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Can new digital medium voltage circuit breakers help facilities reduce their carbon footprint?

If you manage or work in a facility that relies on medium voltage power, you’re likely tasked with helping your company meet its sustainability goals, specifically in regard to energy savings and reducing emissions. You may have already upgraded your HVAC or air compressors, or changed your facility lighting to LEDs. Or, maybe you’re in the 1% of hospitals and office buildings generating renewable energy onsite.

But historically, there hasn’t been an easy way for facility managers to address carbon emissions from an electrical distribution level. Now, there’s a new solution from Schneider Electric: natively-digital medium voltage circuit breakers and redesigned switchgear. Compared to periodic measurement or instrumentation that requires direct interaction with protective covers removed, this new digital integration gives you monitoring capabilities from within your switchgear system.

Sustainability is at the forefront of this digital innovation. In this article, we’ll look at how these smarter medium voltage circuit breakers and a redesigned switchgear system provide new digital monitoring capabilities for managing electrical energy distribution and consumption. With this digitally enabled visibility, you can take steps to reduce your facility’s carbon footprint and, in turn, help meet your facility’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.

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How digital medium voltage circuit breakers and switchgear can help facility managers make more sustainable decisions

Everyone knows information is power, giving you the necessary data to make educated decisions. With traditional metal-clad switchgear, the non-digital circuit breakers communicate with other components to help control, protect, and isolate your power systems. However, they do not provide the detailed information you need for visibility into your critical systems, and require yearly maintenance processes to ensure the viability of the gear.

With digital circuit breakers, you can analyze the real-time status of breaker components, which previously were inaccessible without equipment shutdown. You can also receive alerts if unexpected issues arise, providing vital information to take immediate action to rectify component concerns, and increase facility uptime. For example, you may discover that one of the breaker medium-voltage phases in your copper runbacks is running at a higher temperature than the other phases — which in turn can cause damage over time and lead to failure, causing power loss and requiring emergency maintenance personnel be sent to the site to repair or replace components that could have been avoided if caught earlier.

With this information, you also can decide to move to a condition-based maintenance approach, scheduling maintenance based on the requirements of the gear and your electrical system, and not the calendar. With this condition-based monitoring approach, it is possible to extend overall maintenance cycles beyond yearly cycles because real-time information on the status of components is accessible without equipment and facility shutdowns. There are also the trickle-down benefits of detecting abnormal conditions earlier such as ensuring equipment runs at optimal levels and recognizing secondary sustainability benefits by limiting site visits including reduced emissions from travel.

Schneider Electric provides facility managers with carbon footprint transparency for circuit breaker innovation

Now that we’ve discussed ways to help reduce your facility’s carbon footprint at the electrical distribution level, let’s look at how Schneider Electric makes it possible for you to verify your sustainability progress with your regulatory stakeholders.

How does this work? The new, digitally-native circuit breakers and switchgear are verified as Green Premium, the Schneider Electric ecolabel for products that meet various sustainability standards and regulations, including RoHS, REACH, and California’s Prop 65.

Schneider Electric is one of the first medium voltage manufacturers in the U.S. to publish a circuit breaker Product Environmental Profile (PEP), which is third-party certification of production information. The PEP certifies the carbon-reduction impact of the newly designed switchgear and digitally integrated medium voltage circuit breakers, compared to an equivalent of a traditional, metal-clad switchgear lineup.

Key carbon-reduction indicators in the PEP include:

  • An upstream reduction of 12.4 kilotons of C02, based on the difference in materials used in the manufacturing, preparation, and assembly of the switchgear.
  • A downstream savings of 101 kilotons of C02, based on the use of traditional switchgear over 20 years.
  • Saved and avoided 3.5 kilotons of C02 per year, which equals to about a 3% improvement with the new switchgear design.
  • Across all the new switchgear units, the annual savings would be enough to charge 425 million cell phones.
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How a smaller, more durable, switchgear design helps reduce carbon output

Digitally integrated medium voltage circuit breakers are smaller than traditional circuit breakers, reducing the overall footprint by 25%. A smaller footprint for facility equipment means you require fewer materials for facility upgrades and related construction, such as copper, steel, and lengths of wire. It also can translate to space savings and lower energy demands for electrical control rooms, outdoor equipment houses, and concrete storage structures.

The new switchgear design is more durable, which in turn is more environmentally friendly. The new circuit breakers have been tested to last up to 30,000 operations, which is three times the industry standard. These tests also showed durability increased from 20 years to 40 years. This means facilities will replace the circuit breakers less often, producing less waste requiring carbon-emitting disposal, with the added benefit of reducing maintenance and costs.

Digital medium voltage circuit breakers and switchgear are key to making your facility more sustainable at an operational level

Now that we’ve presented options for using digital medium voltage circuit breakers and newly designed switchgear to help reduce your carbon footprint, you can stop looking at your electrical distribution system as just another cost of operating a facility.

Instead, you can use Schneider Electric’s new EvoPacT™ digital medium voltage circuit breakers and SureSeT™ medium voltage switchgear to make better decisions at the operational level to make your facility more environmentally friendly while increasing energy efficiency.

Compared to your legacy electrical distribution infrastructure, EvoPacT and SureSeT come with embedded digital sensors with scalable connectivity to identify energy waste in real-time, so you can take swift action to keep your sustainability efforts on track. You can also show your progress in reducing your facility’s carbon footprint with Schneider Electric’s PEP. Visit the Schneider Electric website to learn more about how you can use EvoPacT and SureSeT to find new ways to increase facility sustainability.

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