Six decades of protecting power plants

2014-09-25 - The first generator circuit-breaker (GCB) in the world was designed by ABB’s parent company Brown Boveri & Cie (BBC) in 1954 in Switzerland. Today, with the most powerful GCB in its portfolio ABB continues to drive innovation.
In the early days of power networks, conventional breakers protected the generators in power plants. With the increase in output, generators grew larger which meant that machine ratings exceeded the load currents and short-circuit levels of the switchgears. This lead to the development of the generator circuit- breaker, designed specifically for the protection of generators in power plants.

GCBs clear potentially harmful short-circuit faults within tens of milliseconds preventing severe damage to power plant equipment and possible lengthy plant downtime. GCBs also bring about simplified operational procedures and reduced lifecycle costs in power plants.

Where it all began

1950s
  • BBC, one of the two companies that formed ABB in 1988, developed and introduced GCBs with air-blast technology.
1960s
  • BBC further pioneered the development of circuit breakers that use phase-segregated bus ducts with higher unit ratings.
1980s
  • BBC successfully introduced GCBs with SF6 gas using a three-phase system in single-phase enclosures.
2000s
  • ABB successfully achieved highest performance ratings up to 210 kA fault current interruption in GCBs.
2010s
  • ABB opens state-of-the art GCB factory opened in Zurich, Switzerland.
  • ABB develops the world’s most powerful GCB with up to 300 kA fault current interruption.
  • ABB goes beyond products with the introduction of advanced monitoring system for GCBs to enhance power plant reliability.

ABB has the widest portfolio in SF6 technology and the most powerful GCB in the world, the HEC 9. The HEC 9 has a 300 kA fault current interruption capability and can protect power plant units with capacities of up to 1800 megawatts (MW). A power plant that has an electrical power output of 1800 MW can serve the electricity needs of up to a million average households in developed nations in North America or Europe.

With an installed base of over 8000 units GCBs developed by ABB can be found in all types of power plants from thermal, gas, combined cycle, hydro to pumped storage power plants.

These high-tech machines are manufactured in ABB’s award-winning factory in Switzerland that was voted European Best Factory of the Year in 2010. Since opening the factory, ABB has cut the average production time for GCBs from weeks to days.


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