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15.000 V converted to 400 V. For that part of Infrabel’s request, we were still in our comfort zone. But the medium-voltage station also needed to be transportable. The second part of the request was therefore, can you build that station into a container? Project Manager, Patrick Schurmans, about the optimal layout, insulating coatings and a fire extinguisher.
“Infrabel wanted a mobile set-up. They wanted this so they could, for example, supply power to a sign box during renovation. With a renovation, it is always difficult to provide a room for the medium-voltage station somewhere. This container solves the problem.”
The principle sounds simple, but the implementation was not. “For many different reasons. Firstly, there are the limited dimensions. This was because the container needed to be transported using a normal truck. Exceptional transport involves additional permits. This is why we had to stay within certain sizes: 6 m long, 3 m wide and 3 m high. It was up to us install all the necessary boards in that space.”
Infrabel wish list, and the standards of Elia
What is it actually about then? “The key components are the medium-voltage cells, a power transformer that converts 15.000 V to 400 V, a measuring cell, and a few low-voltage boards. All of which must conform to the regulations of Elia. As managers of the Belgian high-voltage grid, they prescribe which requirements you must meet. You cannot simply connect an installation directly to a medium voltage installation. Then it was up to us to match those requirements to what Infrabel wanted from us.”
Another point of attention was the layout of the container. Of course we knew what needed to go in there. But we also wanted to organise the space so it was 21 as user-friendly as possible. We wanted to give the Infrabel electricians as much comfort as possible so they can reach everything. Compare it to a car. It may be fast and beautiful: but if you cannot get in, what’s the point?”
From design to furnishing is a small step. “We are talking about floor coverings, technology, doors up to and including the hinges. The latter, for example, had to be touch-safe. Everything had to be correct and in accordance with the regulations. Some meetings preceded the work, of course. But since it was custom-made, the container builder looked in our direction. We took care of the last small details ourselves: the lighting, fire extinguisher, etc. In the end, Infrabel got a turn-key project.”
Safety gates unnecessary
A final, but important detail of that project was the coating. “The container was equipped with an insulating coating on the exterior. If power is applied, it is still safe to touch, Patrick explains. “The coating ensures there is no risk of electrocution. The other option was to install safety fences all the time since the container is often open and exposed. But erecting fences is a lot of hassle. So this is a much better solution.”