Drakenstein municipality rolls out new, green switchgear

Image of Drakenstein municipality electro-technical engineering division planning and customer services manager Leon Laing.

Leon Laing

19th September 2023

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The Drakenstein municipality, in the Western Cape, has adopted Schneider Electric’s green RM AirSeT switchgear, which it says will reduce the municipality’s carbon footprint by using pure air instead of SF6 gas.

The project alleviates the harmful greenhouse gas emissions produced by SF6 gas (sulphur hexafluoride) found in traditional gas-insulated switchgear, which is 23 500 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

This RM AirSeT project also brings digital connectivity and safety benefits.

While the municipality’s previous electricity communication network system only allowed for radio frequency communication, the latest upgrades will communicate through wireless ethernet or fibre.

“This project comes at a time when South Africa faces immense energy challenges,” says Drakenstein Mayor Conrad Poole.

“Being an early adopter of this pioneering technology will enable us to share lessons learnt with our peers.”

“Drakenstein municipality is undoubtedly leading the way in establishing a modern, digitised infrastructure that enables it to remotely monitor equipment like the RM AirSeT switchgear, which, in turn, allows for expanded network visibility, as well as preventative and proactive maintenance and problem solving,” explains Schneider Electric Anglophone Africa power systems VP Vladimir Milovanovic.

The Drakenstein municipality is also partnering with Schneider Electric and system integration partner, Altek, to implement an electrical monitoring system – ETAP.

This collaboration should enable the municipality to find and fix electrical problems faster and maintain and safeguard equipment better.

The municipality, serving a population of 305 281 people, will gradually replace its current monitoring system with the ETAP system.

Three of the municipality’s 36 substations are already online, and in the 2023/24 financial year eight more substations will be brought online.

“This is the part that makes me really excited,” says Poole. “The beauty of it is that Drakenstein municipality can now guarantee our residents and businesses less downtime. 

“Our community, as the rest of South Africa, is loadshedding fatigued. Not only does Eskom loadshedding mean hours of inconvenient outages, but it also creates a breeding ground for criminals to steal cables and damage infrastructure. 

“In addition, it puts tremendous pressure on our sanitation, water, and electricity infrastructure. 

“Smart technology to assist us in dealing with these challenges could not have come at a more opportune time,” says Poole. “With this added tool in our management toolbox, we can now raise the service delivery bar even higher.” 

“The new ETAP system integrates well with our geographic mapping system and offers many exciting features, such as real-time insights into the power grid,” adds Drakenstein municipality electro-technical engineering division planning and customer services manager Leon Laing.

“This will enable us to swiftly pinpoint the precise areas affected by power outages, which will drastically cut down on fault finding and repair times, as well as [work] hours. What is more, is that ETAP allows remote monitoring on various devices.”


Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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