August 10, 2015

Smart Grid Hot List: Transformers No Disguise

Electricity, plumbing, and weather often are places where my knowledge shows huge gaps. I understand the workings in general, but by in large I accept my knowledge gaps as the world maintaining it’s magic, wonder, and awe for me. So I am going to do my level best to keep the magic alive while educating my readers and myself with some insight about transformers.

Now for those who don’t read me often enough to know that I have been on a soap box about AMI being a top driven deployment that did little to support consumer’s managing their systems, the fact that I have chosen to look at transformers may seem odd. If I want demand response capabilities, I should talk about them. However, in my opinion transformers are where the smart grid will be most apparent. In addition, the same companies that build transformers build most power generators. Another parallel to the past is the way cable operators came of age with network management systems.

For the cable operators in the past, management relied on consumer repair calls to isolate the trouble. As one ops executive said, “usually by the end of an hour we hear from enough customers to determine the point of failure.” While power has a history of responding much faster, much of that has to do with the involvement of first responders.

The point I am trying to make is that power companies have a large transition they have to achieve in managing the smart grid.

From a total picture perspective, transformers themselves are not where energy is being lost. In fact, transformers’ 3 percent loss represents one of the most efficient parts of the smart grid. I choose to focus on transformers’ roles in smart grid for a few simple reasons. The first is from my bell head, I think of transformers as being the equivalent of cell towers, where aggregation and distribution occurs. The second is that if demand/response is being enabled, transformers will be a focal point of interaction. Last but not least, as micro grids and home generation occurs, transformers are going to be gateways between systems.

From a business perspective, transformers are going to need some reformation in the way they are analyzed and deployed. Like telephone switches before the death of rate of return regulation, transformers are looked at from the perspective of 30- or 40-year life cycles. So that makes the adoption of new technologies slow moving. It also means that adjunct systems are going to be popular and government policy can have a huge impact on capital expenditures. Synchrophasors have been added to networks to give a complete picture in time of where the power anomalies lie. In effect, this provides the raw data that makes the smart grid analytics allow operators to better interpret simulations, react to outages, and prevent outages before they occur.

The Need for Speed

As a result of this migration to  synchrophasors, the analytics are coming to the operators 100 times faster than past operations. This, of course, has added to the need for training and education within the power companies. According to a Federal Regulatory Energy Commission report, “the placement…throughout the transmission grid permits grid operators to identify and correct for system instabilities, such as frequency and voltage oscillations, and operate transmission lines at great capacities….”

In one case the report sites success in delivering 100MW more output, while reducing the energy expense by 35 to 70 MUSD. The success of this has lead to the growth of 35 percent of synchrophasors technology for the last six years.

An important aspect of this is the change in analytics overall. Dr. Dale Skeen, CTO of Vitria, has discussed the impact of gathering real-time information in the power grid. It increases the ability of the utility to react proactively with predictive and preventative solutions.

Skeen goes on to say “with each passing moment we see a significant amount of new data, from which we can detect anomalies and deviations from plan early; predict problems early; and consequently, we can act in time to avoid or mitigate problems.”

Fast Analytics over Slow

Data has one other major advantage. It can future-proof you against ever faster data cycles. Today it may be daily, next year, hourly, and the year after, every 15 minutes – it doesn’t matter, and fast analytics can always keep up. So, as your data cycles increase and your time-to-action decreases, streaming analytics can keep up, no matter how fast your data cycle times.

This is significant since the data from the existing power system, as I have indicated, has not traditionally been slow. From this point of the view, the investment in AMI started the ball rolling for the utilities to learn to upgrade their analytics. This hot list focus on transformers, it needs to be understood, is not about the hot market but rather the overall transformation to more efficient transmission.

Here are the leaders in smart grid transmission solutions.

ABB is one of the world’s largest makers of transformers, electric motors, and variable-speed drives. The installed base of ABB drives saved more than 400 terawatt hours of electricity in 2013, equal to the annual consumption of about 37 million households in the U.S.

Alstom SA
Alstom Grid has one clear vision: to develop innovative solutions for a flexible, reliable, affordable, and sustainable electrical grid, everywhere. Alstom Grid designs, manufactures, installs, and services the power transmission and distribution products and systems that empower the planet’s low carbon economy. Alstom Grid has more than 130 years of experience and ranks among the top three in the electrical transmission sector with an annual sales turnover of more than $3.8 billion. Alstom Grid’s 17,000 employees are spread across 87 manufacturing and engineering sites worldwide and have one common mission: to be its customers’ trusted partner, from the source to the smart city.

Bharat Heavy Electronics Ltd.
BHEL is an integrated power plant equipment manufacturer and one of the largest engineering and manufacturing companies of its kind in India. It is engaged in the design, engineering, manufacture, construction, testing, commissioning, and servicing of a wide range of products and services for the core sectors of the economy. That includes power, transmission, industry, transportation (railway), renewable energy, oil and gas, and defense. The company has more than 180 product offerings to meet the needs of these sectors. Establishment of BHEL in 1964 helped create the upsurge in India’s Heavy Electrical Equipment industry. BHEL also has a widespread overseas footprint, with a presence in 76 countries. Its cumulative overseas installed capacity of BHEL manufactured power plants is nearing 10,000 MW and includes operations in Malaysia, Oman, Libya, Iraq, the UAE, Bhutan, Egypt, and New Zealand.

Crompton Greaves Ltd.
CG is a $2 billion engineering conglomerate with an impressive and diverse portfolio of  products, solutions, and services ranging from high-end power and industrial equipment and  solutions, to consumer products and home appliances, addressing myriad needs. Enjoying a reputation of stature for over seven decades, CG, which originates in India, has transformed itself into a global corporation. With a permanent footprint and manufacturing facilities in nine  countries across Asia, Europe, and North America, CG is fast emerging as a first choice supplier of high quality, smart electrical, industrial, and consumer products and solutions all over the world.

Eaton is a power management company with 2014 sales of 22.6 billion. Eaton provides energy-efficient solutions that help customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power more efficiently, safely, and sustainably. Eaton has approximately 102,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 175 countries.

GE Digital Energy
Digital Energy, a division of General Electric, is a global leader in providing solutions that modernize the grid – managing and moving power from the power plant to the consumer. For more than 100 years, GE Digital Energy has led in the development, design, manufacturing, and installation of a broad range of integrated hardware and software solutions for energy intensive industries including utilities, oil and gas/petrochemicals, mining, water, heavy industrial, and telecommunication companies across the entire globe.

Gridco Systems
Gridco Systems is introducing a new class of utility-scale power distribution solutions that combine power-flow regulation platforms, sophisticated distributed controls, and advanced power systems analytics. Gridco Systems’ solutions allow utilities to dynamically, adaptively, and precisely regulate voltage, manage VARs, compensate for harmonics, and rapidly contain line faults. The result is greater system reliability and security, enhanced customer service, higher efficiency, and stable integration of emerging resources including distributed generation, plug-in electric vehicles, and energy storage.

Howard Industries
Howard Industries Utility Products Division - The Utility Products Division of Howard Industries is a leading manufacturer of electrical transmission and distribution equipment used by utilities and by commercial and industrial companies worldwide. Its products include distribution transformers, power transformers, voltage regulators, switching/sectionalizing cabinets, junction boxes, and transformer components. Distribution transformers manufactured by Howard Industries beginning Jan. 1, 2010, will comply with the U.S. Department of Energy minimum efficiency requirements as applicable according to the scope of the DOE’s final rule. And, Howard Industries is now offering some of its distribution transformers with superefficient designs featuring amorphous metal core technology.

Itron is a technology and services company dedicated to the resourceful use of energy and water. It provides comprehensive solutions that measure, manage, and analyze energy and water. Its broad product portfolio includes electricity, gas, water, and thermal energy measurement devices and control technology; communications systems; software; as well as managed and consulting services. With thousands of employees supporting nearly 8,000 customers in more than 100 countries, Itron applies knowledge and technology to better manage energy and water resources.

Landis & Gyr
Landis+Gyr is the global industry leader in metering solutions for electricity, gas, heat/cold, and water for energy measurement solutions for utilities. Since 1896 the company has been helping customers overcome operational, regulatory, and consumer driven challenges by capturing the advantages and benefits of technology. Focused on quality, reliability, and innovation, the group offers a complete portfolio of energy meters and integrated smart metering solutions, enabling utilities and end users to make better use of scarce resources, save operating costs, and protect the environment by managing energy better – and to build the smart grid.

Mitsubishi Electric
Mitsubishi Electric is a leading developer and manufacturer of power transmission and distribution systems on a global scale. Its high-voltage switchgears, transformers, and power stabilization devices are core products in commercial and private utilities systems alike, and its control systems are installed to ensure stable operation that is both environmentally conscious and highly efficient. To contribute to the efficient generation of electric power and minimize loss, Mitsubishi Electric is taking active measures to save energy and reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases with its diverse range of energy systems, including power generation systems, power transmission and distribution systems, and total solutions for energy saving in factories, commercial buildings, and shops.

Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric has a 180-year corporate commitment; it has developed world-leading capabilities to manage the full life cycle of customers’ energy and industrial needs. Today, 170,000 Schneider Electric employees apply their expertise in energy management and automation, delivering innovative solutions for customers in more than 100 countries. Its portfolio combines with a strong and broad global footprint, ensuring a best-in-class customer experience. It is committed to transformative solutions that provide connectivity, sustainability, efficiency, reliability, and safety while dramatically reducing power consumption.

Siemens AG
Electrification, automation, and digitalization are the long-term growth fields of Siemens. To take full advantage of the market potential in these fields, its businesses are bundled into nine divisions and health care as a separately managed business. Siemens Corp. is a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence,  innovation, quality, reliability, and internationality for more than 165 years.

SPX Transformer Solutions
SPX is one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of medium and large power transformers and a valued supplier of transformer accessories including a line of Transformer Health Products, LTC and breaker components, and complete transformer service solutions for the transmission and distribution of electric power. You may have noticed the summaries of many of these companies emphasize their history and legacy. It has many companies that are 150 years old and have been supporting large capital outlays by utilities.

My expectation is that the next smart grid hotlist I build will be about micro grids, which many of these companies are supporting already. Transformers and synchrophasors are helping manage the core; the edge is going to be where micro grids change the balance of power (so to speak) in the future.

Carl Ford is CEO and community developer of Crossfire Media.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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