ABB and UK Power Networks switch to a sustainable future

UK Power Networks has commissioned ABB to supply the world’s first 36kV medium-voltage double busbar AirPlus Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS).

It features AirPlus gas, which acts as an insulator between the electrical contacts with almost zero global warming impact.

As part of its Environmental Action Plan to pass on a sustainable planet for future generations, the UK’s biggest electricity distributor, UK Power Networks has announced plans to use AirPlus, ABB’s innovative sustainable alternative to SF6 switchgear, at its substation in Kent.

As Europe moves towards tighter regulation on the traditional gas (SF6,) used in switchgear, ABB’s AirPlus provides a compelling eco alternative. Unlike SF6, which is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 23,500 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2)), ABB’s AirPlus gas has almost zero global warming impact. It is designed to drive high reliability and fulfill upcoming environmental regulations for segments like utilities.

Commenting on the installation, Alessandro Palin, President of ABB’s Distribution Solutions division explained: “As part of our 2030 Sustainability Strategy, ABB is committed to helping customers and suppliers reduce their emissions.

“AirPlus is a key part of this strategy, and we are proud to work together with utilities such as UK Power Networks to make the switch to eco alternatives, that not only provide reliable power but will also protect our planet. A pioneer in this field, ABB has installed thousands of SF6-free solutions globally. Moving from SF6 to an SF6-free portfolio is an important milestone towards enabling a low carbon society.”

Transitioning to AirPlus will help UK Power Networks to achieve its sustainability targets, as it offers the same footprint and similar performance as an SF6 switchgear and operates at lower-tank pressures. The higher the voltages, the higher the pressure in the switchgear, but thanks to AirPlus, ABB’s switchgear can handle the pressure, having a safe low-pressure design with similar dielectric insulation benefits and footprint as an SF6 switchgear.

The double busbar design gives the additional benefit of reliability by reducing the risk of unplanned down-time and offering more flexibility in sharing the power load.

In addition to enhancing the collaboration with UK Power Networks, this contract confirms the acceptance of AirPlus technology as a reliable alternative to SF6 for utilities in the UK. A complete switchgear solution will be delivered to the company’s substation in Dartford, Kent, before the end of 2021.

Barry Hatton, Director of Asset Management at UK Power Networks, said: “We have clear goals to reduce the environmental impact of our operations and help enable the country’s transition to net zero carbon emissions, while maintaining reliable electricity supplies for more than eight million homes and businesses. Our new AirPlus switchgear supports our strategy and delivery of our Environmental Action Plan.”

ABB was one of the first companies to offer SF6-free switchgear solutions for MV ranges up to 40.5 kV, with the largest global installed base of over 5,000 ecoGIS switchgear installations since 2015.