Digital Switchgear – Raising the Bar

In-depth analysis on how digitisation helps in improving performance and reliability of switchgears. By Subhajit Roy, Group Editor

Globally, as in India, the power sector is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, fuelled by digital disruption. Digitisation helps in improving the performance and reliability of switchgears as smart switchgears allow grid optimisation and enhance performance, efficiency and minimise both transmission as well as operational losses. Digitisation drives switchgears to new levels of efficiency as monitoring and analysing of information becomes extremely reliable, reducing monthly maintenance costs. Besides, this is done without regular checks by maintenance crews, lowering costs even more since digital switchgear permits greater visibility of current, voltage, power loss, operating cycles, temperatures and other measurable metrics.

AV Jagdish, Senior Vice President, Havells India Ltd, said, “Smart switchgears are embedded with sensors and smart systems which enable a safe, reliable and flexible distribution within a fully controlled system. Smart switchgears can also be pre-programmed and embedded with intelligent devices for monitoring and automatic load management for energy savings and easy maintenance.”

Anil Kadam, General Manager, Solutions Architect, Schneider Electric, said, “Digitisation works on the principle of using less for more by enhancing energy efficiency and reliability. Thereby, less energy is used in providing more output. Less energy usage improves the reliability of switchgears and requires less maintenance too.”

Commenting on how digitisation helps in improving performance and reliability of switchgears, Sameer Saxena, Director- Marketing, Legrand (Group) India said, “Digitalisation will have a great impact on the electrical distribution as it will improve operations and increase flexibility through the chain. Installing digital switchgear today contributes greatly to increasing operational efficiency. It can be done by optimising switchgear footprint in the substation room and by using the energy efficiently for switchgear operation. It also helps in self-monitoring and diagnostic of the switchgear by way of which the reliability can be enhanced.”

By creating a ‘digital twin’ of the physical switchgear, engineers are able to rapidly study the behaviour of the switchgear under different conditions, and test new innovations quickly and cost-effectively, explains Syed Sajjadh Ali, Managing Director – India, Electrical Sector, Eaton. He adds, “For the end-users, digitisation helps them to operate the facility more efficiently and reliably with the help of better information-based decision making. This in turn ensures the switchgears operate within their design specifications – increasing the overall life and ROI of the system.”

According to ABB, “Digitalisation creates efficiency gains, including 25 per cent footprint reductions and weight optimisation. Installation and commissioning times are decreased up to 25 per cent and delivery capabilities are up to 30 per cent faster compared with conventional switchgear.”

With digital switchgear, modifications are easy to implement when electrical loads are changed or added or a need for adaptation is identified late in the switchgear project. This new generation of switchgear allows for flexibility and expansion of the equipment without the need for complex additional wiring. “Digital switchgear is easily adapted, as changes can be made using software logic in the protection relays, using the concept of interoperability in the IEC 61850 standard for communication, bringing with it both operational efficiency and unprecedented flexibility,” a statement earlier issued by ABB said.

Digital Readiness

Schneider Electric portfolio of smart integrated solution

Schneider Electric has an entire portfolio of smart integrated solution offerings. This includes complete power distribution solutions (including LV and MV) integrated with energy monitoring software that provide the customer with all the tools and analysis to improve the efficiency of their system. In turn, this results in efficient productivity and maximum profits. “Our key pillars include asset management, network management and energy management – a comprehensive range of solutions being offered under each pillar,” informs Anil Kadam of Schneider Electric.

Schneider Electric recently launched EcoStruxure Asset Connect and Asset Advisor is an integrated approach towards next generation services by delivering predictive analytics to secure electrical distribution through monitoring your critical connected products.

EcoStruxure Asset Connect installs sensors (thermal, environmental) into an electrical equipment, through which plants and industries are able to capture data and monitor the health of the equipment. It reduces periodic checking and maintenance costs and protects investment by maximising the lifespan of an equipment. This approach combines a best-of-breed technological platform, EcoStruxure Asset Advisor that offers the ability to anticipate and address issues before they become critical incidents, mitigating safety risks, avoiding unplanned downtime, operational losses and expensive maintenance interventions.

Legrand products high on digital integration

Digital switchgear combines the latest digital technologies. They enable easy integration to increase smart functionality, such as power management, real-time diagnostics and remote monitoring. “We have a host of products which are high on digital integration. This includes both hardware aspect involving high-end electronics as well as associated software solutions which help our clients to optimise their energy consumption,” informs Sameer Saxena of Legrand (Group) India.

Eaton Xiria Plus SF6 Free Ring Main Unit

Eaton’s digital switchgear range

In 1957, Eaton’s Moeller segment developed the first fault current protection switch, and with this a new era of electrical safety engineering began. The tradition continues. The company’s new digital switchgear range in the Eaton xEffect series communicates potential problems in advance and sets new standards in precision, security and convenient service.

At this year’s Hannover Fair, Eaton demonstrated many practical applications for machine builders, building owners and grid operators to take advantage of the Internet of Things and Energy Transition (towards renewable energy and distributed energy resources).

Under the theme of integrated industry technologies, Eaton showcased Cloud-enabled electrical and hydraulic systems for more efficient, safe and intelligent machines. This included Eaton’s comprehensive range of digital drives and switchgears for safe and efficient machine-building applications. It showcased the new digital NZM circuit breakers, which have been equipped for convenient lifecycle management.

Under theme of energy transition, Eaton showcased its pioneering SF6-free medium voltage switching equipment used by the industry and distribution grids. This is especially relevant now as the EU reconsiders banning the use of environmentally hazardous SF6 in the coming years.

Eaton showcased xStorage residential and commercial energy storage systems that help energy prosumers reduce energy bills, provide backup power as well as valuable grid services such as frequency regulation. The company also displayed the Microgrid control system Power Xpert Optimizer, which enables increased sustainability and resiliency of power.

ABB’s SafeGear Digital

ABB pioneered in the digital switchgear market launching its first MV digital switchgear in 2014 with UniGear Digital. In April this year, ABB introduced the latest addition to its digital switchgear offering, SafeGear Digital, which enables customers to meet higher performance requirements while adapting to the growing sophistication of power distribution systems.

ABB Safegear

Digital switchgear, as part of the ABB Ability portfolio of connected solutions, is based on the optimised integration of current and voltage sensors into medium-voltage switchgear, combined with the Relion protection and control relays, and the capability of the IEC 61850 standard for communication. This new technology for protection, control, and automation, when applied to conventional switchgear, results in a solution that is continuously self-supervising, with maximum error detection within a system.

The new offering creates a simpler and more reliable system to provide consistent power distribution, as well as cost savings through reduction of maintenance requirements, claims ABB. SafeGear Digital can be useful for environments where a reliable power supply must be ensured and personnel are limited, such as oil refineries, utility substations, and data centers.


By Subhajit Roy