ABB technologies that changed the world
Part four: substations

As the world's leading supplier of electrical substations, ABB has delivered key advances that have improved the reliability and flexibility of transmission and distribution systems in the most demanding environments, from deserts and mountains to offshore rigs and city centers.

By ABB Communications

ABB has been building substations since the 1900s and has delivered more substation projects than any other supplier worldwide.

Over the decades, ABB innovations have revolutionized substation technology in the key areas of size, performance and intelligence. For instance:

ABB delivered the world’s first gas-insulated (GIS) substation in 1965. The GIS technology enabled substation footprints to be reduced by up to 70 percent – a phenomenal change - from the size of a soccer pitch to that of a small garden. This made it possible to build substations in downtown locations and other space-restricted areas like offshore oil and gas platforms, power plants and office buildings.

132 kV GIS substation in the center of AbuDhabi
Over the past 40 years, ABB has delivered tens of thousands of GIS bays worldwide, including the world’s largest GIS installations at the Itaipu hydropower plant in Brazil (delivered in 1984 and rated at 550 kV) and the Three Gorges hydropower plants in China (delivered in 2006 and rated at 550 kV).

Recently, in collaboration with the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), ABB successfully raised the world-record performance level of GIS switchgear to 1,100 kV. This innovation will enable SGCC to build the world’s most powerful long-distance AC transmission network in the coming years.

ABB has also set new records for the size and performance of air-insulated substations with unique and innovative technologies like disconnecting circuit breakers and hybrid AIS/GIS switchgear.

ABB has cut the size of air-insulated (AIS) substations by as much as 50 percent and achieved record performance levels



Disconnecting circuit breakers (DCBs) combine all the functions of the circuit breaker and disconnector in a single component, compared to the traditional solution, which requires three components (two separate disconnectors for each circuit breaker).

Recently, ABB extended the rating of its DCBs to the 500-kV level, thereby enabling – for the first time – extra-high-voltage (EHV) AIS substations and load hubs near downtown locations where high land prices and space restrictions usually prohibit the construction of large AIS substations.

The 500-kV DCB concept reduces the size of a large 500-kV AIS substation from around 60,000 square meters (the size of six soccer pitches) to about 30,000 sq m. The reduction in installation and construction costs as well as visual impact is substantial.

ABB was a driving force in the development of the IEC 61850 communication standard for substations and is the world’s leading supplier of IEC 61850 substation automation systems



The IEC 61850 standard for communication in substations is one of the most significant developments in substation automation and protection technology for several decades. It fulfills a long-held requirement for a single global standard for interoperability and real-time communication and data exchange between critical substation automation devices.

ABB played a key role in developing the global standard and carried out the world’s first multi-vendor IEC 61850 installation in 2004 at one of Europe’s biggest and most important substations. In the past four years, ABB has supplied hundreds of IEC 61850 systems and thousands of products for new and retrofit installations in over 60 countries to enhance the performance, efficiency and reliability of substation operation.


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    ABB has been building substations since the 1900s and has delivered more substation projects than any other supplier worldwide.

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