Pump up the voltage

High-voltage products for the evolving grid

High-voltage products play a vital role when it comes to the transmission of electricity. Quite simply, they are an essential and integral element of the value chain that ensure reliability, efficiency and quality of power – for both direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) applications.

Typically, high-voltage products  are classified above 33 kilovolts (kV) and go all the way up to 1200 kV –  the latest frontier. The high voltage range includes products such as air, gas and hybrid switchgear, instrument transformers, disconnectors, surge arrestors and power capacitors. Designed to minimize footprint and environmental impact, these robust products are capable of withstanding harsh conditions including temperatures ranging from (–ve ) 60 degrees Celsius (°C ) to (+ve) 55°C.

More than a century has lapsed since erstwhile ASEA ( a founding company) delivered one of the world’s first high voltage circuit breakers in 1893, to support the company’s construction of the world’s first commercial three phase AC power transmission link bringing hydropower to a large iron-ore mine in Sweden. These were early days in the inception of the grid and many technology milestones have been achieved by the company over the decades including the pioneering development of gas insulated switchgear (GIS) in 1967.

Technology and innovation requires close collaboration with customers to ensure that new developments address ‘real’ challenges and opportunities. For instance, the increasing paucity of space in burgeoning metropolises driven by growing urbanization. As a case in point, ABB is significantly shrinking the footprint of its GIS products, the most recent being the 72.5, 245 and 420 kV. Another example is the development of 1100 kV (DC) and 1200 kV (AC) products to address the need for bulk power transmission over long distances in emerging markets. By raising the bar, these ultra-high voltage levels help to minimize losses and increase efficiency without compromising on reliability.

The latest generator circuit breakers (GCBs) are being designed to protect power plants that get bigger by the day. Integration of renewable energy to the grid is another area of focus where several products have been developed to suit such applications – for instance the 72.5 kV PASS (Plug And Switch System) hybrid switchgear solution for wind applications. Mobile switchgear solutions are helping to bring electricity to remote sites.

And as the grid becomes stronger and more flexible to accommodate variable sources of energy and new demand loads, it is also getting smarter. Embedded sensor technology, plug-and-play devices, software enhancements and remote access solutions are some examples of technologies being developed to enhance monitoring and control ability.

As we help the world to grapple with the challenge of providing safe, reliable and adequate electricity for all,  we must remain mindful of our  environmental responsibility. Efforts in this area include more compact and eco-efficient products that minimize SF6 gas requirements. And not so long back we announced a breakthrough in SF6 gas recycling. Our recently launched 72.5 kV CO2 circuit breaker is the first in a new series of eco-efficient Live Tank Breakers substituting SF6 gas with relatively more environmentally friendly alternatives.

And if you are looking for an electrifying reading experience, this digitalized and interactive special technology review will provide insights into some of the emerging trends in the world of electricity and how ABB’s high voltage power products are helping to shape the evolving grid.

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About the author

Harmeet Bawa

I am Global Head of Communications for ABB's Power Grids division based at the Group headquarters in Switzerland. I've served in the UK, Sweden, India and South-Asia Pacific region across a range of functions spanning business and market development, strategy and corporate planning, communications, sustainability and investor relations.
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