Five incidents involving irrigators and power lines

By Alexia Johnston

Water from irrigators came in contact with power lines, causing power outages and infrastructure damage. Photo / Alexia Johnston
Water from irrigators came in contact with power lines, causing power outages and infrastructure damage. Photo / Alexia Johnston

Farmers are being reminded to position irrigators away from power lines following a series of serious incidents last month.

There were five incidents in January in which water from irrigators connected with power lines, causing outages and infrastructure damage.

Alpine Energy group manager safety and risk Stephen Small urged farmers to take extra care.

He said it was important they were aware of the proximity of irrigators to power lines and to think about where the water was going once it left the irrigator.

''We had one incident where an irrigator travelling across the paddock ran into an electricity line, setting the irrigator on fire and causing a power outage, not only for that farmer, but all his neighbours as well.''

Operating irrigators around electricity can pose a significant risk to life, if not done correctly - and equipment does not need to touch the lines for issues to surface.

Electricity can arc through damp air in a high-voltage system without direct contact, resulting in power outages, fire and possible electrocution.

Water jets hitting overhead lines can also cause outages.

''We urge people to be aware of the hazards and operate their machinery accordingly,'' Mr Small said.

''This means knowing where the water and irrigator is going when travelling across a paddock, consider where the cables are and ensure a six-metre clearance at all times.''

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis said most issues occurred with centre pivot or linear irrigators, and with older models of irrigators.

''Farmers need to regularly check that their guidance systems are working and that stops are secure as, if they are damaged, it can result it the irrigator going beyond where it is supposed to irrigate.''

Improvements to technology means farmers can now operate irrigators from an app, even if they were not on the farm.

That concept could prove problematic if the irrigator went off course.

However, that concern was diminishing as advancements to the systems were made, Mr Curtis said.

''The models most likely to go off course are older linear models, where the guidance system can occasionally stop working properly, causing the irrigator to keep going beyond where it was supposed to stop. Regular checking that the irrigator, stops and guidance system are all in good order helps avoid faults.''

- Otago Daily Times

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