Learn Beijing’s new magic trick: invisible power stations

Fri, 2014-11-14 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

Stroll through Caishikou in downtown Beijing and you’ll see a thriving commercial district with busy streets and a museum. But you won’t see the substation that powers it all.

Smart cities attract businesses and residents, but large power substations typically get in the way of other uses for the land. Council Associate Partner ABB, however, is finding ways for people and the power infrastructure to share the same space.

In Caishikou, the power substation is underground. The facility recently went online and work is now underway on the museum that will stand over it.

Among other things, the substation uses ABB’s modular intelligent gas-insulated switchgear, which helps conserve space. To cool the substation, they use water on the ground, which improves safety and reduces the environmental impact.

The substation also features a number of smart capabilities, including real-time monitoring and overload capability forecasting.  It uses iUnigear, a smart switchgear, which can be controlled at the site or remotely, allowing the power utility to more efficiently run its operations.

While skyscrapers have traditionally featured their own substations, the idea of putting a substation underground that powers a wider area is relatively new.

The first underground substation in the United States didn’t go online until 2007. It’s in Anaheim, California where the city built a two-acre park on top of the substation to provide residents with some open space. Another Council Associate Partner, Siemens, helped with that project.

The problems traditionally have been that substations need a lot of space and are quite noisy. ABB has been working on both of those problems, and says it can hide up to 98% of a substation underground and eliminate much of the noise emitted.

Underground substations can free up valuable space for parks and parking lots, malls and museums, an idea worth considering as cities become more dense.

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