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What is a switchgear and why are they so important?

You don’t have to be an expert in electrical systems to operate a successful factory, but it does help if you have a basic understanding of the key components and their importance.

One key element of your electrical system is the switchgear. Switchgear is a broad term that typically covers several devices that work together to control, protect and isolate your power systems.

Your switchgear may include relays, circuit breakers, switches, fuses, isolators, transformers, lightning arresters, and indicating devices. Usually, the relays and circuit breakers perform the key functions of switching and protecting your equipment or power supply.

How does a switchgear work

Having switchgears built into your electrical power system helps protect your power supply and keep your electrical equipment safe.

When there is a fault in your system, the circuit breakers and relays automatically isolate and close the defective circuit. This will prevent further damage or short-circuiting.

By isolating the fault, you ensure work can be carried out safely on defective equipment while non-faulty equipment can continue functioning as usual.

There are three types of switchgears you can use within an electrical power system.

High Voltage (HV) Switchgear

High voltage switchgear is designed to handle voltages typically ranging from 33 kV (kilovolts) up to several hundred kilovolts. It is used to control and manage electricity flow at high voltage levels.

Medium Voltage (MV) Switchgear

Medium voltage switchgear is designed for voltages up to 36 kV. It is commonly used in distribution networks, industrial plants, commercial buildings, and large residential complexes to control and distribute electricity at medium voltage levels.

Low Voltage (LV) Switchgear

Low voltage switchgear is designed for voltages typically up to 1 kV (1000 volts). It is commonly used in commercial and residential buildings, industrial facilities, and small-scale distribution systems to control and distribute electricity at lower voltage levels.

 

Why do you need a switchgear?

The most important role of a switchgear is to keep your power supply safe, and your equipment protected. But your switchgear can be customised to meet your specific requirements and standards, providing absolute differentiation in terms of functionality, performance, and safety features.

Boost reliability

Switchgear components are designed to withstand various environmental conditions and operational stresses, enhancing the reliability of your electrical power system. Additionally, redundancy in switchgear design can improve reliability by providing backup components or paths for power distribution.

Protect equipment from fault currents and short circuits

Switchgear typically incorporates protective devices such as circuit breakers, fuses, relays, and current limiters. These devices detect abnormal conditions like short circuits or overloads and isolate the faulty portion of the system to prevent damage to equipment and ensure the safety of personnel.

Provide isolation to the circuits from power supplies

Switchgear includes switches that can physically disconnect circuits from power sources. This isolation is vital during maintenance or repairs to ensure that people can work safely without the risk of electric shock or damage to equipment.

Maximise the availability of the electrical power system

Switchgear configurations can allow for multiple power sources to be connected to a load. This setup enhances system reliability by providing backup power in case of primary power source failure, minimising downtime and ensuring continuous operation.

Facilitate quicker responses to malfunctions

Switchgear can be equipped with monitoring and control features that enable rapid detection of malfunctions or abnormalities in the electrical system. Automated protection devices can quickly isolate faulty sections, minimising the impact of faults and allowing for prompt troubleshooting and corrective actions.

Provide hand-held operations

Some switchgear configurations incorporate manual operating mechanisms that allow for hand-held operations. This feature enables you to manually open or close switches when necessary, providing flexibility and control over the operation of the electrical system.

Protect equipment and operators

Switchgear is designed with safety features to protect your equipment and the people using it. This can include features such as insulation, interlocks, and arc-flash protection mechanisms to minimise the risk of electric shock, fire, and equipment damage during normal operation and fault conditions.

 

Ensuring the right switchgear for your factory

It’s vital that a factory’s power supply and power systems are safe, reliable and efficient. That’s why it’s crucial for manufacturers to ensure they have adequate switchgear in place.

AES specialises in providing electrical contracting services specifically for manufacturers. We can scale our services to meet the needs of your business, from ongoing planned maintenance and fault repair to machinery installation, and factory design, expansion and relocation.

And we provide expert advice and recommendations on electrical power systems, control and automation, and safety compliance.

We also offer a range of energy reduction services, including:

Energy efficient lighting
Voltage optimisation
• Power factor correction
Variable speed drives
Battery Energy Storage Solutions (BESS)
• Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)
• Electrical vehicle charge points
Control and automation systems

If you’d like to improve your electrical systems and energy efficiency, get in touch to find out how AES can support you.

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