Imagine if we removed 100 million cars from the road. Eliminating those 10% of passenger vehicles would reduce CO2 emissions by a whopping 350 megatons per year. No doubt that would be a valuable weapon in our arsenal to fight the climate crisis.
But what if we could make that same healthy environmental impact without disrupting our daily lives? That’s exactly what’s behind the development and adoption of new switchgear technology, which allows electricity companies and building managers to wage war on global heating and slash their carbon footprint.
What and where is SF6?
Electrical power systems use switchgear, which are circuit interruption devices that control the flow of electrical current by stopping or starting the current between points A and B. Every piece of switchgear must be able to break electrical currents and must insulate itself and ensure safe operation of the network.
Today there are over 30 million units of medium-voltage switchgear installed worldwide using sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). SF6 accomplishes its purpose very well and is highly reliable – it’s been used and trusted for decades.
However, SF6 is a greenhouse gas and contributes to the climate challenges we face today.
What’s the impact of SF6?
Think of a typical load break switch, part of a unit of switchgear. On average it has 1kg of SF6 inside it. That 1kg of SF6 equals the same impact as 23,500kg of CO2. That’s the same as driving a car about 200,000 kilometers (say your typical vehicle emits around 120g of CO2 per kilometer).
Utilities can lead the charge
The utilities industry represents 80% of the SF6 global market, so it is logical that they lead the charge for reducing the use of SF6 by adopting more environmentally-friendly products, like SF6-free switchgear.
New medium voltage switchgear technology that uses vacuum interruption and air insulation allows us to avoid SF6. And while air-insulated switchgear for MV applications has long had a reputation of being too large compared to gas technology, this is no longer the case. Today’s alternatives to SF6 switchgear are as compact as gas versions, and cost-effective. It’s the ideal alternative to the status quo.
Sustainable solutions are here – and needed now more than ever
Sustainable MV switchgear reduces greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the need to create a new gas to replace SF6 and avoiding the problems with end-of-life recapture, recycling, and leakage.
Pursuing SF6-free alternatives is a priority because overall energy consumption continues to grow, with an anticipated 48% growth by 2040. Studies have already established that the increase in SF6 emissions has primarily been caused by the rising demand for electricity in developing countries, particularly in China, which consumes the largest quantities of SF6 worldwide. As our reliance on reliable electricity increases, the way in which we produce, distribute, and use energy must also evolve. SF6-free switchgear is part of the energy revolution because it reduces the power grid’s carbon footprint compared with the use of SF6.
Limiting greenhouse gas emissions and improving sustainability are already top of mind for companies and individuals. While many are taking great measures to lower their environmental impact through actions like lowering their energy consumption, recycling, and driving less, businesses using MV technologies are now empowered with sustainable choices and the ability to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions by choosing green equipment.
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