Comment: The beating heart of safe electrification

ABB’s Grid Components Business Line Manager, Sami Raitakoski, explains why circuit breaker technology will underpin the electrification revolution.

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In a world racing towards electrification, the unsung hero of power distribution is emerging from the shadows – the humble circuit breaker. With over a century of existence, this unassuming yet vital component has quietly played a pivotal role in ensuring safe and reliable electricity flow. As the global community grapples with the urgent challenges of climate change and energy security, the circuit breaker is taking centre stage as a linchpin in the transition to a more sustainable and efficient future.

A Legacy of Protection

The circuit breaker, a true lifesaver, has silently stood guard over electrical systems for generations – from single households to mega utilities. Its unassuming exterior belies the remarkable feat it accomplishes. Yet, we often overlook its enduring significance when it comes to keeping us safe and our lights switched on 24/7.

Electricity, as powerful as it is, demands moderation and control. The circuit breaker stands as the ‘superhero’ against potential hazards, shielding us from the inevitable safety pitfalls inherent in harnessing this potent force. It is the circuit breaker's swift intervention that safeguards energy flow, making possible the reliable and consistent power supply we often take for granted.

A World in Transformation

The present age is marked by an urgent need to revamp power systems in response to the global climate crisis and mounting energy security concerns. The circuit breaker emerges as an indispensable ally in these tumultuous times, offering a stable foundation upon which to build resilient and optimized energy management systems.

Whether within the confines of a sprawling power plant, a bustling manufacturing facility, or the cozy comforts of home, the circuit breaker's unpretentious presence ensures the uninterrupted flow of energy. Its ability to instantaneously isolate risky sections of the network, quicker than the blink of an eye, underscores its unwavering commitment to safety.

Digital Dawn

However, as the world's appetite for steadfast and continuous power surges, challenges such as outages and supply shutdowns loom ever larger on the horizon. The financial burdens and potential reputational damage of such events cannot be underestimated. Often, the origins of these disruptions remain shrouded in mystery.

Enter the transformative power of digitalization, propelling the circuit breaker into the 21st century with newfound capabilities. Through intelligent insights and data, circuit breaker technology is transitioning from a mere protector to a proactive partner in asset optimization. Digitalization optimizes processes, reduces maintenance costs, and minimizes downtime, while real-time analytical data ushers in unprecedented levels of energy management and efficiency.

ABB Vd4evo Digital Circuit Breaker - ABB

 In this age of rapid transformation, plug-and-play solutions pave the way for seamless integration into digital operations. Fully configured and ready for action, embedded solutions reduce engineering time and offer unparalleled convenience. The integration of Industry 4.0-level sensing technology and cloud-based applications further enhances the circuit breaker's prowess, leading to significant space savings and cost efficiencies.

A Resilient Future

Embedded sensors and communication capabilities within intelligent circuit breakers present a wealth of opportunities. These advancements enable accurate measurement of energy consumption without the need for supplementary meters or equipment. This critical data fuels insightful analyses of power distribution systems, consumption patterns, and peak demand costs, empowering users with invaluable insights into energy usage.

Real-time dashboards deliver these insights at a glance, ensuring improved visibility and diagnostics. Predictive analytics, made possible by these technological enhancements, extend the circuit breaker's lifespan and enhance overall efficiency, leading to substantial operational and financial benefits for utilities and industries alike.

The IEEE reports that predictive analytics can reduce the risk of power outages by up to 30 per cent, resulting in potential savings of up to $100,000 per solution. Additionally, enhanced monitoring and diagnostics can slash operational and maintenance costs by as much as 60 percent, a testament to the circuit breaker's evolving role in enhancing operational efficiency.

The Road Ahead

As the world hurtles towards an energy-hungry future, circuit breakers continue to evolve as pillars of resilience, efficiency, and safety. Their journey from unassuming protectors to digital pioneers marks a transformative shift in power distribution networks.

In the midst of exponential growth in demand, design engineers now stand at the crossroads of innovation. Infusing digital connectivity and intelligence into their solutions, they pave the way for even greater energy management and operational optimization.

In a world where the heart of safe electrification beats steadily, the humble circuit breaker emerges as a true marvel, embodying the fusion of tradition and ultra-modern technology. ABB has over two million of its flagship VD4 circuit breakers in active operation globally, and the circuit breaker's journey is helping to propel us towards a brighter, more sustainable digital future.

Sami Raitakoski is Grid Components Business Line Manager at ABB