SF₆-free switchgear from Eaton helps network operators to be more sustainable

April 7, 2020

HENGELO, THE NETHERLANDS… In the coming years, Eaton will supply thousands of SF₆-free switchgear systems to network operator Stedin. SF₆ gas is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and is still used extensively by the electrical sector for switchgear systems. Stedin has put together plans to expand its electricity network even further over the next few years. A key part of developing these plans was finding a partner to make the expansion as environmentally friendly as possible. The SF₆-free installations from Eaton will help Stedin reduce their use of SF₆ gas by an average of 1,950 kg of SF₆ per year.

The European Commission banned the use of SF₆ gas in almost all sectors several years ago. An important exception to this ban is the electrical industry, in which it is still frequently used as an insulation gas in switchgear. The gas also ensures that any arcs that may occur during switching are quickly extinguished. In this regard, SF₆ gas is very effective. However, it has one major disadvantage. The environmental impact of SF₆ gas is around 23,500 times greater than that of CO₂. In 2017, SF₆ gas emissions in Europe were equivalent to 6.73 million tons of CO₂, the equivalent of having an extra 1.3 million cars on the road over one year. SF₆ gas is therefore incredibly harmful. It is inevitable that switchgear will leak SF₆ gas throughout its life cycle. SF₆ gas is also released into the atmosphere during the production of switchgear. In 2020, the European Commission will review the use of SF₆ gas in the electrical industry, which could lead to a total ban on this harmful greenhouse gas. The market for gas-insulated switchgear is expected to grow by 8 percent each year between now and 2022, resulting in increased use of SF₆ gas.

Eaton wants to completely eliminate the use of SF₆ gas and has therefore developed the Xiria switchgear. The Xiria is insulated using dry air instead of SF₆ gas, and switching is carried out using a vacuum interrupter. The Xiria can switch more than 10,000 times, making it particularly suitable for applications where the switch needs to be actuated several times a day, such as wind farms and solar parks generating renewable energy. The Xiria offers network operators like Stedin a reliable SF₆-free alternative.

Last year, Stedin launched a procurement process for new switchgear for use with up to 24,000 volts. The company chose Eaton to be its supplier. Eaton has been leading the industry in the development and implementation of vacuum and air-insulated switchgear for the last 60 years and celebrates the one-millionth air-insulated switchgear panel shipped in 2020. Both parties have agreed upon a four-year contract, with the possibility of extending this contract to a maximum of eight years. Eaton will be supplying Xiria switchgear for Stedin to install in its own distribution networks. Eaton switchgear systems will be used in medium voltage networks. The agreement covers 500 to 800 switchgear systems per year. This is around 90 percent of the medium voltage switchgear that Stedin requires on an annual basis. In 2019, Stedin purchased its first SF₆-free switchgear system for high voltage networks. This General Electric system was installed in the 50,000 volt distribution substation in Middelharnis. Stedin will begin using the system this spring. The 50,000 volt, SF₆-free switchgear is a first for the Netherlands.

“Xiria was designed using vacuum technology from Eaton and was first launched in 2002 to address safety and environmental concerns. We were very ahead of our time," says Frits Besseling, Manager Sales & Business Development Electrical Services and Systems at Eaton. "We know that this is a very important concern for our customers. As energy networks continue to grow due to increasing energy consumption, more and more network operators are looking for sustainable ways to expand their networks."

David Peters, Chief Technology Officer of Stedin: "At Stedin, we believe that acting sustainably is the most important thing. Where possible, we want to reduce the use of SF₆ gas in our switchgear. However, the alternatives are limited and more expensive to purchase. This creates a difficult situation for network operators who want to invest while keeping costs as low as possible." In addition, the alternatives must be safe and reliable. By choosing this system, we want to show that SF₆-free switchgear is the way forward for our company."


About Eaton

Eaton’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technologies and services. We provide sustainable solutions that help our customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power – more safely, more efficiently, and more reliably. Eaton’s 2019 revenues were $21.4 billion, and we sell products to customers in more than 175 countries. We have approximately 97,000 employees. For more information, visit www.eaton.com.

About Stedin

Working together towards a society powered by new energy. That is Stedin's mission statement. Stedin is an independent network operator serving the most urban and industrial region of the Netherlands: the province of Utrecht and a large part of the province of South Holland. In this area, the energy infrastructure is complex and energy dependency levels are high. Stedin serves around 2 million households and commercial customers. The company is constantly working to provide these customers with a sustainable energy system that will remain reliable and affordable in the future. Stedin employs around 3,500 people and is based in Rotterdam.

ContactVera Grishchenko,  +44 (0)7583 090560