Extending the life of your power plant

GCB retrofits for enhanced reliability

The old saying is ‘life begins at 40’, but mid-life is also a time for reassessment. This includes health, which may result in a change of diet, more exercise or additional tests if something is not as it should be.

Like people, power plants built 30 or 40 years ago need check-ups to optimize performance in their middle years, but the challenge is implementing the right plan at the right time to ensure a long and productive life. Particular attention must be paid to key equipment like Generator Circuit Breakers (GCB), which can be refurbished, retrofitted or replaced to improve power plant reliability and functionality.

Generator circuits must deal with unique stresses and demanding conditions, and need breakers that have been specifically designed and tested to meet these conditions. GCBs protect key equipment like generators and power transformers, increasing power plant availability, simplifying operations and reducing costs.

Power plant owners today are increasingly going in for GCB retrofits or replacements, as spare parts become harder to find or units require more maintenance resulting in costly downtime. They can be retrofitted in plants that currently have no GCB, or only a load break switch installed. Today roughly a large number of installed breakers are nearing the end of their life cycles, which means customers either have to buy new units, or make do with traditional load break switches.

For example, the Danish electricity supplier DONG Energy faced a retrofit or replace decision after short circuit calculations showed a vacuum circuit-breaker was not the optimal choice for its Kyndby Værket power plant. The customer opted instead for a state-of-the-art SF6-type GCB manufactured by ABB. The key benefit was minimum downtime, since the plant is on regular standby and must be ready to supply power to the grid and support peak loads on demand.

For a closer look at that project: Kyndby Vaerket in Denmark

ABB pioneered arc extinguishing technology in GCBs, which revolutionized the breaker in 1985. ABB continues to work on the development of GCB technology and is a market leader in this space. At the same time, an expert focus group has been established to focus specifically on GCB retrofitting projects around the world.

GCB technology has developed a lot in 30 years, and installing the latest technology means the station transformer can be omitted, operating hours and profits can be increased, and startups or shutdowns require only one circuit breaker in operation. And that’s only the tangible part. So all in all, it is a worthwhile investment, providing tremendous benefits.

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About the author

Monica Lambe

I am the Global Product Marketing Manager for High-voltage Service. My main responsibilities include marketing, sales and communication.
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