‘Clean air’ switchgear paves the way for a greener future

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  Posted by: electime      1st June 2023

The UK’s biggest electricity distributor has announced how it will be reducing its use of SF6 – one of the most potent greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.

Sulphur hexafluoride (commonly known as SF6) is widely used across the electrical industry as the main method of insulation in high voltage electrical equipment and has approximately 22,800 times the global warming potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide.

UK Power Networks is currently installing its first ‘clean air’ Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) operating at 132,000-volts, which is free of SF6 and composed of dehumidified oxygen, and nitrogen, and has zero global warming potential.

UK Power Networks has worked with Siemens Energy Limited, one of the suppliers behind the new technology, to manufacture the company’s first environmentally-friendly ‘clean air’ GIS at 132,000-volts.

The ‘clean air’ equipment is being installed as part of a substation upgrade in Lewes, East Sussex. This project forms part of UK Power Networks’ ambition to reduce use of SF6 for new switchgear across all voltage ranges where alternatives are available on the market and supports UK targets for net zero carbon emissions, while maintaining reliable power supplies.

Barry Hatton, director of asset management at UK Power Networks, said: “Switchgear plays a vital role in the safe and secure distribution of electricity to homes and businesses. Over time, we want to make more use of environmentally-friendly technology to support a net zero carbon future.

“This investment will pave the way for minimising the volume of SF6 on our network and using alternatives which maintain reliability and performance. We want to continue embracing innovative, sustainable and smart approaches to help enable the low carbon transition and minimise our own carbon footprint.”

UK Power Networks became the first UK Distribution Network Operator with an officially ratified Science Based Target committing to reduce all its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 25 per cent by 2028 from a 2018/19 baseline. UK Power Networks has also set a Net Zero target by 2028 on its controllable Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which include SF6 emissions.

Mark Simblett, managing director transmission products at Siemens Energy, said: “We are delighted to have been commissioned to deliver this exciting new project for UK Power Networks and to have the opportunity to utilise our SF6-free 145kV switchgear technology.

“From the outset we have worked closely with UK Power Networks to offer detailed information about the new technology, highlighting the main advantages and long-term benefits it will bring to their business and of course the environment. Our clean air insulated technology is not only good for the planet but the absence of F-gas will also benefit UK Power Networks through a reduction in training requirements, management of F-gas reporting and the recycling costs that are associated with its use.”

To view a short video about the delivery of the ‘clean air’ Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) click here: ‘Clean air’ switchgear.