New advanced transformer technology to better address U.S. power grid resiliency and security

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 11:42 am EST

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Richard Boyd, Vice President, Siemens Transformers U.S.

Transformers may not always be at the forefront of conversations around grid resiliency or security, but they play an essential role in protecting critical electrical systems and delivering reliable power to millions of Americans. This topic has become more important in the last year with the release of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), a report that focuses on the state of U.S. energy infrastructure. This report highlights the most important risks that already exist within the electrical network that could have the most severe impact for power providers and customers. One of these risks is cyber-security, a threat that is just as real for energy companies that work in generation as those that work down through consumption. Another potential risk highlighted in the QER was transformers, the linchpin in the modern transmission and distribution network. The potential impact of an offline transformer of any rating is hours to days of power outages, but when you begin to examine the impact of a high-voltage transformer, that downtime quickly leaps to weeks and potentially months of wide-spread outages for the general public and an incredible amount of time and cost for the power provider.

At Siemens, our advanced power transformer technology portfolio has been engineered and adapted to help utilities respond to the new pressures to invest in protecting and updating their transformers. The technology also gives utilities better ability to plan and react independently and quickly if and when disaster strikes. All of this is in an effort to help power providers be more resilient as our transmission and distribution network evolves. 

When it comes to investing to protect or prevent a transformer from going offline, our new bullet-resistant transformer technology with special armor panels, similar to tank-mounted sound panels, protects against potential physical threats to valuable high-voltage transformers. Our geomagnetically-induced current (GIC) safe transformer design option including non-magnetic steel inserts can be incorporated into various transformer ratings to help regulate the transformer temperature during a GIC event and subsequently prevent outages. If protecting the environment in which a transformer has to be installed is a top concern, for instance near a hydro-electric dam, our transformers filled with natural or synthetic ester oil will dissipate in the environment to protect the soil, water and the surrounding equipment.

One of the worst case scenarios is if a large power transformer goes down whether from an extreme weather event or other substation issue. The best case solution would be if a spare transformer in local storage matched the exact voltage rating and specification of the one down. If that is available, then the replacement could be swapped out within a matter of weeks. If a spare unit was not already on hand, an outage of a few weeks can suddenly become an outage of six months or more than a year as a new transformer is built, tested, shipped and then installed.

But now, with our new mobile resiliency transformers, an offline transformer no longer has to result in weeks or even more than a year of outages and incurred costs for the power provider. These resiliency transformers are designed with three key goals in mind, ease of transportation, flexibility to system conditions, and minimization of installation time. 

To allow flexibility, they are designed to meet multiple voltage and power configurations while being able to support a variety of impedance requirements.  To help ease transportation limitations, the units are designed to be as compact as possible, with features such as high temperature insulation, and individual single-phase units that can be connected into a three phase unit once on-site.  And to minimize installation time, they can be designed to include features such as plug-in bushings, cable connections to complete the three-phase delta, pre-installed cooling and conservator tanks, quick-connect cooling piping, and units that can be oil-filled.  The units can also be designed to use ester fluids, minimizing the oil containment requirements and any potential environment impacts from an unexpected leak.  The combination of these features allow for units that are designed to be ready to go online within one to three days of the event that caused the original unit to go down.

Power providers have a lot to consider as they work to address the increasing pressures on transformer specifications, from being able to react quickly in an outage, to doing their best to preventing them altogether. Our aim at Siemens is that our advanced transformer technologies can best address the power industry’s top concerns in preparing our network and the essential transformer for future demands.

 

Find out more about our modular resiliency concept for transformers at www.siemens.com/transformer-resiliency.