The energy and electrical sectors should be at the forefront of innovation to reduce its impact on the environment, says diversified power management company Eaton South Africa’s Energy Saver System business development manager Marcel Buckner.
“This is at a time when the world’s focus is increasingly on climate change and its impact on human, animal and plant life,” he adds.
A good place to start is to discuss industry’s use of sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6, which is used to prevent short circuits and other electrical accidents. Cheap and non-flammable, this synthetic gas is colourless and odourless, and effective in insulating medium and high voltage electrical installations.
SF6 is widely used across the industry, whether in power stations or wind turbines, and helps prevent electrical accidents and fires in electrical substations.
It also contributes more to global warming than any known substance, with a warming effect 23 500 times that of carbon dioxide. It also stays in the atmosphere for at least 1 000 years.
SF6has been banned by the Kyoto Protocol, and has been removed from nearly all industries it was previously used in, including sports shoes, tennis balls, car tyres and double glazing. However, it is still used by some manufacturers in the switchgear industry, where there are apparently no alternatives that provide the same level of protection from accidents and fires.
However, while there are few alternatives for use in power plants, substitutes do exist in locations that use high voltage and medium voltage switchgear, such as infrastructure, commercial buildings, industry, shops and offices, distribution centres, residential applications, and even transformer and distribution substations.
For example, Eaton’sXiria medium voltage switchgear system is a reliable and economic solution for ring main units and industrial switchgear, and, owing to the use of Eaton vacuum and solid insulation technology, avoids using environmentally harmful SF6 gas.
Xiria, suitable for applications up to 24 kV, uses vacuum circuit-breakers for circuit interruption and solid/air insulation in its compact systems, rather than SF6 gas insulation, so that there are no greenhouse gases emitted.
Xiria’s fully enclosed housing minimises function lost to dust, humidity or other environmental influences and all parts are fully enclosed by an internal arc tested safe metal housing, making it exceptionally safe.
Leading utilities, industries, commerce and public services globally who are heeding the call to make their operations more sustainable but with significantly less impact on the environment have already adopted the technology, also benefiting from the lower cost of ownership made possible by less testing and no high end-of-life disposal costs.
The energy industry is brimming with innovation in so many areas, with massive leaps and bounds in harnessing renewable energy and maximising the efficiency of power generation plants.
Taking simple but smart measures to reduce the impact on the environment makes more than just good business sense – it is the only way that climate change can be slowed, never mind reversed.
Eaton’s electrical business is a global leader in power distribution, power quality, control and automation, power monitoring, and energy management products and services.