Power: East Lake Zone Substation

East Lakes Zone Substation

Client: ActewAGL
Location: Canberra, ACT

The ACT Government didn’t want to adversely impact the look and feel of the area, so the new East Lake GIS Substation was designed to blend into the space. ActewAGL in collaboration with its alliance partner Zinfra, built a substation that incorporated a GIS to minimise the footprint of the substation. As well the 132kV feeders have been undergrounded and the new zone substation was colour coded with curved shapes and planted mature trees around the substation so as not to visually infringe on nearby wetland.
This multi-million, state of the art GIS substation is a feat in technological excellence, environmental planning and restoration, effective stakeholder management, and a great example of how well alliance contracts can work.

Complexity was the hallmark of this design and construct project for the East Lake Zone Substation. Situated adjacent to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve - a species-rich urban wetland that provides refuge for migratory birds as well as resident native birds – the environmental planning required for this project was demanding.

With four separate environmental agencies each having a stake in this project, including the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Management Authority who had rangers located adjacent to the construction, Zinfra’s Project Manager Matt Fensom says ensuring stakeholder satisfaction with the project and the compliance achieved with the strict environmental conditions were some of the key successes achieved.

“We had to run underground conduits, pull and join 132kV cables for two 1.5km feeders within the Wetlands itself. With the rangers on constant patrol, if you did something out of step, you’d know within the hour! We had a lot of strict conditions to meet, which we met,” says Matt.

“One of the main conditions was the timing. The works in the Wetlands had to be completed between April and the end of September 2013 so as not to interfere with the bird breeding season. Unfortunately, Zinfra experienced a delay when the cables supplier dropped one of the cable drums when offloading it at Sydney Port. Despite this setback, Zinfra was able to get a new cable drum in and negotiated a short extension by working around the clock to finish the works and complete full restoration with two days to spare.”

“The project team did a great job. There was no significant or long lasting environmental damage and the collaborative efforts with ActewAGL’s project team has seen the on time and under budget delivery of this important new addition to the ACT electricity network .” says Matt.

Zinfra also had to conduct heritage assessments for indigenous artefacts and soil dating, as well as checks for contaminated material as part of the Wetlands used to be a dumping ground. Thankfully there was nothing found to be concerned about.

Being a semi-rural environment, Zinfra also needed to consider a local land owner, who has an agistment near the Wetlands, so keeping the cows happy was another consideration for the project team. 

“We got on really well with the land owner. We sat down and asked him at the outset what was important to him and how we could meet his expectations. We made sure that his cows had access to water while we were doing works so we erected gates in the corridor so he had a path to take the cows through without impacting our work – or their drinking supply,” says Matt.

This project was completed in just over 12 months in December 2013. The tight timeline required by ActewAGL increased the complexity of the project coordination.
Matt commented, “Given the high level of complexity on this project, an alliance was the best option to deliver on this type of work. East Lake was a great challenge on all fronts. It required 132kV underground cabling, overhead works, GIS equipment, which meant an enormous amount of civil works.  Managing subcontractors brings its own logistical challenges too.  Planning was critical, committing to dates and enforcing deadlines was essential to being able to meet our commitment to the client.”

“This Alliance has been great – it’s really about dealing with project issues and knowing who is best placed to fix them. So it’s a very collaborative and effective arrangement. Having the client onsite helped us resolve issues together, and it also helped us to form a solid relationship built on trust. I would definitely do it again!” says Matt.