Switchgear Failures – Don’t Wait for Them to Happen. Predict Them. Prevent Them.

In this series of posts on Switchgear Failures and How to Predict and Prevent Them, we will discuss:

 

Switchgear deals with voltages in the range of a few kilo volts (kV) to hundreds of kV. These high voltages present high risk to capital – both financial and human – when the switchgear equipment fails. The leading causes* of failure are loose connections, worn out/broken insulation on the cabling, external agents like dust and water, and faulty protection mechanisms. Such failures can cause long outages and incur high costs to replace the equipment and compensate workers for injuries.

Existing inspection mechanisms might not avert a catastrophic failure like a high-voltage arc fault from causing severe damage to the equipment and even loss of human life in some cases. Most protection mechanisms like fuses, circuit breakers and ground fault protectors aren’t helpful in predicting a switchgear failure. Some maintenance processes require regular manual inspection which is still fraught with risk and adds to the overall cost of maintaining the switchgear equipment.

Arc-flash explosion in electrical switchgear equipment**

Most of the leading causes of switchgear failure mentioned above are accompanied with an increased thermal signature in critical areas of the switchgear assembly over time, which if monitored continuously, can provide adequate warning of catastrophic failure. In addition to the continuous monitoring, there is a need for the monitoring to be wireless and battery-free (passive). This eliminates the need to maintain the temperature monitoring equipment and allows for a non-intrusive way of monitoring the environment without adding risk.

*http://www.netaworld.org/sites/default/files/public/neta-journals/NWsu10-NoOutage-Genutis.pdf

**Image sourced from: http://www.ehstoday.com/safety/explosive-arc-flash-videos-video-gallery on August 28, 2017.


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