FOR PHIL KANE, COUNTRY MANAGER FOR EATON IN IRELAND, THIS IS THE MOMENT TO EMBRACE ALTERNATIVES TO THE GREENHOUSE GAS IN WIND TURBINE SWITCHGEAR… It’s time to go SF6-free
U sing wind power to bolster energy security is a positive environmental choice and, as a key plank of future energy strategies in many countries, the construction of wind farms on-shore and off-shore will continue apace. Wind farm technology is well understood, but less widely recognised is the global- warming potential of the switchgear that provides overcurrent and short circuit protection in turbines. Most switchgear uses sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), a climate-damaging gas, as an insulator and arc extinguisher. According to the
United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, SF6 tops the list of the most harmful greenhouse gases. Comprising a sulphur atom and six fluorine atoms, each SF6 molecule is an environmental menace: just 1 kg is equivalent to 23,500 kg of CO2 in terms of global warming. And, as if it weren’t enough, the gas stays in the atmosphere for 3,200 years. Scientific studies indicate that the concentration of SF6 gas in the atmosphere continues to rise, a trend that is likely to accelerate due to the ever-increasing demand for energy. Mandating
SF6-free switchgear in renewable technologies – solar arrays, as well as wind farms – will avoid derailing net- zero ambitions as the push for clean, secure energy intensifies. The last loophole for SF6 Scientists first discovered how to make SF6 in industrial quantities during the 1960s – only a small amount occurs naturally. Stable, odourless, and colourless, it was used in applications as varied as insulating windows and providing the “bounce” in tennis balls and vehicle tyres.
“If there is a good time to go SF6-free, that time is surely now.”
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