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ABB Circuit-Breaker Breakthrough Promises Edge in Power Grids

ABB Ltd. said it created a circuit-breaker that can interrupt long-distance power cables, in a breakthrough to transmit power that gives the Swiss company a potential edge over rivals Siemens AG and Alstom SA.

The circuit breaker can split green-power cables connecting offshore wind farms and cities along several points, a departure from a previous approach that limited power transports to single connections often spanning hundreds of miles, ABB said today. The invention may hand Zurich-based ABB an advantage in the growing market for grid connections, it said.

“This opens up new possibilities, we think it can open up a significant increase, but nobody is able to quantify it today,” Claes Rytoft, the chief technology officer of ABB’s power systems division, said in an interview.

ABB said it solved one of the great mysteries of electrification dating back a century to the era of rival scientists Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Rytoft said ABB is working with utilities on projects that may be operational within 12 to 18 months. It may take up to five years before circuit-breakers are installed commercially, he said.

Siemens is working on the same technology, a company spokesman said. “We are confident of being able to offer it when the market demands it,” spokesman Torsten Wolf said in an e-mail.

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