Tests carried out at the renowned IPH testing institute in Berlin, which specialises in electrical power engineering, have confirmed that the innovative ARCON® arc fault protection system from Eaton’s Electrical Sector is an effective choice for use in wind turbine applications. The compact and cost-effective ARCON® system typically detects and suppresses arc faults in less than two milliseconds, greatly reducing the risk of injury or death to persons in the vicinity of a fault and also virtually eliminating equipment damage.
While all electrical systems are designed to minimise the possibility of arc faults, this possibility cannot be entirely eliminated, and the effects of an uncontrolled arc fault are usually catastrophic. The explosive forces unleashed before conventional protective devices can clear the fault are often sufficient to destroy the equipment involved and to cause serious or even fatal injuries to persons nearby.
A fault of this type in the nacelle of a wind turbine is likely to have particularly serious consequences because of the difficulty of reaching injured personnel and the problems of carrying out large-scale repair work in such an inaccessible location.
The tests carried out by IPH have, however, shown that Eaton’s ARCON® system provides effective and reliable protection against the effects of arc faults in wind turbines, as well as in low-voltage switchboards where the success of the system has been proven over many years.
ARCON® functions by reacting to the characteristic type of light emitted by an arc fault, as well to the sudden rise in current associated with the fault. Special sensors connected to fibre-optic cables are laid in the active areas of the electrical equipment to be protected. The extremely bright light emitted by an arc fault can be detected by the cable anywhere along its length and a signal instantly sent to the ARCON® evaluation unit. The unit also monitors current and, when a light signal and a rapid current rise are seen simultaneously, it triggers a quenching device.
This device produces a three-phase bolted short-circuit close to the incoming supply source, effectively starving the fault of energy and buying time for the normal protective devices to operate. The whole process of detection and quenching takes less than two milliseconds. Because the arc is suppressed so quickly, the energy released by it is minimised. Personnel are, therefore, protected against injury and, in most cases, the equipment will be fit for immediate return to service once the original fault has been corrected.
Eaton’s electrical business is a global leader in power distribution, power quality, control and automation, and monitoring products and services. Eaton’s global electrical product series, including Cutler-Hammer®, Moeller®, Powerware®, Holec®, MEM®, and Santak® provide customer-driven PowerChain™ solutions to serve the power system needs of the data center, industrial, institutional, public sector, utility, commercial, residential, IT, mission critical, alternative energy and and OEM markets worldwide.
Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company with 2010 sales of $13.7 billion. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2011, Eaton is a global technology leader in electrical components and systems for power quality, distribution and control; hydraulics components, systems and services for industrial and mobile equipment; aerospace fuel, hydraulics and pneumatic systems for commercial and military use; and truck and automotive drivetrain and powertrain systems for performance, fuel economy and safety. Eaton has approximately 70,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 150 countries. For more information, visit www.eaton.com.
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