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Adding Life to Switchgears

Tips on how to optimise performance of switchgear equipment

With the constant requirement changes of the power industry, sustainable and dependable assets are becoming essential to guarantee optimum usage of high and medium devices. The service required ensuring suitable function availability and performance of high-voltage and medium-voltage switchgear is significant.

Performing proper maintenance can decrease the risk of unexpected downtime and lengthen the useful life of electrical equipment. With escalating reliance on computers and automated processes, most modern facilities cannot afford downtime. Electrical equipment failures account for millions of dollars in damage and lost business every year.

Both the passive and active components require regular maintenance to ensure equipment reliability and proper mechanical and electrical functionality, as well as to optimise the equipment’s useful life. A regularly scheduled electrical system preventive maintenance program is proposed to detect, repair, or replace affected electrical components, parts, or equipment before they lead to catastrophic damages, major power interruptions, and loss of business functions.

A number of damaging scenarios can be eliminate, or reduced through optimising the switchgear life and enhancing reliability. With limited finances available for new equipment purchase and capital projects, the only feasible solution is maintenance of the existing equipment. Switchgear is composed of bus structures, as well as more active components that consist of fused switching devices and circuit breakers.

Optimising performance of switchgear equipment
Sameer Saxena, Director-Marketing, Legrand India says, “Switchgear is an important component in the electrical system charged with the function to perform the function of carrying, making or breaking the normal current load. They are composed of passive and active components. Passive components include the horizontal and vertical bus structures and active components are the power circuit breakers and fusible switching devices.”

To optimise the performance and therefore enhance the reliability of electrical switchgear one needs regular maintenance to ensure equipment integrity and proper mechanical and electrical functionality. Failure of switchgear takes place due to degradation into unsatisfactory condition prematurely, examines Saxena.

One can optimise the performance through-

  • Exercise the circuit breakers annually – a basic practice to manually operate the circuits which can ensure that they are functioning properly and keep them clean.
  • Not neglecting recommended maintenance- switchgear should be cleaned and maintained on regular basis. According to the usage. Climate conditions etc once should get their switchgears maintenance done.
  • Upgradation of equipment- ensuring that proper quality for the equipment is maintained and if needed the equipment’s are upgraded timely

With an aim to exceed reliability of the switchgears, Saxena asserts, “At Legrand, all the products are ISI approved. We ensure that our products adhere to IEC, DIN and IP standards which ensure seamless functioning of switchgear extreme conditions or in critical environments. These standards don’t just make products reliable only for operation internationally, but also in India.”

Gautam Seth, Joint Managing Director, HPL Electric & Power Ltd says, “Innovation in switchgears is primarily in terms of the aesthetics and customised features offered by the products rather than technological changes in the product, such as improving the product life cycle, tamper-proofing, increasing safety and handling, improving user-interface and focus on multi- functionality and niche functionality.”

Multinational companies and established manufacturers usually spend more on product improvement and the frequency of updating product features is usually two to three years, continues Seth.

Talking about reliability of HPL’s switchgears, Seth adds that, “We, at HPL have strengthened our switchgear range by bringing a new and upgraded line of electrical operated switches, AV ATS- advance version automatic load transfer switch. The variant is exceedingly sophisticated and technologically advanced which is simple and easy to use and has been designed keeping the safety of the customers in mind. In terms of application, AV ATS is relevant for healthcare, internet data centres, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, telecom central office, process manufacturing, distribution
power / load management, HVAC, telecommunications and BMS.

A V Jagdish, Sr. Vice President, Havells India Ltd says, “Performance enhancement is about obtaining performance at optimum level. In regards to switch gear, basically it’s a productive device specific function. The primary function is protection. The protection can be against different types of faults and other things. When one looks at protection, they are also looking for fault if any. It is all about enhancing these functionalities and the movement you improve any one of this function, your performance criteria is enhanced as well as reliability increases.”

A reliable, safe, simply maintainable power network is more essential than ever because downtime can cost millions per hour. Proper switchgear and switchboard maintenance combined with modernization can help in improving reliability. Keep in mind, modernizing and upgrading low voltage and medium voltage switchgear equipment doesn’t have to mean demolishing the active infrastructure. One can choose to replace the existing electrical installation with new equipment or one can pinpoint where you will advantage from upgrades, retrofitting, or modernization, which usually are more cost-effective and less disruptive than buying new equipment.

Switchgear has to perform the function of carrying, making and breaking the normal load current like a switch and it has to perform the function of clearing the fault in addition to that it also has provision of metering and regulating the various parameters of electrical power system. Thus the switchgear includes circuit breaker, current transformer, voltage transformer, protection relay, measuring instrument, electrical switch, electrical fuse, miniature circuit breaker, lightening arrestor or surge arrestor, electrical isolator and other associated equipment.

Electric switchgear is essential at every switching point in the electrical power system. There are various voltage levels and hence various fault levels between the generating stations and load centres. Therefore various types of switchgear assembly are required depending upon different voltage levels of the system.

Retrofitting: Effective way in extending life span of the existing switchgear component
Retrofitting of switchgear is a cost effective way in extending life span of the existing switchgear while integrating the latest technology into the system. In most instances, retrofitting of the breakers can be carried out with modest modifications to the existing breaker compartments.

Installing a new circuit breaker with latest interrupter technologies (Sulphur Hexa Fluoride – SF6 or Vacuum) along with the latest controls and instrumentation in older switchgear is an accepted method of extending the life cycle of existing installations. The substitute circuit breaker can boost the life of the switchgear as the original circuit breakers are technically obsolete, too costly to maintain on account of non availability of original spares, incapable to interrupt or endure the ever escalating fault current, or beyond repair due to mechanical wear and tear.

A successful switchgear retrofit is an outcome of thorough planning and proper understanding of the existing system and its future requirement. Switchgears are principal equipment competent of delivering dependable service to the modern day power management. Any disturbance in its service may result in loss of money. Maximum care must be taken while designing the retrofit solutions for existing switchgear.

Retrofitting also gives an opportunity to the customer to save money and time from installing a new set of equipment and keep themselves upgraded to the latest technology with nominal expenses. Switchgear retrofitting have much potential due to the fact that many switchgear installations are very old and using air and oil as insulating medium – a significantly outdated technology. Advancement in automation technology also demanding sophisticated control and instrumentation for switchgear for trouble free remote operations. Modern day retrofitting solutions are competent of replacing any make of breaker with minimal modification and outages.

To optimise the performance and therefore enhance the reliability of electrical switchgear one needs regular maintenance to ensure equipment integrity and proper mechanical and electrical functionality.
Sameer Saxena, Director-Marketing, Legrand

Innovation in switchgears is primarily in terms of the aesthetics and customised features offered by the products rather than technological changes in the product.
Gautam Seth, Joint Managing Director, HPL Electric & Power Ltd

A reliable, safe, simply maintainable power network is more essential than ever because downtime can cost millions per hour.
A V Jagdish, Sr. Vice President, Havells India Ltd

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