How SF6-free technology supports a more sustainable future for utilities

Click. The light is on. Click. The TV, too. Click. Click. Now so is the sound system. It sounds so easy and simple, yet power has to travel a long way before it reaches our houses.

It is not magic behind our convenient and comfortable lives, it is you (utilities) and us, bringing power to homes and buildings and our loved ones who live and work inside them. The challenges may change, but the requirement will remain the same: Click. The light is on.

ABB helps to electrify the world sustainably and the demand for space-saving electrical solutions like compact switchgear is growing.

The only problem: The traditional gas used in switchgear, SF6, although very reliable, is a potent greenhouse gas.

But with ABB, going green has never been easier. We have developed a pioneering gas mixture that reduces global warming potential by almost 100 percent. With that, we were the first company to offer an alternative eco-friendly gas to you, our customers, and have the most complete eco gas insulated switchgear (GIS) portfolio on the market with ratings from 12 to 40.5 kV.

Since 2015, we have brought to market proven SF6-free technology to empower you to make greener choices in a world of evolving regulations and standards. More than 4,000 SF6-free switchgear units have been installed with Dry Air (12 kV) or AirPlus technology worldwide.

A true alternative to SF6

Sectors such as utilities are benefiting from safe, smart and sustainable solutions, especially as they have the largest installed base of gas-insulated switchgear.

No other segment relies so much on a long and maintenance-free lifecycle. ABB is aware of that – and we’ve made it as easy as possible for you to transition to a green alternative while keeping the same benefits of a traditional GIS. In other words: The switchgear design of an eco GIS is the same as with SF6. Compared to other solutions on the market, our safe low-pressure design has similar dielectric insulation benefits and footprint as an SF6 switchgear.

The condition of primary and secondary Airplus switchgear pilots have been thoroughly checked and gas samples have been taken and analyzed. The results are positive and confirm our expectations; that there were no performance issues and no deterioration of the gas or of the material of the panels.

Another plus: ABB GIS solutions are sealed for life and do not require on-site gas handling. Since gas handling is similar to that of SF6, no additional trainings/certifications are needed, thus also making operations easier.

When considering your currently installed based, remember it is not possible to simply replace SF 6 with AirPlus or Dry Air in your current switchgear because different gases do not behave the same. But with the new PrimeGear ZX0, we are launching the first switchgear compatible with both technologies, SF6 and AirPlus, in order to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable world. So, the next time you are investing in new switchgear consider PrimeGear ZX0 where you have the freedom to use either SF6 or SF 6 -free gas and you can make the switch at any point.

Transition to a sustainable world – now

We understand that SF6 has been the traditional gas used for over 50 years in switchgear and it is not easy to move away from it. But we are convinced that we found the best alternative and it is the only possible solution for segments like utilities to keep reliability high and fulfill upcoming environmental regulations.

Don’t fear a stand-alone solution: ABB developed the AirPlus solution with 3M, but we have opened the basic technology patents in order to make the technology open to be used by everyone. Just like that, we bring sustainability, performance and digitalization together for the benefit of the environment and your business.


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About the author

Antonio Martinez Reina

I am the Global Leader for Utilities and Renewables at ABB. Our smart technologies help Utilities to develop reliable, efficient and resilient grids. If my almost 30 years of experience in the sector has taught me anything, it is that it is crucial to work in partnership with our customers to develop solutions for a safe, smart and sustainable future.
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