GE Global Research (GEGR) in partnership with Cooperative Energy completed commissioning tests for a first-of-its-kind full-scale prototype large power transformer (LPT), a technology that can lead to greater grid resilience during power outages. This work is being performed under a cooperative agreement awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity’s Transformer Resilience and Advanced Components program (TRAC), which is managed by NETL.
Now fully operational as part of the power distribution system in Columbia, Mississippi, the Large Power Transformer (LPT), represents the world’s first variable impedance flexible design transformer in its class, rated at 60 megavolt amperes. This transformer’s variable impedance design advances a more flexible and adaptable LPT promoting greater standardization to increase grid resilience, such as faster recovery through greater interchangeability of components.
“Adopting more flexible LPTs on a large scale would mean less cost in the procurement, design and installation than traditional transformer designs which historically have been a custom design installation,” said Keith Dodrill, a project officer with NETL’s Energy Delivery and Security Team. “This would provide downward pressure on the rate a customer would pay for electricity. Additionally, more operational flexibility enables a utility to scale as distribution load evolves over time, relieving the operational costs for the utility.”
The U.S. electric power system consists of an extensive infrastructure of more than 19,000 generators, 55,000 transmission substations, 642,000 miles of high-voltage lines and 6.3 million miles of distribution lines that serve 145 million customers. LPTs are a critical component of the electric delivery system with more than 90 percent of consumed electricity passing through them at some point. These components are used to “step-up” the voltage at generation facilities for efficient, long-haul transmission of electricity and to “step-down” the voltage at distribution substations to levels more readily used by customers.
However, LPTs are generally custom-designed pieces of equipment, and the purchase of one entails a significant capital expenditure and a long lead time due to an intricate procurement and manufacturing process. Although prices vary by manufacturer and by size, an LPT can cost millions of dollars, weigh between 200,000 and 800,000 pounds and can take six to 16 months or longer to replace.
With increases in extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, coastal flooding, lighting storms, the unpredictability of natural hazards like earthquakes, geomagnetic disturbances and the persistent threat of deliberate attacks such as cyberattacks, damage to these critical components is a growing concern of the electricity industry. One of the primary mission areas of the TRAC program is to catalyze research for components to modernize the delivery of the U.S. power grid. LPTs are of concern due high percentage being past or near the end of the expected life cycle making these extreme weather events even more of a concern to the reliability of the infrastructure. The GEGR LPT provides one approach to address these concerns.
NETL has been involved in the project from the initial design concepts from a project management perspective under a funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Current prototype testing is part of Phase 2 of the development that sought to demonstrate at least a 100KVA prototype transformer.
NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.