Switchgear
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German energy giant E.ON is investing in a start-up that develops switchgear without the potent greenhouse gas sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

E.ON says the investment in Berlin-based nuventura is a step towards making “our grids emission-free”.

By replacing SF6 in gas-insulated switchgear with dry air, E.ON says that nuventura's technology offers significant environmental benefits while increasing efficiency and profitability.

Gas-insulated switchgear is a fundamental component of any electricity grid and uses SF6 as a protective gas layer enclosing the conductors.

SF6 is a synthetic gas that is extremely long-lived – its atmospheric lifetime is estimated at over 3000 years. The atmospheric greenhouse effect of one kilogram of SF6 in the first 100 years alone equals that of over 23,500 kilograms of CO2.

“Our technology is currently unique in its market segment of medium voltage applications, because we managed to make it simpler and competitive with current technologies while adding additional benefits relevant for future smart grids.” said Manjunath Ramesh, co-founder and managing director of nuventura. “We just use the air we breathe as a replacement of SF6. This simplifies production and operation substantially.”

E.ON says that “in the long term, nuventura’s technology will make SF6 obsolete in switchgear insulations, which currently use 85 per cent of all globally produced SF6”. Currently, the annual greenhouse effect of SF6 emissions equals that of 100 million cars emitting CO2.

The company has also expanded its wind energy interests, and have broken into the Japanese offshore wind market.

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E.ON said that switchgear equipped with nuventura’s solution is easier to operate than SF6-based technology and allows for sensors within the gas container, which monitor the equipment and capture valuable operating data for smart grid applications.

Based on sensor data, the operator can optimize maintenance cycles and anticipate required actions to ensure smooth operations. Sensors also play a key role in grid IT security and, therefore, for smart grid management.

E.ON and nuventura are now planning to launch a pilot project with the German grid operator E.DIS at Ketzin substation, the site of the E.DIS Energy Transition Lab.

“Our collaboration with nuventura is an active contribution to climate protection,” said E.DIS chairman Alexander Montebaur. “In nuventura, we have found a partner with the potential to make a key technical asset in our grids emission-free.

“As an ecologically responsible network operator, we are highly interested in finding alternatives to SF6 technology. We consider the innovative approach of nuventura as very promising.

Fabian Lemke, commercial director at nuventura, said: “We should do everything in our power to achieve a complete ban of SF6. That is why we are making our technology available to all switchgear manufacturers via licenses.”

Eon has supported nuventura via its start-up programme :agile accelerator. “Our aim as an accelerator and seed investor is to partner with start-ups that developed trendsetting tech, have a great and diverse team and that are able to set up pilots with the E.ON businesses,” said Inga Land, managing director of :agile accelerator.

“Nuventura brings all that along and we are looking forward to keep working with them”

Earlier this year, the electricity grid operator EWS Schönau announced plans to install nuventura’s technology in its grid in 2020.

This story first appeared on our sister-site. Power Engineering International.