Seven things you need to know about switch gear right now

There was only one thing on our minds as we made our way to Cork last week for ABB’s group technology event. and it wasn’t switch gears it was football Football. It was the start of our Euro campaign. That evening, Ireland would play Sweden and we had little chance of making it back to our local on time to watch.

What’s a technology expert to do?

As we were handed our goody bags – which contained a football – (rub it in ABB) we settled ourselves in for a day of seminars, updates and talks, all centred on the switchgear market right now. And for a while, the great game fell from our minds.

ABB have been in Ireland for 70 years and the event marked their anniversary. What were they doing with switchgear back in 1946? Well a lot, actually.

While things have moved on from the 40s when electrical engineering was beginning to come to its fore, the same principles remain – how to ensure the most modern equipment operates to the best of its capacity and what workers need to know to ensure this happens while protecting themselves while operating this equipment.

Here’s seven things I took from the day, while being fed, watered and pooching in my goody bag.

  1. Loss of service continuity due to a switch gear fault

You need to understand the difference between primary and secondary AIS and GIS switchgear and the difference between LSC1 (Loss of Service Continuity), LSC A and LSC B Enclosures. Internal Arc Classification (IEC 62271-200) and the Arc Flash capability of the MV switchgear you are dealing with, is also important to know. In an interesting development, we learned that a new insulation gas has been used recently in ABB’s switchgear instead of SF6 that may have some impact on the environment.

  1. Furse Lightning Protection

There are number of interesting products available that offer lightning protection, but have you considered lightning protection in the first place? We learned the basics of lightning protection and what must be considered when designing both the external and internal components of a lightning protection system.

  1. Selectivity and Discrimination

Did you know that ABB provide free software in DOC and CAT packages which can carry out protection coordination? Interestingly, for us, this carries a wide range of ABB’s legacy devices in its memory.

  1. UPS and Power Protection

When it comes to power protection, there are typical power quality problems that need to be overcome to improve the realiability of electrical supply. But, do you know where you need an AVC instead or a UPS or vice versa?

  1. Drives and Motor Harmonics

You may have heard of harmonics but do you know the latest mitigation techniques? While Premium Power are experts in this area, it was interesting to get an update on the latest modifications being made to overcome the issues with harmonics. I particularly enjoyed the demonstration of modifications that ABB are making to drives taking into consideration the characteristics of pre-existing onsite harmonics.

  1. The end for protection coordination?

Technology has moved forward so that MV relays can now be connected to each other via ethernet which reduces the amount of hardwiring required and also reduces the possible number of points of failure in the system. The implementation of this technology will improve communication between the MV breakers and the ACBs downstream on the LV level thus eliminating the requirement for protection coordination and which allows for a shorter tripping time during fault conditions. This new technology may be used in the future along with the conventional protection coordination or maybe it will replace the protection coordination at some stage in the future. At the moment this system would only be practical for a new installation and would require some additional engineering, which could add to the implementation costs.

  1. VSDs and Motors in ATEX environments

Nowadays more and more areas can now be classified as explosive environments. It is no longer only oil and gas platforms and heavy industry that this term applies to. The food and beverage, waste and waste-water disposal and agricultural industries, can all have areas that contain explosive atmospheres. This means that workers need to know the different ATEX zones for Gas (0-2) & Dust (20-22) and the importance of reading the nameplate of a motor when pairing it with an ABB VSD in an explosive atmosphere. Long cable runs and harmonics can also have an effect on a motor’s operating temperature.

And so after all this learning, while our minds were absorbed by harmonics and lightning protection and VSDs, well, it was a 5.30pm before we knew it and the game was about to start.

And what did ABB pull out of the bag?

A barbeque. A giant telly. And beers.

Probably the best switchgear company in the world.


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Garrett Moran is an electrical engineer with Premium Power. A number of Premium Power engineers attended the technology event in Cork, which was a fantastic day of learning, with leading technology experts offering up to date industry and product information to delegates in attendance. Premium Power would like to thank ABB for inviting our team members to the day and for their hospitality. Premium Power specialise in power quality, harmonics mitigation and electrical design. For a full list of our services visit