Wednesday 5 August 2020

Air and vacuum technologies ‘are key to phasing out SF6 from the world’s electrical infrastructure’

Air and vacuum technologies ‘are key to phasing out SF6 from the world’s electrical infrastructure’

Air and vacuum technologies are key to phasing out SF6 from the world's electrical infrastructure.

That's the suggestion from Schneider Electric's Executive Vice President Power Systems, Frederic Godemel, and David Hall, Vice President Power Systems, UK & Ireland, who spoke to future Net Zero News Editor Jonny Bairstow about the company's drive to phase out the use of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) in its energy infrastructure products.

SF6 is an odourless and colourless greenhouse gas commonly used to ensure electrical switchgear works properly and safely - it can currently be found in 30 million units of medium-voltage switchgear installed worldwide.

It can pose a significant risk to the environment - the gas is 23,500 times more ‘climate warming’ per kilo than carbon dioxide, meaning one kilogram of SF6 leaking into the atmosphere has a similar environmental impact as driving a car approximately 200,000 kilometres.

Unlike some of its competitors, Schneider Electric’s SF6-free solution uses air insulation/vacuum interruption, rather than replacing the SF6 with another potentially harmful chemical.

It has the additional benefit of being able to fit into the same footprint as existing infrastructure, as well as being affordable and lasting for more than 25 years.

The firm's SF6-free switching technology is operational today in a number of European locations and Schneider Electric is currently the only company developing SF6-free technology specifically for the UK market - it stresses pursuing SF6-free alternatives on a global basis must be a priority, because overall energy consumption is anticipated to grow by 48% before 2040, driving up demand for switchgear deployment.

Mr Hall said: "Our core product in the UK, our ringmaster unit, there are probably 300,000 of those across the country today, so making sure that this fits in the current footprint is absolutely critical... in having the same set-up as we move forwards, it keeps things safe, it also means that the engineers don't have to be retrained on something completely different, so it reduces costs there."

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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