Greener energy distribution

October 2023 News Electrical Power & Protection

Drakenstein Municipality, situated in Paarl in the Western Cape, is one of the first distribution utilities globally to implement Schneider Electric’s green, SF6-free RM AirSeT switchgear with pure air technology and native digital connectivity. The project sees Drakenstein Municipality taking proactive steps towards alleviating the harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by SF6 gas found in traditional gas-insulated switchgear. It is 23 500 times more potent than CO2.

The RM AirSeT pure air switchgear installation, enabled by its native connectivity, also forms part of Drakenstein Municipality’s upgrade of its 25 year old scada system to ETAP, a model-driven electrical scada software solution. The project is being rolled out in in partnership with Schneider Electric and system integrator partner, Altek.

“We are extremely proud and excited to embark on this journey with Schneider Electric,” says Conrad Poole, executive mayor of Drakenstein Municipality. “Sustainability is in the DNA of our organisation and our community, and this project is a perfect fit for our sustainability vision and best practices. It underscores our ongoing commitment to excellent service delivery, while ensuring a sustainable future and protected environment for coming generations. Being an early adopter of this pioneering technology will enable us to share the lessons learnt with our peers. As the largest Western Cape municipality outside Cape Town, and one of the most financially sound, well-governed and stable municipalities in South Africa, we are honoured to now also be setting the pace in this regard.”

“Drakenstein Municipality is undoubtedly leading the way in establishing a modern, digitised infrastructure that enables it to monitor equipment like the RM AirSeT switchgear remotely. This in turn allows for expanded network visibility, and preventive and proactive maintenance and problem solving,” explains Vladimir Milovanovic, vice president of Power Systems for Schneider Electric Anglophone Africa. “Furthermore, by implementing green technology such as our SF6-free switchgear, the municipality is undoubtedly showing its commitment to mitigating its environmental footprint, while benefiting from improved operational performance and efficiency.”

The rollout of RM AirSeT is a part of Schneider’s Grids of the Future programme, and a milestone in in its progress towards producing a complete portfolio of SF6-free switchgear by 2025. The average lifespan of switchgear is between 30 and 40 years. Utilities therefore have a once in a generation opportunity to take action to avoid the risk of additional GHG emissions. By eliminating the use of SF6 gas in switchgear, the environmental footprint of electrical networks will be significantly reduced.

Features of the RM AirSeT include:

Protection against harsh environments: It is completely sealed from the external environment, which provides extra protection against the harsh conditions of grids, such as humidity or saltwater. The design makes it suitable for utilities and some industrial settings. Its compact footprint also enables it to be used for deployment in space-sensitive applications.

Natively digital: It offers condition-based maintenance features, feeding data from its sensors to both local field tools and apps, and sophisticated analytics tools. These can be hosted either in the cloud using best of breed cybersecurity practices, or on premise.

Management of more complex networks: It is equipped with the Easergy T300 Feeder Remote Terminal Unit, a modular, IoT-connected device for modern grid automation. This offers a single solution for 24/7 app-based condition monitoring, with controls to check the quality of power connections and identify and isolate faults in seconds, and self-healing capabilities for reduced downtime.

Built to last: The advanced Schneider Electric-patented CompoDrive operating mechanism is reinforced to handle the increased switching requirements of a modern, decentralised grid. With ten times the mechanical endurance of conventional mechanisms, RM AirSeT has a lifespan of 40 years and 10 000 operations.

Complete and flexible range of functions: It includes functions such as switch, switch-fuse, circuit breaker, and metering, with the freedom to combine them.

Peace of mind for regulatory compliance: SF6 gas is a regulated fluorinated gas, which currently has special exemption for use in electrical distribution across many geographies. However, as alternatives become more readily available, various countries and territories are considering measures to restrict its use. Pure air offers ultimate transparency.


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