• Green switchgear innovation: why our past is creating a bright future

    For six decades, Eaton has pioneered switchgear panels free from SF6—a greenhouse gas 23,500 times more potent than CO2. Read on to see why such greener alternatives are the future.

From renewable power to electric vehicles, the need to move to more sustainable solutions has never been more urgent for our planet. At first glance, switchgear might not seem to pose much risk to the environment. However, they often use SF6—which tops the list of the most potent greenhouse gases according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

All switchgear can be SF6-free in the future because viable alternatives already exist. In fact, Eaton has been pioneering the development of alternative vacuum and air-insulated switchgear technologies for 60 years. I’m proud to have seen us continue to lead the industry in this area. We recently shipped our one-millionth panel and now support a host of applications and industries in more than 60 countries.

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Fernando Ceccarelli, senior vice president and general manager, Power Distribution Division, EMEA

"All switchgear can be SF6-free in the future, because viable alternatives already exist".

Fernando Ceccarelli, senior vice president and general manager, Power Distribution Division, EMEA

Time for a quick history lesson. Eaton first pioneered SF6-free medium voltage switchgear production in the 1960s, when Magnefix products became a compact solution for Distribution System Operators. Production lines were set up in the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Australia to meet demand.

In 2002 Eaton introduced the Xiria Ring Main Unit, a completely modern switchgear which is metal-enclosed, uses dielectric smart design, and features vacuum-switching technology instead of SF6. This not only makes Xiria better for the environment, but also minimizes maintenance, enhances operational safety, greatly increases the number of safe switching operations, and eliminates expensive end-of-life disposal procedures.

Eaton’s green switchgear can now be found in use all around the world, at more than 3,000 reference sites. Here are just a few examples:

These deployments are making a real difference to the environment. For instance, Stedin expects to reduce its use of SF6 gas by an average of 1,950 kg per year.

The world has changed a lot in the last 60 years. Human progress has largely come at the cost of our natural resources and now we need to make critical decisions about our environmental footprint. 

Due to global concern about climate change and the increased urgency in addressing how companies operate, I’m proud Eaton recently joined the Green Switching initiative—focused on ending the use of SF6 gas in medium voltage switchgear.

Fundamentally, we don’t need to use SF6 anymore; we already have good alternatives for switching operations. We’ve proven there’s no real barrier to the market moving to SF6-free switchgear and ending its impact on the environment. Working together, I know we can make that happen.

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