Enabling an ageing infrastructure to meet future demands

Jon Lawson

It’s no secret that energy consumption is increasing around the globe. Cities are expanding at an alarming rate, and populations are growing exponentially - leading to an ever-increasing demand on the underlying infrastructure that powers our world.

According to BP’s 2018 Energy Outlook report, competitive pressures within global energy markets are intensifying, and they believe that demand will continue to grow - with global energy consumption set to increase by a third between now and 2040.

This expansion brings many challenges, particularly in industrialised countries, where the infrastructure is growing older and becoming more fragile with each passing year. The increase in demand for energy then has a corresponding impact on transmission grids - and on the substations which control power flow and direct it in a reliable and robust manner. 

These substations form the ‘crossroads’ of the power system - and if they do not function effectively due to their extended lifespan, then the entire infrastructure could easily be compromised. Added to this, there is also a corresponding increase in the requirement for transfer capacity into the substation, and within the transmission corridors – all of which puts severe pressure on the high voltage switchgear within the switchyard.

The ultimate outcome of this situation is that utility companies, who are relying on this ageing foundation, must start to consider the numerous future challenges - both technical and economic - which are being created as a result.

Where does TE Connectivity (TE) fit in?
TE takes time to review the wider changes that are taking place in the world, and to use this information to enable it to ‘think ahead’ - considering how to address future challenges and resolve issues that the industry may not even yet be aware of. It has always been TE’s policy to understand the latest market trends, and the consequent issues that design engineers, network managers, contractors and installers are all facing as a result. 

As the unavoidable ageing process within the global power infrastructure takes effect, it is vital to improve the resilience of the transmission grid to minimise any power outage periods in the future as demand grows. TE is therefore developing high-power connectivity systems that contribute to the increased longevity of substation infrastructure, whilst also improving the reliability of the transmission grid. 

TE’s Simabus and Simaflex products offer a wide range of clamps and connectors for substation applications, and respectively for tubular and overhead bear conductors - operating up to 550kV and above. The company customises the requested connectors late in production, from standard components kept in stock, to create a solution for any configuration faced by its customers – all delivered in a very short lead-time.

These innovative connectors replace multiple connector types with a single universal busbar connector that has been designed to help meet the needs of utilities customers worldwide. The products’ aim is to increase the transfer capacity in existing substations and enable high electrical and mechanical performance, which extends the lifetime of high voltage infrastructures. 

This innovative range of connectors will enable utility companies to meet today’s growing demands for energy. The mass customisation of Simaflex connectors will enable utility companies to increase transfer capacity or refurbishexisting panels within substations – which help improves the reliability and the longevity of the transmission grid at the same time. Meanwhile, the modular approach of Simabus connectors allow customers to help extend their old substations despite various civil engineering constraints.

Both of these connection solutions have been designed to help solve the challenge that global expansion brings, and to help provide a solution that is not only efficient and cost effective, but also environmentally aware. TE understands that any maintenance or repair of the underlying systems must be done with the shortest possible lead time - and failing components must be able to be replaced quickly, without major disruption to the wider infrastructure. 

The key value of the two product ranges is to help deliver a modular approach to connectivity – with reliable products that offer high performance and are also maintenance free and easy to install, all within the required project execution timescale. 

Both substation connectors are made with die-cast components that can withstand extended wear in any application, and can handle a full range of electrical and physical requirements. 

Operating in a live environment
TE recently worked with South Europe Atlantic to help it build a completely new high speed rail line in France between Tours and Bordeaux, enabling passengers to make the journey in just over two hours.

All connectors had to be designed as per the French utility requirements. Due to specific layout requirements, a conventional connector solution did not fit this specific configuration - so TE was asked to take up the challenge of delivering an alternative connectivity solution within the existing timeframe.

From the very first discussion, it was obvious that the Simabus connectors were able to offer a strategic advantage – and once the client’s engineers had fully approved the solution, all 6,785 connectors were installed only three weeks after making the decision. The client was delighted.

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