Ross Boyd, general
manager of GE Energy’s
Industrial Solutions
business for Sub
-Saharan Africa
Midrand, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 29 July 2011 – Setting a milestone for the electrical equipment sector in South Africa, GE has completed the first fully type-tested arc-proof low voltage switchgear to be manufactured in the country.

The low voltage switchgear has been granted full certification by the National Electricity Testing Facility (NETFA), showcasing how GE’s global expertise continues to benefit South Africa’s energy and industrial sector.

“The switchgear passed NETFA‘s stringent seven tests on the first attempt, a commendable achievement to the team. The additional arc preventative test also was successfully undertaken, enabling the switchgear to become the first locally built and tested arc-proof electrical equipment meeting international standards (IEC 61439),” said Ross Boyd, general manager of GE Energy’s Industrial Solutions business for Sub-Saharan Africa..

The approval comes one year after GE Energy was awarded a R500 million contract to supply arc-proof low voltage switchgear over a four-year period for the new Eskom Medupi power station presently under construction in Mpumalanga.

The arc proof low voltage switchgear provides enhanced arc flash protection. An arc flash or arc blast  is a rapid release of energy that results in an explosion due to a breakdown in the insulation medium creating conductive plasma. Heat propagation from the plasma is predominantly infrared radiation with temperatures exceeding 20,000 degrees Celsius.

The enhanced switchgear has undergone some engineering changes to meet the demands of South Africa’s energy sector, and its successful testing is a testament to GE’s commitment to working with South Africa to deliver world class energy efficient solutions.

Boyd said, “GE is proud of the capital and skills investments we have made in the country. With the certification, GE now not only supplies world-class local products to South Africa, but also to the entire sub-Saharan Africa region.”

“GE Energy’s capacity to produce arc-proof switchgear locally is unique and important to the industry acceptance of our switchgear. This is particularly so in the energy, industrial, petrochemical and mining sectors where quality electrical products that offer significant protection to operators are highly important,” he said.

GE Energy’s manufacturing facility located in Midrand has enhanced the switchgear from having arc-mitigation properties to being totally arc proof.   

Compartmentalisation of the functional areas, with other unique construction features, limits arc faults to the point of origin, ensuring operator safety and protection of the equipment. The system is modular and features air circuit breakers alongside withdrawable technology to provide high accessibility and easy maintenance by the user. Up to 32 draw-out units can be inserted per cubicle to suit specific requirements.

The increased contribution by GE to the local energy sector is to be underscored by a series of sponsored seminars on low voltage switchgear. The emphasis will be on sharing knowledge and providing insights into IEC standards and what these mean for low voltage switchgear and the electrical industry as a whole.

“Our aim is to assist the industry with a deeper understanding of IEC requirements and how these impact on setting specifications. We regard these seminars as part of our contribution to growing the South African electrical industry,” Boyd concludes.