Experts Discuss Switchgear Shopping

By Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

Switchgear is on your T&D shopping list, but how do you make the best choices for now and for your system’s future needs? Switchgear isn’t an impulse purchase like shoes and sport cars. POWERGRID International asked Matt Polk, manager of sales and marketing of medium-voltage switchgear at ABB, and Larry Arends, marketing manager at G&W Electric, to provide a few pointers about selecting the right switchgear for the job.

What are the top three things a utility should consider when shopping for T&D and substation switchgear?

Polk: The three most important criteria that utility personnel should look for—and these are absolutely critical—in new switchgear are safety, reliability and diagnostics.

1. Safety. With the increasing emphasis on arc flash protection today, it’s imperative that utilities look for the safest equipment and practices they can install. Protecting our employees and equipment is not only morally correct, it also increases profits by lowering insurance and increasing reliability.
2. Reliability. Continuity of service is becoming more and more critical. Because utilities are facing the loss of many experienced personnel, the need to limit or eliminate maintenance and repairs is critical to their profitability. In addition, as the customer base becomes more reliant on utility power, it is critical that all efforts to eliminate risk be taken.
3. Diagnostics. With limited maintenance budgets, price and cost pressures and tougher regulatory groups, every utility is under pressure to keep equipment in service longer. The maintenance that used to be routine is now delayed or cancelled, therefore, equipment that can alert the utility to failures prior to them occuring or help diagnose faults and thus make recovery quicker is essential.


Arends: Look for time-proven quality, adherence to industry standards and the willingness of the manufacturer to work with the customer on specific application requirements (when shopping for switchgear). Not all manufacturers are willing to sell anything other than their standard product offering. They may differ in their philosophy toward industry standards and their expertise in matching the right solution to the application. This will become increasingly important as customers require smarter and smarter switchgear.

What’s the biggest mistake a utility can make when choosing switchgear for T&D?

Polk: Buying on first cost is the biggest problem. We see companies frequently purchase the lowest-priced option upfront, driven frequently by their rates commission or budget constraints. This often leads to problems down the road such as higher installation costs, higher maintenance and operations costs and lower reliability. Utilities need to analyze the entire ownership cost model to determine the best solutions for their applications.

Arends: Not requiring the switches to be tested to ANSI/IEEE standards. Some manufacturers test market responses to switchgear. These responses pass their own set of tests, and their marketing departments do a good job of convincing customers to accept substandard equipment. Industry standards are established to assure the proper product applicability and operating personnel’s safety. Many customers assume all manufacturers abide by ANSI/IEEE standards. That’s a mistake. Customers should insist on it.

What major changes, if any, will utilities see in switchgear in the next few years?

Polk: Several large changes are coming, but I believe the largest will be the move to arc-resistant switchgear as the only market standard. Switchgear that is not arc-resistant will be eliminated because liability for the engineers and manufacturers is too high. As companies become more aware of the hazards associated with arc flash events and that all the major manufactures now provide arc-resistant switchgear, the market and the regulatory bodies will mandate the safer product use.

Arends: Increased requirements for automated switchgear. With the demand for reliable service, switches will continue to play a critical role in smart grid and distribution automation project implementations. Switches will be required to sense voltage and current and to work with controls to make decisions and function automatically in response to preprogrammed customer parameters. Whether used for automatic transfer or automatic power restoration, switchgear must become smarter to meet the requirements for reliable service.



Providing Power to Saadiyat Island

Rainer Singer, Siemens

In 2006, Abu Dhabi’s water and power utility, Transco, began work with Siemens on a new 400/132/22 kilovolt (kV) substation on Saadiyat Island, a flagship island project of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority in the Arabian Gulf. This new à¢â€š¬à¢â€š¬120 million ($154 million) substation project has fulfilled power requirements for the tourist island’s development.

The Island Project and Interconnections

The infrastructure of the 10.5-square-mile island will be developed fully by 2018 in what is one of the most important ongoing infrastructure projects in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Until 2006, the island was completely uninhabited. That year work began on making it habitable through land-filling.

The three-phase development project, which began in 2006 and is on-going, will transform Saadiyat Island into a tourism center with accommodations for permanent residents.

Included in the Saadiyat Island grid station are, from left, the 400kV GIS building, 500MVA transformer and 50MVAr shunt reactors, 132kV GIS building, 80MVA transformers, 22kV GIS and control building.

Saadiyat Island, which means “island of happiness” in Arabic, will contain six districts with cultural experiences such as the Zayed National Museum and versions of the Louvre and the Guggenheim Museum.

The turnkey substation project plays a central role in supplying necessary power for the people and culture envisioned.

Siemens manufactured the main component of the substation, the gas-insulated, high-voltage switchgear (GIS), at its Berlin plant.

Pictured is the view atop the 400kV GIS building onto the 400kV GIB bus ducts and 400kV overhead line gantries. In the background is the 400kV overhead line between Taweelah B new extension and ADST.

Transco will provide power to Saadiyat Island through 400kV overhead lines from the Taweelah B substation on Abu Dhabi mainland.

From the Saadiyat 400/132/22kV substation, the neighboring Reem Island and existing ADPS substation will be connected via 400kV power cables.

This is the view atop the 400kV GIS building onto the 500MVA transformer bays and the 132kV GIS building in the background. Left in the far background is the 400/132kV control building.

Within Saadiyat Island, the power will be distributed from the 400/132/22kV substation to primary 132/22kV substations and 22kV substations. They will be connected via 132kV and 22kV power cables.

This project covers turnkey construction of a new 400/132/22kV indoor GIS substation.

The construction site is on the island’s southeastern portion. Transco is responsible for the 400kV and 132kV systems; Abu Dhabi Distribution Co. (ADDC) is responsible for the 22kV system.

Challenges Met

The project faced issues from the start, including climate, lack of infrastructure and approval processes. One of the biggest technical challenges in the United Arab Emirates is the environment.

The climate is humid and highly corrosive. Rainfall averages are low, but sudden, extremely heavy rainfalls can occur over short periods. Sand and dust storms frequently reach velocities near 100 mph. Whether installed in air-conditioned or ventilated areas, equipment must be able to operate at the peak ambient shade temperature of 50 C. Engineers must consider weather when designing project substations.

The view inside the 400kV GIS building shows Siemens type 8DQ1 400kV switchgear.

When the project began, no infrastructure existed on the island. Siemens had to provide electricity, water and access by boat. Before the civil site works started, a road link was established and allowed most raw material and equipment to be transported. Only transformers and shunt reactors had to be brought in by barges. A massive labor camp that accommodated 1,000 workers during peak times was established. Along with weather and infrastructure issues, Siemens’ newly developed substation control and monitoring system (Sicam-PAS) had not been approved for use in the Transco network when the project began. Engineers had to work with Transco´s mother company to prequalify the product. A similar scenario occurred for the prequalification of the Dresden transformer factory, which supplied 80MVA transformers.

On with the Project

The installation and commissioning activities—from the first major activity of moving the 400kV GIS equipment inside the GIS building to project readiness at the end of May 2009—were finalized in eight months. The 400kV loop-in and loop-out arrangement using the existing 400kV overhead line between Taweelah B New Extension (TANE) substation and ADST substation was energized June 1, 2009. For Transco, it was important to beat the hot summer season that begins in June. During the summer Transco does not allow major outages or powering up of new substations because the power load is extremely high.

The 400kV overhead line gantry is where the right circuit of 400kV loops in and the left circuit loops out the 400kV GIS system. The 400kV GIS building is center in background.

The remaining 132kV and 22kV systems of Saadiyat substation were powered up in October 2009, and the cable connections for the 400kV, 132kV and 22kV circuits are in progress.

The view outside the 500MVA and 50MVAR transformer/reactor bays and on the right side of the 400kV GIS building shows, in front, the 400kV overhead line gantry where the right circuit of 400kV loops in and the left circuit loops out the 400kV GIS system.

Rainer Singer is Siemens project director at the Saadiyat substation project. He has been director of projects in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Yemen since October 2009.

The 400/132kV protection room is inside the 400/132kV control building.

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