Power Transformers to Reinforce the Advancement of T&D Networks

(Credit: Global Market Insights)

by | May 6, 2021

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(Credit: Global Market Insights)

The production of power transformer equipment has gathered robust pace in recent years. The incessant demand for reliable power supply is a known factor worldwide, driving consistent investments in upgrading grid infrastructure.
According to estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the gross electricity consumption across the globe is set to register an annual rise of nearly 2%, growing from 25,679 billion kWh to 40,443 billion kWh until 2040. Renewable energy generation can be expected to form a notable part of this growth.

Several crucial components are required to accommodate this prolific rise in electricity demand, particularly power transformers. Unlike its other counterparts which operate at a 60% to 70% efficiency rate, power transformers are designed to accommodate higher voltage inputs, ranging from 33 to 400 kV, and operate at a nearly 100% efficiency.
The expansive application potential of this equipment is a key contributor towards the enhancement of T&D systems. According to estimates from Global Market Insights, Inc. (GMI), the global power transformer market is poised to be valued at over $24 billion by 2027.

Grid Modernization and Restructuring Activities across the US

Over the past few years, the restructuring and modernizing of existing power grid infrastructures has been a key area of focus for governments and energy industry players across the globe. The North American region, particularly the United States, is a good example of this, with persistent efforts being made to retrofit the existing grid infrastructures.

Over the past 20 years, many prominent electric companies in the US have reported over $605 billion in new T&D additions, with nearly 68% of these being added in the most recent decade.

Citing an instance in July 2020, NV Energy unveiled its plans to initiate a new renewable energy and transmission project, dubbed Greenlink Nevada, as a part of its IRP (Integrated Resource Plan). Targeted for completion by 2031, and costing nearly $2 billion, the project comprises two segments including Greenlink West, which extends from Las Vegas to Yerington, and Greenlink North, which extends from Ely to Yerington.

It also involves three 345-kV lines, extending from Yerington to the Innovation Park and Reno locations. The reasons behind these ongoing retrofitting and grid expansion projects are multi-fold, including the need for a new transmission, replacement of aging infrastructure, and a seamless transition into clean and renewable energy technologies in the US.
Power transformers will emerge as key assets for transmission and distribution network enhancement, by addressing the growing need for renewable power distribution systems in America. GMI reports suggest that the power transformer industry share in North America is anticipated to record a CAGR of over 3% through 2027.

In March 2021, a new 55-ton power transformer was installed at a Brookfield, Missouri-based wastewater plant, as part of Ameren Missouri’s Smart Energy Plan to improve the city’s grid reliability. This was the first of the two new transformers to be installed, with an aim to replace the four existing substations. Constructed in Mississippi by Hitachi ABB, the new power transformers cost $17.1 million and were expected to become operational within the upcoming four months.

Pole Mounted Power Transformers Gain Traction with Inclination towards Overhead Distribution

Overhead distribution is commonplace worldwide, in rural areas and urban alike. It is considered an easier and quicker solution to electricity distribution grid set up and electricity supply to consumers.

Pole-mounted power transformers are an essential part of these overhead distribution systems, given their robust applicability in distant load centers, easy installation on single-pole structures, and limited accessibility to the grid. Based on research from GMI, the power transformer industry share from the pole-mounted segment is projected to exhibit a commendable 6% CAGR through 2027.

Conventional pole-mounted transformers are designed as oil-immersed units. While the oil provides superior insulation, it also runs the risk of ground contamination or shortages, due to leaks or tank ruptures. Likewise, the theft of oil or copper from pole-mounted transformers is a major issue faced by electric utilities, which often have to replace damaged units, and clean up the oil-contaminated ground, often at higher costs than those associated with the replacement of the transformer system itself.

As a solution to these issues, technology leader ABB created PoleDry, a pole-mounted, dry-type transformer, designed to be non-flammable, eliminate the need for an enclosure and match the weight and size of traditional oil-immersed transformers. The PoleDry addresses the theft risk, owing to its cast-aluminum windings and has been tested in extreme outdoor conditions at the KIPTS (Koeberg Insulator Pollution Test Station) of ESKOM in Cape Town, South Africa.

Located close to the sea, KIPTS delivered an environment that allowed the transformer to be tested in various conditions including exposure to rain, UV, sand and wind erosion, salt-laden moisture, wildlife as well as industrial pollution.

The digital era is characterized by sophisticated and innovative technologies ranging from personal devices like smartphones and laptops, IoT, and myriad other connected systems. While diverse in their functionalities, all these technologies are dependent on one vital component: electricity.

Key attributes make power transformer technology suitable for numerous applications, especially when used with distribution transformers. These uses range from residential and commercial power distribution sectors, which involve the stepping down of high voltages by the transformer, to largescale applications which involve stepping up of the generated power and distribute electricity to large cities.

By Saloni Walimbe, Content Writer, Global Market Insights

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