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ABB charts new territory with on-line configuration of high voltage switchgear customers

ABB Automation Technologies : 05 November, 2001  (New Product)
In planning and completing infrastructure projects speed determines success more than ever. Configuring high voltage switchgear on the Internet, for example, can drastically speed up the planning process. ABB, the global power and automation technology group, was able to close on projects in Norway and Canada, demonstrating how, in utility companies and industrial plants, information technology is changing the way engineers work. The configurator is presented in 3D virtual reality and streaming video at (see 'compact solutions' under 'search this site').
By the end of August 2001, the Canadian ENMAX Power Corporation started operating a new substation to meet the increasing energy needs of the area around Calgary. The corporation relied on a new technology solution by ABB: the high voltage switching module 'Compact.' During the plant's opening ceremony, Sneh Seetal, spokesperson for ENMAX, commented on the groundbreaking achievement: 'ENMAX Power is the first municipal utility in Canada to use this more efficient, state-of-the-art switchgear technology at one of its substations.'

Around the same time Hydro Aluminium Sunndalsöra, one of Europe's largest aluminum plants, located in Norway, placed a repeat order for 24 'Compact' switchgear modules with ABB. These units will ensure the power supply for the expanding production facilities of Hydro. The company decided to furnish a complete switching station of 132 kilovolt with Compact in February 2001. Only five months later the modules were energized.

Speed was a key factor in planning and executing these projects that are vital for production. Real-time applications on the Internet made this speed possible: both plants were planned with the help of the ABB on-line configurator. For Peter Smits, this is the future of engineering in power technology products. In ABB's executive committee, Smits is head of power technology products division. He is convinced that in this market, the way of doing business is about to change: 'We will see a drastic shortening of the business process, from months to weeks and from weeks to days.'

On-line tools like 'Compact Configurator' set the pace. This application allows customers to configure high voltage switchgear in either a pre-defined way or entirely from scratch. Working closely with the customer, the necessary parameters are chosen, and complete high voltage switchgear solutions can be put together on the computer screen in real-time. All the planning materials are provided via the Internet. The Configurator also calculates the area required for the substation and compares its performance to that of traditional plants.

Josef A. Dürr, worldwide responsible for ABB's high voltage technology Business Area, describes the advantages: 'With this type of interactive configuration, we can draft alternate versions for each project in the blink of an eye. Together with our customers, we can develop the optimum solution for their needs.' Flexibility and speed were the decisive factors for ENMAX in Canada and Hydro Aluminium in Norway, says Dürr.

The Compact modules combine several basic components of switchgear: life tank breaker, instrument transformer, surge arrester and busbar in a typetested module. The disconnecting function is maintenance free and integrated either in a motorized draw-out breaker or in a combined disconnecting breaker. They can be used up to a voltage of 550 kV. The integrated Compact module serves the same function as traditional high voltage plants that are composed of many individual components. The 'plug and play' philosophy further decreases the time needed for building substations because modules need less material and space and can therefore be installed faster and easier.

By offering power technology products in modular form, ABB sees itself as a trailblazer. These products, easy to configure and fast to install, require a substantial investment in research and development. From the outset, quality and reliability must be an integral part of any innovation. And in the area of high voltage switchgear, ABB produces innovations with an impressive speed: 75 percent of the volume of its business is based on developments less than five years old.
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