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ABB innovation promises cheaper, more reliable switchgear communication

ABB Automation Technologies : 10 March, 2007  (Company News)
Curiosity is what drives many visitors to the display of ABB's innovation for switchgear communications at this week's power technologies show in Paris. The waveguide, as it is known, may just look like a silvery metal tube but the simplicity is the key to its advantages.
It is a wireless system that is cheaper, more reliable and lower maintenance than traditional cable-based switchgear communication, Wolfgang Heil, an ABB software developer, explains to the visitors.

ABB is presenting the technology along with a range of others at a week-long exhibition organized by the International Council on Large Electric Systems, known by its French acronym, Cigré. It expects to introduce the waveguide to the market in.

'The waveguide will be interesting for many different projects,' Heil said. 'About 70 to 80 percent of customers I have met want to add switchgear to their substations and with the waveguide it can be very easy to do.'

Substations are where the electricity voltage is increased to make its transmission possible and lowered again for distribution to the consumer. Switchgear is equipment that helps to protect the expensive elements of a substation by immediately turning off the power if there is an unexpected surge.

The reliability of the grid can therefore hinge on the quality of switchgear communication. Traditional copper cables are sensitive to electromagnetic interference while fiber optic cables have poorer mechanical properties and are more complex to lay.

With the waveguide, the wireless signals are protected from external interference and the environment is protected from the radio signals. It is also easy to install and requires virtually no maintenance.

ABB's waveguide
The hollow conductor is rectangular and made of aluminum. The dimensions are designed according to the size of the electromagnetic waves used and the signal is transmitted with virtually no losses because it is reflected by the two parallel surfaces.

Research has shown that the waveguide can transmit as much as 22 times more information than the pair of cables needed in a standard installation, making it well suited to assist in the roll-out of the new global standard in substation communication known as IEC 61850.

The new standard requires equipment that can communicate using the new language as well as all the old ones, increasing the volume of data that needs to be transmitted.

ABB will conduct further tests on the waveguide to gauge whether the full information capacity is available in practice before introducing the technology to the market.
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