It can be time-consuming and expensive to replace obsolescent switchgear. A more effective solution, according to Schneider Electric – a specialist in energy management – is to simply upgrade the circuit breaker.
Called Ecofit, the organisation’s solution to switchgear retrofit and upgrading means “ecological and economical”, and offers both limited busbar shutdowns and no civil work modifications.

“Ecofit allows users to reduce maintenance and replace old technology with the latest innovations. Through this offering, Schneider Electric can swap out a client’s circuit breaker and protection relays or provide an extension panel to an existing installation, all with minimal down time,” says Roland Bartle, services manager at Schneider Electric South Africa.

According to the organisation, Ecofit has already been adopted by more than 1,000 companies around the world that are now completely confident in the efficiency, safety and currency of their systems.

Bartle explains that, through the Schneider Electric’s acquisition of AREVA Distribution, it has widened its portfolio of Ecofit offers.

“Our organisation can now provide more than 150 solutions for medium and low voltage switchgear. We can replace Schneider Electric switchgear and its legacy brands, (including Merlin Gerin, Yorkshire Switchgear, Alstom, GEC, AEG, Sprecher or Concordia), and Ecofit also extends to non-Schneider Electric equipment.”

The benefits of the solution are:
* Significantly prolonging the effective lifetime of switchgear;
* Enhanced availability and operational reliability by reducing the risk of failure;
* The outage required to complete a retrofit is much shorter in duration than that required to replace a switchboard;
* Eliminating the necessity to remove the old switchboard – particularly key when access may mean this is difficult to achieve;
* Maintaining compliance with evolving industry standards and legislation;
* Phased modernisation of your installation increases budgetary and operational flexibility; and
* Ensures the ongoing safety of your personnel and surrounding equipment by utilising the latest technology.

Bartle exemplifies this by saying that the “plug and play” retrofit solution delivered by Schneider Electric enables fast and simple retrofitting of a customer’s existing Masterpact M device with a considerable reduction in shut-down time.

“The existing Masterpact M chassis is retained. Busbar and cable connections are not disturbed, and only the circuit concerned needs to be isolated, for as little as 30 minutes. That is, the factory modified and adapted ‘Plug and Play’ Masterpact NW is designed for installation in the original Masterpact M chassis.”

Bartle says that on-site implementation is very simple.

“The Masterpact NW range incorporates the latest technology to enhance both performance and safety. The Micrologic trip units used on Masterpact NW provide far more than just ultra-fast tripping for short circuits. They accurately measure system parameters, calculate values, store data, record events and communicate.

“Upgrading to Masterpact NW will form an essential part of your metering and monitoring strategy. STR control units (except for communication units) are replaced by the corresponding Micrologic control units, according to the specification of the existing STR.”

In addition, Ecofit also gives new life to installations by allowing for customers’ C801 to C1251 N/H low voltage switchboards to be retrofitted with the company’s Compact C solution to the latest Compact NS version.

“To counter rising energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions, we must all find new ways to reduce energy consumption. Distributed energy metering is a critical first step. It will help you understand exactly where, when, and how much energy is consumed throughout your facilities, revealing valuable opportunities to improve your efficiency,” concludes Bartle.