Transformer Smart Grid


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The definition of the "Smart Grid" is something that is taking shape. Utility professionals concur on some aspects and ideas of what the smart grid should be, but there are still grey areas that, however, promise to become clearer soon.

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Transformer Smart Grid

  1. 1. Are Your Transformers Ready for the ‘Smart Grid’?
  2. 2. Executive Summary The definition of the ‘Smart Grid’ is still something that is taking shape. Utility professionals concur on some aspects and ideas of what the smart grid should be, but there are still grey areas that, however, promise to become clearer soon. Some groups will tend to focus on the specific technologies that go into creating this ‘intelligence’ in a power network; others will take a more generalized view and look at the smart grid’s operational characteristics and capabilities. Power system intelligence is essentially about taking sensory and analytical capabilities down to the substation or device level, all the way at the bottom of the system hierarchy. Smart grids will produce a steady stream of information about system conditions and operating characteristics that are valuable for managing the commercial side of a given utility or grid operator. More intelligent systems for monitoring combined with the substation and feeder automation in power distribution networks can bring several improvements: • Better reliability • More availability • Enhanced security • Energy efficiency This Whitepaper takes an open view of the smart grid. It begins by noting the need for a smart grid and locating its capabilities and operational characteristics. The paper also takes a closer look at the smart grid as a concept and the various energy benefits the economy can reap from its implementation. The smart grid is essentially a highly automated system that will evolve based on adoption of fresh standards industry-wide. With something as large as a power grid, radical change cannot occur – the existing system will go through a series of gradual transformations. And energy transformers have a crucial role to play in this evolving 'smart' system. The whitepaper goes on to describe the importance of the millions of transformers that play a crucial role in the energy distribution system in the US. It then touches upon the role Pacific Crest Transformers can play in the emerging milieu. Introduction The century-old power grid is the US has often been called “the largest interconnected machine on Earth”. Little wonder, because it consists of more than 9,200 electricity generating units, with more than 1,000,000 megawatts of generating capacity connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. However this mammoth power infrastructure is nearly a century old and is understandably running out of steam. The lights may still be on but relying on an often-overtaxed grid is becoming increasingly risky. Since 1982, growth in peak demand for electricity – driven by population growth, bigger houses, bigger TVs, more air conditioners and more computers – has exceeded transmission growth by almost 25% every year. Yet spending on research and development – the first step toward innovation and renewal – is among the lowest when compared to all other industries. Even as the demand for energy has skyrocketed, there has been chronic underinvestment in getting energy where it needs to go through transmission and distribution, further limiting grid efficiency and reliability. While hundreds of thousands of high-voltage transmission lines course throughout the United 2
  3. 3. States, only 668 additional miles of interstate transmission have been built since 2000. As a result, system constraints worsen and power quality issues are estimated to cost American businesses an average of more than $100 billion each year. The grid’s centralized structure also leaves the US open to blackouts. In fact, the interdependencies of various grid components can have a cascading series of failures that could bring banking, communications, traffic, and security systems among other things to a complete standstill. National challenges like the aging power grid, increasing energy demands, spiraling cost of generating electricity and its cost on the environment are all pointing in one direction, and one direction only: a grid that is more efficient in energy production and distribution. For years technologists have been toying with the idea of a ‘Smart Grid’, an electricity distribution system that uses digital technology to eliminate waste and improve reliability. Advocates of the smart grid also say that it would open up new markets for large and small scale alternative energy producers by decentralizing generation. It would allow consumers to have a much more complex relationship with their energy supplier. More on the Smart Grid To put it in the simplest way possible, “the Smart Grid will deliver electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to save energy, reduce cost, and increase reliability and transparency.” What’s Driving the Development of the Smart Grid? 1. Efficiency and Reliability Even the most modern power systems lose up to 8% of the electricity leaving the power plant, thanks to Technologies that Will Drive Smart inefficiencies in transmission and distribution. Utilities Grid Evolution and grid operators are also facing growing problems with reliability of an aging grid. The United States accounts for only 4% of the world’s population and produces 25% of • Integrated communication that its greenhouse gases. According to research sponsored connects grid components to by the U.S. Government, improving the efficiency of the open architecture national electricity grid by even 5 % would be the • Software that can be upgraded equivalent of eliminating the fuel use and carbon and enhanced for real-time emissions of 53 million cars! information • Control, allowing every part of 2. Renewable Energy Generation the grid to ‘talk’ and ‘listen’ Our world is running out of fossil fuel, and increasing • Sensing and measurement environmental concerns are encouraging the technologies that support development of renewable energy sources. Solar power, remote monitoring wind energy and other renewable power generation, • Time-of-use pricing (pricing however, presents several challenges – primarily determined as the power is because of their sporadic nature. The existing power used, rather than weeks later infrastructure is severely limited in its capability to when a meter is read) for integrate more renewable sources, and also to companies and consumers incorporate the new paradigm of consumer-generated electricity, which can feed excess power back into the grid. The smart grid is the logical step to enable these newer technologies to flourish. Another aspect of renewable energy is transportation – we are likely to see many more electric 3
  4. 4. vehicles on our streets before long. The benefits of such a shift to ‘cleaner’ ways to get people and things from A to B have been discussed at length, but power infrastructure today does not provide the charging stations and power storage devices that can balance the demand-supply equation and minimize the instabilities of renewable power generation. 3. Responding to Consumers As users of increasingly expensive energy, consumers want more control over their usage. Existing technology can meet this demand, but the grid itself is limited by how much of the newer tech can be integrated. A true smart grid will not be possible unless each new major device and system that is part of the grid is able to communicate with every other system on the grid. This critical ‘interoperability’ depends on a coordinated framework of protocols and standards that is in a very early stage of planning. Up ahead in the smart-grid future, an intelligent system will work with consumers to save energy, produce electricity from a range of renewable sources, anticipate its own failures, see to its own repairs, store energy out on the grid and provide a fueling system for the new generation of electric vehicles… How Much of the Smart Grid is Already Here? Substation automation, SCADA systems, reactive power compensation, feeder automation – all these ‘smart’ devices have been implemented by utilities across the last few years. However, this evolving process is constrained by available resources, technology maturity, and several business issues. Utilities need experienced and reliable technology partners to help make the transition from using isolated instances of smart technologies to a nationwide implementation. According to Research Reports International (2008), the fully realized smart grid will differ from the one we have today in the following ways: Current grid Smart grid None or one-way; typically not real- Communications Two-way, real-time time Customer interaction Limited Extensive Metering Electromechanical Digital Operation and Manual equipment checks, time- Remote monitoring, predictive, maintenance based maintenance condition-based maintenance Generation Centralized Centralized and distributed Power flow control Limited Comprehensive Prone to failures and cascading Pro-active, real-time protection and Reliability outages islanding Restoration Manual Self-healing Topology Radial Network 4
  5. 5. Transformers and the Smart Grid The smart grid applies technologies, tools and techniques that will: • Ensure its reliability to degrees never before possible • Maintain its affordability • Reinforce its global competitiveness • Accommodate both renewable and traditional energy sources • Reduce the carbon footprint • Introduce advancements and efficiencies yet to be envisioned Adoption of the Smart Grid will enhance every facet of the electric delivery system, including generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. A smart grid is therefore foundational for a sustainable energy future; and if there is a growing consensus within the United States that clean energy is a platform for rebuilding the American economy, then it follows that the realization of the smart grid is also critical to economic growth. For the smart grid to work efficiently there will be a need for 'smart transformers' - the hub for collection and distribution of energy. As part of the distribution network, there are millions of transformers in the country; unfortunately a scant few of them have any intelligence or communication capabilities - or to generalize the concept of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) - are parts of an advanced sensor infrastructure (ASI) network. By giving transformers 'intelligence', even if it is only to analyze voltage discrepancies, grid efficiency would still increase dramatically. This same energy efficiency can be applied to virtually any element of the distribution network that is given ‘intelligence’. Something to note here is that current legacy transformers are really in much worse shape than ‘dumb’ meters and are due for replacement in this coming decade. Many transformer manufacturers are recognizing this impending demand for on-line transformer monitoring products and diagnostic services, and investing in them. These technologies will be critical for improving grid reliability and helping utilities avoid transformer failures and resultant blackouts. They will also reduce maintenance costs and defer capital expenditures by extending a transformer’s useful life. Pacific Crest Transformers and the Smart Grid Pacific Crest Transformers (PCT) has been providing energy transformer solutions to a large number of industries since its inception in 1919. Over the last 90 years PCT has served clients across the nation and around the world. PCT is committed to designing and manufacturing superior quality, custom-built and specialty transformers in the most cost-effective and responsive manner possible. The company has experience in building Padmount, Station and Secondary Unit Sub Transformers, and today specializes in environmentally friendly and energy-efficient liquid-filled distribution transformers. PCT was propelled towards its energy efficiency initiative in its attempt to produce efficient, energy saving and therefore environmentally sensitive transformers. PCT designs custom transformers after an elaborate consultative process with clients; the transformers are based on client specification and are designed to fit into the existing infrastructure. 5
  6. 6. Conclusion The drive to move towards energy-efficient appliances and put in place an energy saving distribution system is gathering momentum, and the smart grid is the solution that makes sense. Even though initial investments in technology will be high, the smart gird infrastructure will begin paying for itself within a matter of years. The smart grid will also play a positive role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Even though the technology is still evolving and questions about its sustainability and implementation are many, the smart grid is no longer an option; it is an imperative for the future. 6