Schneider Electric has announced the launch of a new 72.5kV variant of its popular WI switchgear range, developed to optimise the design, safety, cost and reliability of 72.5kV electrical systems in offshore wind farms. As offshore facilities become larger and are further from shore, increasing power loss and the need for costly equipment. Now, with the realisation of the Round 3 offshore wind projects, the industry is finally ready to make the move to 72.5kV to improve efficiency. This has spurred on the innovation of solutions like the new WI switchgear which is more compact, cost efficient and can be monitored in real time than legacy options.
Climate change represents the major challenge we face as a planet today — a challenge with social, economic and ecological impact. As the UK reduces its reliance on coal and edges towards a more low carbon energy mix, offshore wind is spearheading an energy revolution. If the UK is to succeed in its target of reducing the carbon intensity of energy generation to 50-100g CO2/kWh then offshore wind must continue to be developed at unprecedented scale.
Developers, Governments and technology providers are all rising to meet this challenge and as a result offshore wind farms are getting larger and further from shore. Turbines are also increasing in size, with 10MW+ machines now looking a reality.
Larger turbines and longer cable lengths result in higher power losses and more costly equipment, all at a time when the industry is being challenged to increase efficiency. Schneider Electric worked with the Carbon Trust as far back as 2011 on a study aimed at driving down the cost of offshore wind. One of the recommendations of this study was increasing the array voltage from 33kV to 72.5kV. Now, with the realisation of the UK’s much vaunted Round 3 offshore wind projects, the industry is finally ready to make this a reality.
Existing 72.5kV switchgear is costly, heavy and intended for transmission purposes. Schneider Electric saw a unique opportunity to develop a new generation of 72.5kV equipment, conforming to all the applicable High Voltage standards but with all the benefits of a Medium Voltage switchgear. The innovative solution is based on the renowned Schneider Electric WI medium voltage switchgear range, upgraded and type-tested to 72.5kV.
The innovative new WI 72.5kV switchgear technology answers the needs of offshore wind turbine and offshore substation applications. Schneider Electric’s unrivalled experience in offshore wind has led to an optimised solution that provides several important advantages:
- Compact and lightweight – The equipment is the best in its category with a panel width of only 600mm. It is also 35-40% lighter than other 72.5kV switchgears. It has been tested for harsh environments according to DNV-GL recommendations, and the design is based upon a time-tested and proven technology with over 10,000 units installed worldwide.
- It offers a strong safety advantage due to its certified internal arc rating, designed to help ensure personnel safety. Internal arc resistance is not a requirement of HV equipment usually, but Schneider Electric see this as an important safety consideration in offshore wind applications.
- The new switchgear is also cost efficient, with its maintenance-free high voltage parts including sealed-for-life vacuum interrupters, and is delivered at the site of operation as a complete unit – fully assembled and gas-filled.
- Modular design – the individual panels can be arranged as a switchboard via a common busbar, providing multiple configuration options including a pre-assembled RMU delivered as one complete unit.
- Real time monitoring – contains IoT-connected technology crucial for modern networks, including IEC61850-ready automation via digital protection relays, condition monitoring of cable connections, humidity, temperature, and gas-pressure monitoring all with remote real-time value indication.
“At Schneider Electric we know offshore wind. We have over 2000 panels of switchgear installed in offshore wind applications in Europe alone and were one of the first companies to be involved in the initial feasibility studies for High Voltage arrays ran by the Carbon Trust in the UK.” said David Hall VP Energy UK and Ireland.
“Schneider Electric developed this range to optimise the design, safety, operational cost and reliability of wind farms’ electrical systems. WI 72.5kV is a gamechanger in high voltage switchgear technology. This compact and lightweight design is optimised for offshore wind turbines and platforms. It gives offshore wind power operators a real economic advantage, with crucial safety and operational benefits too.” continued Hall.