ABB reinvents the LV DC circuit breaker

11 April 2019

ABB has developed what it describes as a revolutionary solid-state circuit breaker concept for low voltage DC. It is intended to meet the highest demands of next-generation power applications as they enter the digital age. It will be available commercially from 2020.

With the new device, says ABB, today’s electrical grids will be better able to keep up with the rapid growth of renewable energy solutions and the shift towards the electrification of transport because they will be able to better and more quickly meet new demanding requirements.

The ABB solid-state breaker concept replaces the traditional moving parts of an electro-mechanical circuit breaker with power electronics and advanced software algorithms that control the power and can interrupt extreme currents faster than ever before.

Developed in Italy at ABB’s Bergamo Electrification business R&D Centre, the ABB breaker concept is the first of its kind to use a patented insulated gate-commutated transistor (IGCT) semiconductor technology. This technological breakthrough is combined with new embedded predictive power management software, protection algorithms and higher levels of connectivity.

For electricity grids, the introduction of the new ABB concept circuit breaker is as dramatic, it says, as the switch from vacuum tubes to transistors, which heralded the start of the digital age. “This development is going to strengthen the weakest link in next-generation electricity infrastructure. Our 21st century circuit breaker technology can better meet the demands of renewables, the electrification of transport and modern edge grids as today`s offerings,” said Giampiero Frisio, the head of ABB’s Smart Power business.

The circuit breaker is expected to make electrical distribution systems more reliable and efficient and will drive down maintenance costs while meeting the durability demands of next-generation electrical grids.

It will operate at speeds around 100 times faster than traditional electro-mechanical breakers. Its speed maximises the performance of power distribution systems, while maintaining service continuity. It will also improve safety and protection for people and equipment. As there is no energy release when the current is interrupted, there is no risk of danger from arcing.

Grid-edge electrical architectures depend on energy storage systems – whether they are at a household or industrial scale. To operate reliably, they require protection devices with extreme short circuit capabilities and outstanding electrical durability. ABB suggests that in the event of an electrical fault in a 4 MW utility-scale battery system, for example, the new CB can prevent losses of up to $100 000 per plant from missed energy remuneration and system recovery costs. Traditional mechanical circuit breakers also require regular servicing and have to be replaced after about 10 000 operations. This new CB can achieve millions of operations with complete reliability and near-zero servicing.

Frisio commented: “The real innovation is how easily the [CB] will integrate into applications. We looked at the complex, full system solutions already out there on the market and decided to give customers a simple standalone component they can integrate into any solution. ABB’s technology also has the advantage that power losses are 70 % lower than comparable solutions”.

The new circuit breaker will also make it simpler to integrate power installations into the digital world, says ABB. Connection to its Ability digital platform makes intelligent microgrid management strategies and many other data-driven digital solutions straightforward. And in battery storage solutions, when there is a fault, the new CB disconnects the faulty zone only, which avoids the outcome where all the rack fuses trip leading to shut down of the whole system.



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