The recently released Marxsen Consulting report 'REFCL Trial: Ignition Tests' makes for some interesting reading. The report outlines the results of tests carried out for the Powerline Bushfire Safety Programme at a purpose-built facility at Frankston, Victoria in 2014.
As a local technology distributor with 20 years involvement in power system protection, our HV Power team, plus colleagues from our European suppliers, have a keen interest in the contents of this report. Notwithstanding the page of disclaimers to the report, we question a number of the conclusions drawn within.
Whilst the report alludes to the benefits that compensated networks or resonant earthing can provide to network supply reliability and SAIDI, the elephant in this report* is that it is SILENT on the history and overall reliability of the REFCL system used in the test.
Protection Systems, including REFCL systems, must be able to be relied upon without question and be available to operate 24 by 7, year-in year-out.
The REFCL system at Frankston was installed a number of years ago and there are utilities in New Zealand and Europe using the same manufacturer’s equipment. There are, therefore, plenty of customer experiences in New Zealand and Europe to draw from as to the performance, overall reliability, availability and uptime of that technology.
As with the selection of any technology, talking to a range of existing users about their experience of the technology should be part of the process to evaluate the suitability of the equipment - especially when it’s a proprietary approach from just one manufacturer.
On this front, we strongly recommend making independent inquiries to existing users to check out the track record of the manufacturer to provide timely technical support, supply spares and to deal with the inherent issues of secondary systems technology (i.e. firmware upgrades) as part of your due diligence process in considering compensated network technology.
* 'Elephant in the room' is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.