Transformers are fundamental to the nation's power grid with essentially all electricity generated and delivered flowing through at least one. These transformers change the voltage of electric power, increasing it to transmit electricity more efficiently over long distances and decreasing it to a safe level for final delivery to end users. Large Power Transformers (LPTs) generally have a power rating of 100 megavolt-amperes (MVA) or higher, enough to supply more than 50,000 homes, and represents one of the grids' most vulnerable components. LPTs can weigh hundreds of tons, are expensive, and are typically custom-made with procurement lead times of one year or more. Since LPTs are generally tailored to customer specifications, they are not readily interchangeable with each other, and their high costs prohibit extensive spare inventories. This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that many LPTs are approaching or exceeding their design lives.
Today, at the Center for American Progress, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced more than $1.5 million in new funding to allow corporations, small businesses, and academic institutions in Georgia, Illinois, New York and North Carolina to create new designs that will help produce the next generation of LPTs.
“Large power transformers are grid components that are ripe for innovation,” said Secretary Moniz. “Today’s announcement stimulates innovative LPT designs that are more flexible and adaptable. These designs will increase the ability to share transformers and accelerate recovery in the event of the loss of one or more of these vital pieces of equipment.”
The funding is supported through the Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability’s Transformer Resilience and Advanced Components (TRAC) program. The TRAC program accelerates modernization of the grid by addressing challenges with LPTs and other critical grid components.
The TRAC program is a part of DOE’s larger Grid Modernization Initiative. GMI represents a DOE-wide collaboration, with primary funding support coming from the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis providing policy recommendations. DOE National Laboratories are participating across GMI’s technology areas in a coordinated strategic partnership called the Grid Modernization Lab Consortium (GMLC).
As the grid evolves to enable a more resilient and clean energy future, research and development (R&D) and testing are needed to understand the physical impact these changes have on LPTs and other equipment, and to encourage the adoption of new technologies and approaches. A detailed list of the “Next Generation Transformers – Flexible Designs” award selections is available here.
For more information about DOE’s efforts to ensure a resilient, reliable, and flexible electricity system, visit Energy.gov.