Schneider Electric unveiled a new SF6-free switchgear technology for medium voltage applications at CIRED in Madrid this week. SF6 has been used since 1960 in switchgears as it is excellent for electrical insulation and breaking purposes, to control, protect and isolate electrical equipment.
But now a clever combination of air for insulation and shunt vacuum for breaking should allow use of the greenhouse gas for this purpose to be phased out, while maintaining a small footprint and cost-effectiveness.
Schneider has several different switchgear ranges for primary and secondary electrical distribution, the first of which has already been updated with the new technology and two more are well advanced, Frederic Godemel, executive vice president of power systems, said at CIRED. “At Schneider Electric, we believe the best gas is no gas.” The new offers are based on three of the most popular product ranges: SM6, RM6, and GHA. Within three years all of its global ranges will be updated, followed by the local ones.
A pilot project with E.ON has been underway in Sweden since April and others are ongoing but yet to be made public. Schneider expects to sign its first commercial contract for the new technology in September.
What potential customers have appreciated so far is that the operating mode is exactly the same as before, Godemel said, so no further retrofits are required.
Further, new digital technologies such as sensors for condition monitoring can unlock predictive and preventive asset management strategies by feeding data to sophisticated analytics tools such as those offered by Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure architecture and platform.