In The Dash To Wind Power, SF6-free Turbines Will Aid Net-Zero Push

By Soko Directory Team / Published September 26, 2022 | 4:34 pm




KEY POINTS

Wind turbines, both on-shore, and off-shore rely on electrical switchgear for safety. Mandating switchgear that is free from the greenhouse gas, SF6 will keep net-zero ambitions intact as more turbines are built


Wind Power

Kenya has a viable wind energy resource that aims to generate 2,036 MW of wind power, or 9% of the country’s total capacity, by 2030. According to the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), 73% of the country experiences wind speeds of 6 m/s or higher at a hundred meters above ground level.

Using wind power to bolster energy security is a positive environmental choice and as a key plank of future energy strategies in many countries, construction of wind farms will continue apace. Kenya is not left behind as it stands tall amongst African countries when it comes to wind energy production. Its claim to fame is the Lake Turkana Wind Plant (LTWP), the largest of its kind on the continent.

Wind farm technology is well understood, but less widely recognized is the global-warming potential of the switchgear that provides overcurrent and short circuit protection in turbines. Unless it is what’s known as SF6-free switchgear, it can leak climate-damaging gas.

At the root of the problem is Sulphur Hexafluoride, more commonly known as SF6, which is still used widely as an insulator and arc extinguisher in switchgear. Comprising a sulfur atom and six fluorine atoms, each SF6 molecule is an environmental menace: just 1 kg is equivalent to 23,500 Kg of CO2 in terms of global warming.

Mandating SF6-free switchgear in renewable technologies – solar arrays, as well as wind farms – will avoid derailing net-zero ambitions as the push for clean, secure energy intensifies.

Kenya is set to gain more wind farms as the East African country moves to increase and diversify its clean energy resources. Moving away from traditional methods of generating power such as thermal, to clean methods of producing the same using readily available wind resources, which is more innovative and cuts carbon emissions.

Why does the industry use SF6?

Scientists first discovered how to make SF6 in industrial quantities during the 1960s – only a small amount occurs naturally. Stable, odorless, and colorless, it was used in applications as varied as insulating windows and providing the ‘bounce’ in tennis balls and vehicle tires.

However, it was not long before the environmental dangers of fluorine gasses became apparent, and governments started phasing them out. The EU’s legislative response to what became known as F-Gasses included banning SF6 in every application except switchgear, which was exempt because of its role as a critical safety feature.

This exemption has had unfortunate consequences. SF6 is undoubtedly a good insulator, widely and readily available, which means that far from fading away, its use in electrical switchgear has increased. Counterproductively, it has even found its way into applications such as wind farms which are intended to reduce global warming.

Now, however, the tide is turning, and the EU is set to announce an end to the exemption which is likely to come into effect across many countries during the mid-to-late 2020s.

Renewables could make the difference

Renewable generation is driving growth in the switchgear market which is why a fast phase-out of SF6 after the likely lifting of the exemption is essential. Renewable assets up the stake in more ways than one: there are set to be more of them, and they require more frequent switching because of the way they work.

Fortunately, well-proven alternatives are already available for up to and including 24 kV. Eaton pioneered the use of alternative insulation technologies at much the same time as SF6 was discovered, back in the 1960s.

Reasons for optimism

Electrical industry professionals can do much to prevent further SF6 emissions adding to what is already a worrisome burden on the environment. Governments can play their part by driving forward policy to prevent further use of SF6 in applications including switchgear.

As it is easier to specify SF6-free switchgear on new projects than encourage the replacement of switchgear on existing projects, the boom in renewable technology could be a real opportunity to embed SF6-free know-how in the electrical industry. If there is a good time to go SF6-free, that time is surely now.

The author is Eastern Africa Regional Manager at Eaton Electric Ltd.




About Soko Directory Team

Soko Directory is a Financial and Markets digital portal that tracks brands, listed firms on the NSE, SMEs and trend setters in the markets eco-system.Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/SokoDirectory and on Twitter: twitter.com/SokoDirectory

View other posts by Soko Directory Team


More Articles From This Author








Trending Stories










Other Related Articles










SOKO DIRECTORY & FINANCIAL GUIDE



ARCHIVES

2022
  • January 2022 (293)
  • February 2022 (329)
  • March 2022 (360)
  • April 2022 (294)
  • May 2022 (271)
  • June 2022 (232)
  • July 2022 (278)
  • August 2022 (253)
  • September 2022 (246)
  • October 2022 (196)
  • November 2022 (230)
  • December 2022 (10)
  • 2021
  • January 2021 (182)
  • February 2021 (227)
  • March 2021 (325)
  • April 2021 (259)
  • May 2021 (285)
  • June 2021 (273)
  • July 2021 (277)
  • August 2021 (232)
  • September 2021 (271)
  • October 2021 (305)
  • November 2021 (364)
  • December 2021 (249)
  • 2020
  • January 2020 (272)
  • February 2020 (310)
  • March 2020 (390)
  • April 2020 (321)
  • May 2020 (335)
  • June 2020 (327)
  • July 2020 (333)
  • August 2020 (276)
  • September 2020 (214)
  • October 2020 (233)
  • November 2020 (242)
  • December 2020 (187)
  • 2019
  • January 2019 (251)
  • February 2019 (215)
  • March 2019 (283)
  • April 2019 (254)
  • May 2019 (269)
  • June 2019 (249)
  • July 2019 (335)
  • August 2019 (293)
  • September 2019 (306)
  • October 2019 (313)
  • November 2019 (362)
  • December 2019 (318)
  • 2018
  • January 2018 (291)
  • February 2018 (213)
  • March 2018 (275)
  • April 2018 (223)
  • May 2018 (235)
  • June 2018 (176)
  • July 2018 (256)
  • August 2018 (247)
  • September 2018 (255)
  • October 2018 (282)
  • November 2018 (282)
  • December 2018 (184)
  • 2017
  • January 2017 (183)
  • February 2017 (194)
  • March 2017 (207)
  • April 2017 (104)
  • May 2017 (169)
  • June 2017 (205)
  • July 2017 (189)
  • August 2017 (195)
  • September 2017 (186)
  • October 2017 (235)
  • November 2017 (253)
  • December 2017 (266)
  • 2016
  • January 2016 (164)
  • February 2016 (165)
  • March 2016 (189)
  • April 2016 (143)
  • May 2016 (245)
  • June 2016 (182)
  • July 2016 (271)
  • August 2016 (247)
  • September 2016 (233)
  • October 2016 (191)
  • November 2016 (243)
  • December 2016 (153)
  • 2015
  • January 2015 (1)
  • February 2015 (4)
  • March 2015 (164)
  • April 2015 (107)
  • May 2015 (116)
  • June 2015 (119)
  • July 2015 (145)
  • August 2015 (157)
  • September 2015 (186)
  • October 2015 (169)
  • November 2015 (173)
  • December 2015 (205)
  • 2014
  • March 2014 (2)
  • 2013
  • March 2013 (10)
  • June 2013 (1)
  • 2012
  • March 2012 (7)
  • April 2012 (15)
  • May 2012 (1)
  • July 2012 (1)
  • August 2012 (4)
  • October 2012 (2)
  • November 2012 (2)
  • December 2012 (1)
  • 2011
    2010
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    2001
    2000
    1999
    1998
    1997
    1996
    1995
    1994
    1993
    1992
    1991
    1990
    1989
    1988
    1987
    1986
    1985
    1984
    1983
    1982
    1981
    1980
    1979
    1978
    1977
    1976
    1975
    1974
    1973
    1972
    1971
    1970
    1969
    1968
    1967
    1966
    1965
    1964
    1963
    1962
    1961
    1960
    1959
    1958
    1957
    1956
    1955
    1954
    1953
    1952
    1951
    1950