Being a newly formed market research company focused on the power sector, Power Technology Research (PTR) had the privilege of attend the CIGRE 2016 conference and exhibition held in Paris every two years. The show is one of the leading technology fairs in the field of power technology. Every exhibition gathers power systems experts and industry experts to Paris for a week of presentations, discussions and exhibitions. The event is mainly targeted towards the power systems industry with the fair split into parts; a conference of industry expert presentation, and the exhibition with 249 exhibitors presenting new products and services.

This year had 9 major themes, out of which, the following four were most interesting and relevant for us at PTR:

1. Eco design of equipment
2. Maintenance, refurbishment and life time of equipment
3. Real time monitoring of equipment and systems
4. Development of DC solutions

All of the major manufacturers of T&D equipment were showcasing their products at the exhibition, with some companies having considerable heavy equipment on display. Many other exhibitors had only one or two small products or models of their equipment for the visitors to see. Companies were using interactive screens and brochures to explain the specifications of the equipment and a lot more focus was put on the technical details of the products than mere displays. There were no floor events or presentations happening during the conference, and they were restricted to the conference halls only.

Out of many interesting products during the conference, a few came to our direct attention including:

1. SF6 alternatives
2. Hybrid STATCOMs
3. New reactive power compensation solutions

4. Realtime equipment monitoring systems

The environmental impact of equipment is becoming more relevant every day, especially for Scandinavian markets. Environmental friendly alternatives of products by GE, the green transformer and the g3 insulated switchgear were the key items on display in GE’s booth. Siemens had the Blue GIS switchgear on display, which uses clean air as the insulation medium as their environment friendly alternative to the traditional SF6 insulated range. PTR believes that the market for these alternatives is growing steadily, however, still restricted to certain countries depending on the spending power of utilities and the level of environmental consciousness. The externalities of the use of SF6 as an insulation medium, for example increased carbon tax, tighter emissions targets, and F-gas targets in Europe supported by ENTSO-E, are some of the factors, we believe, will have an impact towards increasing market share of these alternatives globally.

In the HVDC & FACTS categories, most of equipment advertised was around reactive power control, inversely little around power quality. Three categories were repeatedly brought up in our discussions with Power Electronics manufacturers: SVC, STATCOMs and the Hybrid STATCOMs which are a ‘fusion’ between conventional SVC and STATCOM. Combining the quick response times and control capabilities of STATCOMs and price of SVCs, this solution seems to be catching up more traction recently.

Another unique solution for simple reactive power compensation was being exhibited by Smart Wire as an alternative to conventional facts devices. The solution allows you to add series reactors to the already installed wires for overload mitigation, phase balancing, and congestion reduction in a much more convenient and flexible way. There are multiple configurations being offered to suit the variety of use cases. The company is still new, but already have some use cases with utilities in the US.

Under monitoring and control equipment, ABB displayed its Coretec transformer monitoring system and Modular Switchgear Monitoring (MSM) for gas insulated switchgear. Both these systems focus on increased real time monitoring of the system than preventive maintenance. Transformer gas analysis, which was previously done at frequent intervals as part of preventive maintenance plan, can be replaced by continuous feed using Coretec sensors connected to a central database. Similarly, MSM system captures a complete picture of SF6 gas density inside pressurized gas insulated switchgear. These monitoring systems continuously send real time sensor data to the central SCADA systems where trends are plotted between failure risk and criticality of equipment to help engineers in taking preventive actions ahead of equipment failure.

Overall we were impressed by the intimacy of the event, with many industry stakeholders for power systems at our neighboring location in Europe. With a strong focus on the evolving smarter grid technologies, the community is open to discuss the grid technicalities more openly as compared to some other conferences. CIGRE 2016 was certainly one of the key conferences for Power Technology Research team this year and we will certainly be back in 2018.

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