Bridging the gap in Sydney's power needs

The TransGrid Beaconsfield Substation Refurbishment Project required a world-first solution to several unique challenges and ABB was able to help span the divide

With the population of Sydney forecast to grow substantially over the next 25 years, the Beaconsfield Substation plays a vital role in delivering a safe and reliable power supply into Sydney's CBD.

The original substation was commissioned in 1979 and was reaching the end of its serviceable life. The upgrade and expansion of the Beaconsfield substation recognized as vital by TransGrid, as it is one of the two major supply points for the inner metropolitan area.

The upgrade was successfully completed at the end of 2012 and will ensure a safe and reliable future energy supply for residents and businesses within the Sydney CBD.

Transgrid contracted engineering and construction company, UGL Limited (UGL), on this landmark refurbishment project.UGL in called on ABB to help address some unique challenges that were evident in aspects of the substation design.

Transgrid acknowledged this was one of their most technically complex projects and one of the main priorities was to keep the existing substation in service. A new substation, on either side of the existing was carefully designed and erected – to the millimetre – without any disruptions to electricity in and around Sydney’s CBD and inner metropolitan over the 34 months

The major components of the Beaconsfield substation redevelopment project involved: · Establishing two buildings to house new 132kV gas insulated switchgear (GIS);· Installing a third 330/132kV transformer (on southern site);· Installing two 132kV 160MVAr capacitor banks (on northern site); and· Establishing a line (GIL) supported on a 170m long fixed and floating 9m high gantry to connect the two new 132kV substations and the new 330kV transformer.

Additionally, the actual installation had some unique challenges with occasional flooding due to the high water table at the site, amount of equipment needing to fit on a small piece of land and multiple contractors working on the site simultaneously.

The Gas Insulated Lines (GIL) Gantry, which connects the southern and northern sites, allows for six single-phase 330 (kV) GIL and five three-phase encapsulated GIL to be run 170 meters across the site and nine meters above the existing substation site. Three single-phase 330 (kV) GIL and four three-phase encapsulated GIL were installed, linking the two new 132kV switchgear buildings 

The gantry effectively lifts the GIL out of the problematic ground, to well above the site access roads and provides a catwalk for safe and easy access to the GIL for inspection and maintenance. 


Impressive array of advanced power technology utilised 

Eighty tonnes of ABB power technology, including gas insulated and air insulated switchgear, along with a large amount of cables, disconnectors, surge arrestors, independent earth switches and capacitor banks were supplied and installed in this project. The team sourced the materials from ABB factories locally and across the world to meet the project requirements.

"ABB's input and power technology was vital in the developing of such an innovative design which was essential to the overall success of the Beaconsfield substation project,” said Mr. Imlay, General Manager for Power Systems at UGL.

“We are extremely proud of our achievement and in helping Transgrid secure the future power supply into Sydney's CBD,” he said. "The project was completed with safety and environmental record. Impressively, no Lost Time Injuries were recorded on the project which utilised in excess of 320,000 man hours and ran for over 34 months," concluded Imlay.

UGL's design solution included sourcing 330kV Single Phase encapsulated line and 145kV three-phase encapsulated gas insulated busbar rated for 50kA and 3150 Amps, developing a walk through gantry and compact primary and secondary oil containment tanks with a complete 330kV air insulated installed on the top of the tank. 

New underground services including drainage lines, 132kV cable routes and electrical conduits were also required to be installed through the site. Existing 132kV and 330kV cables, which couldn’t be taken out of service, were negotiated and techniques such as ground penetrating radar were used to confirm the exact location and depth of these cables and identify any undocumented services. 

Setting benchmarks for the southern hemisphere

a worldwide industry first, the large GIS 132kV substation was replaced in situ.

The success of the project was supported by the strict product quality and technical expertise provided by ABB. The GIS is three-phase 132 kV 50kA manufactured by ABB in Germany and the two GIS installations, which consist of a total of 44 switchbays, make this the largest 132kV GIS substation in the southern hemisphere.

"ABB’s installation teams are used to working in a variety of challenging conditions and able to ensure the efficient delivery and installation of the various components" said Chris Geeves, General Manager, High Voltage Products for ABB in Australia. 

"We had a strong team of engineers on the project and the end result of the Beaconsfield upgrade is a truly remarkable feat with its unique design split across two separate buildings connected by an SF6 gas insulated line." Chris adds,

“Over the years we have enjoyed working with UGL and this project provided another opportunity for ABB to do what it does best. It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of such a groundbreaking and vital project,” concluded Chris

History, heritage and the environment

The Beaconsfield Substation site is located immediately adjacent to the NSW heritage-listed Alexandria Canal, which flows into Botany Bay via Cooks River. The substation footprint needed to be minimised and construction activities were designed and coordinated such that no risks were posed to the structural integrity of the heritage-listed canal wall

Environmental surveys had also confirmed that the site was subject to tidal water conditions as well as heavily contaminated ground water. Careful management of these issues was undertaken to ensure that these separate but equally important challenges were managed efficiently. 

The redevelopment will increase the substation's capacity by about 50 per cent. 


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