track, our happy little community has an upheaval because of a big organisation.”

Mr Batey said the lines had been designed to ensure an “extremely low” level of EMF emission, representing less than 0.7per cent of the prescribed maximum levels of exposure from the relevant authorities.

“This has been determined through scientifically proven research and validated by independent experts,” he said.

Residents sharing worries about reduced property values and health concerns in a letter to the editor.

Residents call for powerline action
Sunshine Star Weekly
24 August 2010

As concerned residents, we are protesting Powercor’s proposed High Voltage overhead powerline through the suburbs of West Sunshine and Ardeer. To this effect, we would appreciate your support in once again highlighting this urgent matter.

The 66kV powerline, proposed to facilitate the new industrial estate west of the Ring Rd in Ardeer, will both endanger the health of the community and its children and slide the area into an urban wasteland of unsightly powerlines and falling real-estate values, effectively condemning that part of Sunshine and Ardeer into an almost third world environment for years to come.

Powercor’s refusal to recognise the potential dangers of overhead High Voltage power and its refusal to “underground” the line is alarming.

While Powercor supports its intended action by claiming to be guided by World Health recommendations and Australian standards, it refuses to recognise these guidelines as being outdated (1998) and in need of urgent revision.

Recent epidemiological research, including WHO findings, has confirmed an undeniable association between electro-magnetic exposure and childhood leukaemia and many world authorities have both expressed concerns about the current inadequate limits of allowable EMF emissions and called for precautionary measures in the installation of High Voltage power.

Furthermore, while Powercor claims that “undergrounding” is too expensive and that regulations require it to pursue “the lowest cost options”, it turns a blind eye to the costs imposed on the community through devaluation of homes and environment and potential medical costs in treating EMF induced leukaemia, not to mention the emotional cost of suffering, sickness and loss of loved ones to cancer.

One can only ask the question: what price do we place on human life? For a multi-national company with huge yearly profits, it seems that safeguarding the health of our children and environment is far less important than protecting profits.

As a major utility and licence holder, Powercor owes the community a duty of care. We plead that Powercor reconsiders its options and exercises a more precautionary attitude by “undergrounding” the line.

Elizabeth and Micheal Kononada,
West Sunshine.

And unhappy with the alternative options presented by Powercor.

Powercor’s options fail to allay fears
The Advocate
27 September 2010
Monique Ebrington

Brimbank residents marched to Parliament House last week to protest against alternatives offered by electricity distributor Powercor.

More than 25 Ardeer and Sunshine West residents took part in the protest, which followed a community meeting of residents, councillors, local MPs and Powercor representatives on September 14. The meeting came after lengthy consultations with residents concerned about the potential impacts of new above-ground powerlines on their health and on house prices.

Rather than the initial plan to run above-ground powerlines along Ridgeway Parade in Ardeer, Powercor put forward three alternative options to residents.

Powercor spokesman Hugo Armstrong said the alternative choices were “the only realistic options to solve the issue”.

The options are a change to the route of the overhead powerlines, an increase to the height of the structures, or for the lines to be placed underground. Ardeer resident Larissa Stewart said residents were “unhappy” at the options presented to them.

“Absolutely none of the alternatives have Powercor fully funding the project,” Ms Stewart claimed. “Powercor is a privately owned company that reports to shareholders. They are asking the council to fund infrastructure that’s going to return funds to private shareholders.”

She said Brimbank was a community that desperately needed funding for other services.

“I think one of the reasons the community is so passionately against it is because it takes money away from a community that doesn’t have a lot.”

A Powercor spokesman said that due to regulations, Powercor could fund $2 million towards the underground option and Brimbank Council or residents would have to fund the remaining $900,000. He said the other options did not require co-contribution. “We simply cannot underground every powerline in the state and expect our customers to absorb those costs.”

The existing powerlines servicing Ardeer and Sunshine West are operating at 30 per cent above the optimal load.

Powercor said residents could expect power outages over summer if a new high-voltage circuit was not provided to the region.

But somewhat surprisingly, a year later residents got the underground power lines they wanted, thanks to extra funding from the state government.

It’s power to the people
Brimbank Weekly
22 November 2011
Benjamin Millar

Ardeer and Sunshine West residents have successfully campaigned for high-voltage powerlines to be placed underground, proving people power can prevail over corporate giants.

Families gathered at Ardeer Community Park on Saturday to celebrate their win following the completion of recent major works in the area.

Geraldine Brooks, of the Ardeer and Sunshine West Powerlines Action Group, said the controversial 66,000-volt powerline proposal was sprung on the community by electricity distributor Powercor without concern for residents’ health and visual amenity.

“Sixty-six thousand-volt powerlines through our community would have exposed families to high electromagnetic field levels,” she said.

Residents learned of the lines only when Powercor began erecting poles on Ridgeway Parade early last year.

“We found that completely unacceptable and made sure the proponent, Powercor, got this message loud and clear throughout a year of community meetings, protests, letter-writing, petitions and publicity,” Ms Brooks said.

Following pressure from residents and Brimbank Council, the State Government’s Powerline Relocation Committee agreed in June to help Powercor fund the $2.8million project.

The underground lines will supply power to Paramount Industrial Park in Deer Park and nearby residential areas.

Western Metropolitan Greens MP Colleen Hartland said the campaign was a great example of people power. “This community forced a multinational company to back down – it just goes to show what can be achieved when the local community works together.”

Footnote – another struggle

Hot on the heels of the fight against high voltage power lines, in 2013 the residents of Ridgeway Parade had a new project on their doorstop – Regional Rail Link.

They were worried about the increased number of trains using the existing railway.

Posters from the 'Fix the Links' Residents Rail Action Group opposite Ardeer station

Rail noise.

Posters from the 'Fix the Links' Residents Rail Action Group opposite Ardeer station

Tall noise walls along the rail corridor.

Posters from the 'Fix the Links' Residents Rail Action Group opposite Ardeer station

And delays to road traffic at the Fitzgerald Road level crossing.

Posters from the 'Fix the Links' Residents Rail Action Group at the Fitzgerald Road level crossing

And so formed the “Fix the Links Residents Rail Action Group” to campaign for their interests.

Group for rail link but want proper planning
Sunshine Star Weekly
30 October 2012
Vanessa Valenzuela

More than 100 angry Brimbank residents rallied at Ardeer Station last weekend, calling on the Regional Rail Link Authority to postpone construction work on the multi-billion dollar project.
The ‘Fix the Links’ Residents Rail Action Group voiced their concerns about an increase in noise, pollution and traffic congestion in the area as a result of the Regional Rail Link.

Brimbank resident Maurice Sibelle said the group wanted the rail link to go ahead, but were asking the authority to address their concerns before commencing construction work.

“There are some misconceptions in the community that we are opposed to the Regional Rail Link but we are not,” Mr Sibelle said.

“We want to present to the community and all interested parties that there is an intelligent response to what the government is doing and they are rushing ahead with this project.”

“Our fear is that it will take so long to adopt the policy that the RRL will be finished and the money will be spent, and we will be left with is the problem that is still there, and there is no plan to fix it,” he said.

Greens MP Colleen Hartland said there are a number of serious and significant community concerns regarding the Regional Rail Link that need to be addressed.

“I share the key concerns of the community and the Fix the Links residents group – noise, diesel pollution and access issues at rail crossings,” Ms Hartland said.

“Noise and diesel pollution concerns have been raised by communities all along the rail corridor from West Melbourne all the way to Deer Park, and these concerns are justified.

“Electrifying the line and running modern electric trains would resolve both of these issues to a large extent.”

Brimbank Council’s General Manager of Infrastructure and Environment Paul Younis said council would seek to facilitate consultation between the Regional Rail Link Authority, ‘Fix the Links’ and other residents relating to concerns about the railway corridor between Sunshine and Deer Park.

“Council continues to play a strong advocacy role on behalf of the community in order to realise optimal community outcomes from the Regional Rail Link project,” Ms Younis said.

“Further consultation is planned once the Department of Transport’s Draft Passenger Rail Infrastructure Noise Policy is finalised at the end of the year.”

A spokesperson for the RRL said the project will continue to comply with all relevant environmental legislation, standards and guidelines, including those on noise and air quality.

For more information about the ‘Fix the Links’ action group visit fixregionallraillink.blogspot.com.au

But this time around, the state government was not on their side – they built the massive steel noise walls along the rail corridor anyway.

Steel noise walls line the railway parallel to Forrest Street

And the level crossing at Fitzgerald Road was left untouched, despite the massive delays to road traffic caused by the extra trains now passing through it.

Transit Systems bus #50 5993AO on route 427 waiting at the Fitzgerald Road level crossing at Ardeer

A situation not addressed until 2020, when the Fitzgerald Road level crossing removal project was given the go ahead.

VLocity VL70 and VL40 on the up at Fitzgerald Road, Ardeer

Footnote: a few more gory details

The two underground feeders are ‘SU024’ and ‘SU032’ – running 2.861 kilometres and 3.319 kilometres respectively.

In 2015 the Sunshine zone substation served by the underground power lines was itself upgraded.

Sunshine zone substation refurbishment

Sunshine Zone Substation (SU) supplies electricity to over 25,000 customers including domestic, commercial and industrial in the Sunshine, Ardeer, Deer Park, Laverton North, St Albans, Caroline Springs and Derrimut areas.

In response to the existing SU transformers nearing end of life and additional load requirements brought on by new data centres in the area, Powercor commenced a program to refurbish and redevelop the zone substation over the 2012 to 2017 period.

The SU zone substation comprised four transformers and outdoor discrete HV switchgear. Two transformers are in service and a group of two smaller transformers are available for contingency operation. The transformers have no voltage regulation and are of limited use. All transformers at the station are aged and in poor condition.

The HV switchgear (outdoor circuit breakers) are aged and also in poor condition. The HV bus structure is currently supported as a long term temporary measure with scaffolding. Other station components including the capacitor banks, buildings and fences are in poor condition.

To finalise the redevelopment of the SU zone substation, Powercor needs to decommission and remove two of the old transformers and associated equipment. This is contingent upon the establishment of Deer Park Terminal Station (DPTS) to enable load transfers.

As part of the works for the new Deer Park Terminal Station.

Powercor undertook a joint Regulatory Test with Jemena Electricity Networks and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to address a system limitation at the Keilor Terminal Station (KTS), and on the sub-transmission lines from KTS that serves the Melton (MTN), Sunbury (SBY) and Sydenham (SHM) zone substations. SBY and SHM are zone substations for Jemena.

The final report was published on 1 May 2012 which recommended the construction of a new terminal station at Deer Park (DPTS). The regulatory test demonstrates that the works are prudent and efficient and that the option selected maximises the net economic benefit to consumers. Other key elements of the report include:

• construction of 66kV sub-transmission lines from DPTS to a new zone substation at Truganina (TNA);
• construction of 66kV sub-transmission lines to transfer the existing MLN zone substation to DPTS, relieving constraints at KTS. As part of this work, the existing KTS to MLN and MLN to SBY
66kV sub-transmission lines will be reconfigured to bypass MLN and establish a KTS to SBY2 line. This maintains the required third supply to the SHM and SBY 66kV loop exiting KTS, which also
supplies Gisborne (GSB) and Woodend (WND) zone substations; and
• construction of 66kV sub-transmission lines to transfer existing Sunshine zone substation (SU) to DPTS, relieving constraints at KTS. As part of this work, the existing KTS to SU2 and SU to
Sunshine East (SSE) 66kV sub-transmission lines will be re-configured to supply SSE via its own loop from KTS.

With the upgraded distribution network commissioned in 2017.


Powercor diagram

Further reading

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