APTP Articles

Sustainability as Key Innovation Drivers in Switchgear Development

Across all industries, sustainability objectives are put in place to progressively increase the efficiency of operations, with ambitious targets set to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To meet the targets, all parts of the operations must contribute and carefully review all opportunities to reduce energy consumption.

It was never really considered as a realistic possibility that low-voltage switchgear designs could also contribute to these objectives. However, as switchgear generate heat, the electrical room requires conditioning to maintain the required ambient temperatures.

Take for example an eHouse (prefabricated substation), which houses low-voltage switchgear that runs 24/7. Maintaining the switchgear room temperature is key to the equipment performance to ensure the guaranteed lifetime of all the components inside the switchgear. This requires a properly sized conditioning system to be installed, which in some locations might have to run every day of the year, every hour of the day. It is clear that the smaller the room is and the less heat the switchgear in it generates, less energy will be required for the conditioning systems.

ABB’s new switchgear NeoGear can significantly contribute to reducing the carbon footprint, simply thanks to the physical behaviour of laminated bus plate technology. Traditional busbar systems generate heat due to AC-losses caused by the skin-effect in the copper bars. The absence of these AC-losses in laminated technology reduces the overall switchgear heat contribution by up to 30 percent. 

An additional contribution to more sustainable operations comes from a reduction in the energy required for room conditioning systems. The reduced heat contribution from NeoGear in an electrical room, in combination with smaller eHouses (less volume to cool), significantly reduces the amount of energy required for conditioning.

Sustainable space utilisation 

Effective space utilisation for electrical equipment is a key driver in industries such as mining operations where space utilisation determines the optimum allocation of the available CAPEX budget.

Over the past decades, low-voltage switchgear has transformed from large fully open type of installations to today’s fully enclosed, compact, modular type. This progress came with significant improvements in safety and availability of the switchgear. However, the continuous effort to reduce switchgear footprint tended to come with a disadvantage: less space for electrical components, more difficult wiring and cable terminations and reduced rating. What may be visually perceived as available open module space in a switchgear line-up might not always be available, due to limits of thermal performance or maximum currents per section.

With the introduction of laminated bus plate technology, it has finally become possible to reduce footprint of switchgear, yet maintain the space needed for the equipment and still offer maximum rating. Equal performances were not possible without forced ventilation until the introduction of switchgear with laminated bus plate technology.