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SPU (Spark Prevention Unit) Technology – Hitachi Innovation Limits the Spread of Bushfires

Video: SPU Technology: Technology Innovation by Hitachi Limits the Spread of Bushfires

The environmental impact of bushfires

With the expectation of rising temperatures and more extreme weather events, Australia’s bushfire seasons are predicted to last longer and become more dangerous. Bushfires have the potential to burn large areas of land and damage properties, impacting the health of humans and wildlife.

Lightning is one of the most-common sources of bushfire ignition in remote areas and the cause of 6% of all bushfires in Australia.1 When the electrical network is exposed to lightning, it may cause an overvoltage, possibly resulting in a catastrophic failure of equipment and potential source of fire ignition.

At Hitachi Energy, we recognise the role technology can play in tackling climate change and supporting bushfire prevention in Australia. For this reason, Hitachi Energy designed a solution to eliminate the fire risk posed by overloaded equipment on distribution networks and limit the risk of bushfires from the electricity grid.

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Surge arresters save critical equipment but pose a risk in the process

When there’s a surge of energy, from a lightning strike for example, a surge arrester is designed to absorb the overvoltage and sacrifice itself to protect critical and expensive equipment downstream. This unique ‘failure’ functionality is necessary, but hot gases and incandescent particles are released in the process, increasing the risk of fires.

With a dedication to creating innovative solutions, Michael Bacon and Dylan Perera from Hitachi Energy led their team towards discovering a way to disconnect the surge arresters from the network before they reached this critical point of explosion.

“We began to research ways to avoid the violent arcing posed by the failure of surge arresters and essentially prevent the risk of bushfire.”

– Dylan Perera, Sales Manager at Hitachi Energy

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An innovative solution for partners to help prevent bushfires

Through technological innovation and expertise, Hitachi Energy created the Spark Prevention Unit (SPU) surge arrester. If a thermal overload is detected, the SPU interrupts the current flow and disconnects the surge arrester before being driven to short circuit failure. A visual indicator lets the operator know the surge arrestor has been safety disconnected and flags a requirement to replace the equipment.

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Partners who have benefitted from Hitachi’s SPU technology

United Energy and Horizon Power have installed about 2,000 SPUs across Victoria and Western Australia. For operators of electrical distribution networks, the SPU surge arrester eliminates the risk of arcing, sparking or ejection of hot particles. So by installing SPUs, these organisations have limited their bushfire risk profile.

Hitachi Energy continues to explore solutions to mitigate the damage of bushfires with an emphasis on digitalisation. The latest enhancements include additional capability for the SPU to provide a digital status signal so the network operator will be quickly notified of a surge arrester disconnection.

“We’re hoping a solution like this can be a feature in all distributors’ bushfire readiness plans.”

– Michael Bacon, Account Manager at Hitachi Energy

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Hitachi’s contribution to public safety

The SPU offers round-the-clock protection in remote areas as well as more-populated urban areas, where catastrophic failures pose a real risk to public safety. The SPU solution helps distribution utilities move beyond compliance and to implementing real actions to support bushfire prevention and limit bushfire risk to improve the safety of people, nature and wildlife.

“Protecting human lives, housing, land and wildlife. That is the social impact we at Hitachi Energy want to contribute to.”

– Dylan Perera, Sales Manager at Hitachi Energy


  1., This is how most bushfires in Australia start, and how we know
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