Ireland's Electrical Magazine 92 Aug-Sept


“As it is easier to specify SF6- free switchgear on new projects than to replace equipment on existing installations, the boom in renewable technology could be a real opportunity to embed SF6-free know-how in the electrical industry.”

However, it was not long before the environmental dangers of fluorine gasses became apparent, and governments started phasing them out. The EU’s legislative response to what became known as F-Gasses included banning SF6 in every application except switchgear, claiming that there were no widespread cost-effective, technically feasible, energy-efficient, and reliable alternatives for its role as a critical safety feature. This exemption has had unfortunate consequences. SF6 is undoubtedly a good insulator, widely and readily available, which means that far from fading away, its use in electrical switchgear has increased. Ironically, it has even found its way into applications such as wind farms, which are intended to reduce global warming. Now, however, the tide is turning, and the EU is set to announce an end to the exemption, which is likely to come into

effect across Europe during the mid-to- late 2020s. Eaton’s pioneering technology Renewable energy generation is driving growth in the switchgear market, which is why a fast phase-out of SF6 after the likely lifting of the exemption is essential. As switchgear typically has a lifetime of 40-50 years, it is critical to act now. Wind farms will continue to expand, and each turbine requires more frequent switching because of the way they operate. Fortunately, well-proven alternatives are already available for up to and including 24 kV. Eaton pioneered the use of alternative insulation technologies at much the same time as SF6 was discovered, back in the 1960s, combining air and cast-resin insulation with vacuum switching techniques. This method is used in 60 countries around the world.

It eliminates the risk of leakage and minimises maintenance costs, as well as expensive end-of-life disposal procedures since all materials are re- usable or recycled. A green future awaits Electrical industry professionals can do much to prevent further SF6 emissions adding to what is already a worrisome burden on the environment. Governments can play their part by driving forward policy to prevent the use of SF6 in applications in the future, including switchgear. As it is easier to specify SF6-free switchgear on new projects than to replace the equipment on existing installations, the boom in renewable technology could be a real opportunity to embed SF6-free know-how in the electrical industry. If there is a good time to go SF6-free, that time is surely now.

Eaton, F10 Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, County Kildare. T: + 353 (0) 1 6292222 - E:


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