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Wellington Electricity starts three year plan for quake readiness

Press Release – Wellington Electricity
Wellington Electricity CEO Greg Skelton says the electricity distributor is on track to strengthen all its 91 sub-stations around the Wellington region against earthquake damage.

The three-year Earthquake Readiness programme consists of five workstreams to improve the electricity network’s ability to cope with a major earthquake.

Mr Skelton said: “I am pleased to announce that we have recently completed reinforcements to the first five sub-station buildings at Miramar, Upland Road in Wellington, Marsden Street and Barber Grove in Lower Hutt, and at St Andrew’s Road, Porirua and work on another 15 buildings is underway.

“In addition to seismic strengthening of our 91 sub-stations around Wellington, Hutt Valley, and Porirua, we are also purchasing mobile sub-stations and back-up equipment, improving our phone, radio communication systems, and upgrading our information systems.”

Wellington’s roading network has the potential to suffer damage and effectively create up to five islanded regions, Mr Skelton said. “Access to our field crews will be extremely difficult. Our Earthquake Readiness programme addresses that possibility.

Without doing any infrastructure improvement in some areas of our network, following a large earthquake, we are looking at power outages of up to 90 days. Our Earthquake Readiness programme will reduce that time.

“The reinforcements we are making to these sub-stations vary depending on their size”, he says. “Some sub-stations are the size of a garage and larger sub-stations are as big as a house. In all cases we work with civil and structural engineers.

As an example, the Miramar sub-station was built in the 1930s and at one point was part of the power system for the trolley buses. This sub-station is a tie-point for two larger sub-stations which together supply power to 15-20,000 customers, including Weta Digital, as well as a back-up for Wellington Airport. Substantial steel work was added to support and tie its roof and walls together.

The strengthening programme is focussed on the buildings themselves. Equipment inside the region’s substations has already been taken care of.

It has been standard practice to secure transformers and switchboards inside our sub-stations throughout Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua in recent years, so that work is already done, Mr Skelton says.

“The 2011 Canterbury and 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes highlighted the likelihood of a large earthquake occurring and highlighted the importance of ‘lifeline’ utilities in Wellington being prepared and ready to cope with a large natural event.”

Mr Skelton made this announcement at a small celebration hosted by Wellington Electricity, at the Salvation Army Hall, Miramar.

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