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Smart energy storage balances supply and demand, reducing grid stress

April 26, 2023 6:43 pm

Smart energy storage balances supply and demand, reducing grid stress

Ripunjay Parikh of Eaton Electrical Sector India, in an interview with EPR Magazine, stresses innovating high-efficiency, intelligent power solutions for upgrading distribution systems.

How have the Indian government’s policies and regulations affected the country’s HV/MV/substation switchgear market?

The government recognises the importance of having good-quality, uninterrupted power as a key element for driving industrial growth and improving the quality of life for its citizens. There are various initiatives already being implemented or contemplated in this regard.

The first major initiative is to upgrade the power distribution network in smart cities and Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. The need to have high-efficiency transformers and create an underground cable distribution network using smart, intelligent switchgear.

Secondly, the faster implementation of policies related to the deployment of electric vehicles. To accelerate this, we need to create a wide charging infrastructure network. Eaton is very well poised to provide a single-window, complete solution, right from the medium-voltage switchgear compact substations, low-voltage distribution switchgear, and world-class EV chargers, both AC (up to 22 KW) and DC chargers (from 30 to 360 KW). This has to ensure that the switchgear and chargers are coordinated and ensure the highest level of safety, both for the vehicles and the users.

Lastly, the most recent trend towards ensuring stable power availability is to balance the supply with smart energy storage systems. This system will store the power during low demand and high generation times and feed the power to users when there is a higher demand. This is an important step towards reducing the stress on the power distribution system, eliminating peak demands to a great extent, and reducing T&D losses.

What role do HV, MV, and substation switchgear play in India’s power transmission and distribution system?

The selection of appropriate technology for switchgear is important to maintain and monitor our electrical networks with minimum downtime and reliable protection. Standards for electrical switchgear are defined by IEEE, IEC, GB, and IS in different parts of the world. They are also defined based on applications, like oil and gas (ATEX/IECEx), marine certification, defence applications, etc.

Switchgear is a centralised collection of circuit breakers, fuses, and switches, together with circuit protection relays and monitoring and measurement devices that protect, control, and isolate electrical equipment. The circuit protection devices are mounted in metal structures. These are metal-clad or metal-enclosed with loss of service continuity LSC 2A or 2B with partition metal (PM) or insulation (PI) and tested to withstand short circuits, internal arcs, and peak impulse voltage in the worst possible applications and conditions on the given network. A collection of one or more structures is called a switchgear line-up or assembly.

How do they help improve the reliability and efficiency of the power grid in India?

The new generation of switchgear is highly reliable, offers minimal maintenance, and has a very high uptime. It is important that the operating guidelines mentioned by the manufacturers are followed, and adequate safety measures are implemented. The new generation of switchgear comes with intelligent protection relays and communication devices that can offer advanced diagnostics and alarms that can provide warnings in abnormal conditions. In addition, other good practices can include maintaining a dust-free, clean environment in the substation areas and providing training by OEMs for the operators on efficiently handling the switchgear.

Due to its transition from outdated methodologies to state-of-the-art communicable and automated switchgear, India needs more skills in the electrical field, especially switchgear. The skill is in high demand. We recommend training and opening more certification courses for switchgear operation and maintenance across our utilities and industries. This would help long-term.


How does adopting HV/MV/substation switchgear technology contribute to India’s energy security and sustainability goals?

Future cities will require smart grids to efficiently manage power distribution, which is becoming increasingly dynamic with the advancements of decentralised energy and smart, sustainable devices. Engineers, consultants, and asset managers must now consider the environmental impact of every part of their power network. When considering medium-voltage units, the switching and how the insulation is done are both critical factors.

MV switchgear is generally enclosed in a metal-clad structure. Early in the 20th century, MV switchgear used oil and air as a medium in the circuit breakers. Technological advancements led to the introduction of gas (sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6) as an interruption medium and insulator in the late 1950s, along with vacuum circuit breakers shortly after that. SF6 is now well known to pose a significant risk to human health and the environment. Gas-insulated switchgear (GIS), with SF6, is unfortunately still used extensively worldwide. SF6 is one of the hazardous greenhouse gases recognised by various authorities on climate change.

Eaton is committed to sustainability with a vision to improve the quality of life and the environment using innovative power management technologies and services. We endeavour to make our factories and facilities zero-waste and zero-landfill. All our products are RoHS-compliant. Regarding our products, we are building a lot of innovation to reduce the environmental impact. This is exemplified by the XIRIA family of medium-voltage switchgear, which offers a sustainable answer to important modern-day and future energy challenges. The unique design of the XIRIA family of medium voltage switchgear uses patented solid insulation technology, which eliminates SF6 gas and, at the same time, ensures the same compact footprint of the switchgear. Further, they have a low total cost of ownership because they have a high switching life of up to 10,000 cycles, the maintenance is greatly reduced, and the equipment can adapt to new smart grids. 

What factors drive the demand for HV, MV, and substation switchgear solutions in India?

As the economy expands and the cities grow, there is a need for the uninterrupted availability of power. Utilities are upgrading their distribution infrastructure from overhead lines to underground cable networks and creating a ring-based power feed for the customers. This ensures the availability of power even during abnormal conditions. It naturally requires innovative and compact switchgear that can handle higher loads and fault levels.

The new generation ring main units, while being compact, can handle larger currents up to 1250 A and 25 KA fault levels. These units now come with smart metering and automation to provide online status and power quality data to the central monitoring system, ensuring continuous power availability.

Switchgears play a pivotal role in power distribution planning. Through proper scheme planning, we can save significant power to reduce overall electrical assets and eventually power loss in conductors while ensuring reliability. Experts at Eaton work around the best possible switchgear design to ensure uptime and efficiency in utilities, industries, data centres, and infrastructure.

What are some of India’s latest innovations and advancements in HV/MV/substation switchgear technology?

The new generation of switchgear offers internal arc compliance, which ensures that in the event of an arc fault, the fault is contained to the specific feeder only and does not result in cascading tripping of the entire system. New developments include arc flash detection systems, which can detect potential arc faults optically much in advance, thereby protecting the system much in advance before it can result in a major fault and thereby offering safety to the plant and personnel.

A key future development for medium-voltage switchgear used in the distribution system is the need for SF6-free technology. While SF6 is a proven insulating medium, it is known to cause severe environmental damage if released into the atmosphere. Eaton offers a unique, solid-insulated switchgear (SIS), XIRIA, which is SF6-free and, at the same time, offers a highly compact footprint due to its patented solid insulation technology. This ensures truly environmentally friendly, maintenance-free, and safe MV switchgear. XIRIA is available now in 24Kv up to 1250A and 25KA-3 sec (12KV) and has more than 150,000 units already installed across the globe.

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