High-voltage switchgear replacement will improve power supply reliability

Photo of switchgear at a University electricity substation.

Engineers are starting work on the switchgear of the substation behind the Virology building, and early next year will do the same at the substation at the Robert Hooke Building, occupied by the Computer Science department. The work will greatly improve the reliability of the Science Area's power network.

The switchgear allows power to be re-directed around the Science Area high-voltage network, enabling engineers to isolate parts of it as needed so work can take place without affecting the supply of electricity to the rest of the network. This means they can maintain the network without disrupting the activities of the departments that depend on it.

The switchgear in place at most of the substations has been there for decades and is approaching the end of its reliable life. There have also been questions over the long-term reliability of the brand of switchgear used in the old substations since one of them exploded in 2012. This has given more impetus to the replacement programme, which has already replaced switchgear at substations including the one that blew up, at the Keble Triangle, the one at the Clarendon Laboratory, and the one behind the Old Observatory. Budget has been set aside in the Minor Capital Plan to improve the remaining seven substations. Each replacement will take around a month.