It’s hard to imagine a stiffer penalty than being forced to knock down your structure and start again from scratch. But this is exactly what can happen if you breach the wrong code under the Electricity Safety Act governing your state. If you take your drawings to council after they have specifically stipulated the local council design guidelines you may be paying a visit to your states Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The pun was intended because I hope you have a spare $60,000 in your back pocket to get it past council (don’t get me started). But if your build encroaches on the boundaries of the neighbouring overhead power lines, simply sack your draughtsman, that’s just unforgivable.
Fortunately, the rules are clearly set out and easy to follow in Electricity Regulations 2012. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to adhere to the safe distance specifications, but you do need to be aware of the limits and check carefully before breaking ground on any new project that could potentially approach overhead power lines or is built underneath them.
Here are some tips to help keep you in the clear.
Transmission vs. Distribution: There are two main types of power lines and knowing which will determine your minimum clearance distances. Transmission lines enable the passing of large quantities of electricity over long distances. These lines travel from power generation plants to the substations that serve metropolitan areas. It is at these substations where the distribution lines connect. Distribution lines are the network that delivers power to homes and businesses. Since transmission lines generally carry approximately 10 times the kV of distribution lines, naturally the clearance distances are much greater. Transmission lines are more likely to come into play when building in a more rural setting.
Insulated vs. Bare: Whileminimal clearance distances will vary based on the number of kV travelling through the line, the types of conductor also play a role in clearances. In general, expect an additional 1 meter of clearance to be required for any line that is bare. Similarly, insulated lines that do not include an earthed screen are often classified as “bare”.
Dimensions: Clearance distances vary depending on which dimension specification is being looked at, and these dimensions can be both horizontal and vertical. What this means is that depending on the usage of a particular part of a building, the clearance distances can change. For example: greater distances are required from parts of a building normally accessible to people (balcony, walkway, terrace) than places where people can get to, but generally don’t (roof, pergola, carport). And of course parts of a building inaccessible to people are allowed to be closer to the lines.
Plan ahead : When working near low-voltage lines the power administration can cover the lines for improved safety. When the lines are of a sufficiently high voltage that they cannot be covered extra precautions must be taken to ensure worker safety.
Special situations: Here is a short list of absolute no-no’s relating to building near power lines. (a) Swimming pools are never allowed to be built underneath a power line, regardless of the clearance. A falling line could turn a backyard swimming pool into BBQ stew! (b) No part of a radio or television aerial can reach higher vertically than a power line. An electrified aerial could provide a “shocking” end to the cricket match. (c) Any project involving an easement where power lines are connected will require prior approval by the power administration provider.
Talk to the experts.
Even in the internet age where all of the information you’d need to determine minimum clearance is readily available, the easiest way to stay compliant and avoid costly fines is to talk to the power company. Let electricity specialists come out to your site and take a look at your plans. They’ll accurately lay out your minimum clearance based on the type of line, line voltage, and building use.
Why risk being out of compliance when the experts are just a phone call away?
https://www.sa.gov.au/subject/Water, energy and environment/Electrical, gas and plumbing safety and technical regulation/Electricity and gas safety for consumers/Electricity safety/Powerline safety/Building safely near powerlines