The U.S. electric grid consists of more than 22,000 generators; 55,000 substations; 642,000 miles of high-voltage lines; and 6.3 million miles of distribution lines that serve 153 million customers.1 2

To date, much of the smart grid transformation has focused on applying advanced digital information and communication technologies to the power grid to improve the system’s efficiency, flexibility, and security. To achieve the full value of grid modernization, we also need advances in grid hardware.

Transformers, power lines, and other hardware components are exposed to harsh weather conditions and are vulnerable to an increasing number of natural and man-made threats. Next-generation grid components need to be designed and built to better withstand and rapidly recover from the impact of lightning strikes, extreme terrestrial or space weather events, electrical disturbances, accidents, equipment failures, deliberate attacks, and other unknowns. Failure of key components can lead to widespread outages and long recovery times, something none of us want.

The Office of Electricity’s Transformer Resilience and Advanced Components (TRAC) program addresses challenges associated with large power transformers, critical components, and other grid hardware technologies. Developing these advanced grid components will provide the enhanced capabilities required for the future grid, increasing controllability, flexibility, and resilience. It will also enable the country to upgrade hardware that has long passed its expiration date.

Released in June 2020, the TRAC Vision Report pinpoints the industry’s critical application needs and technology challenges. The report identifies a more holistic approach to designing for the future and overcoming the challenges of increased connectivity between cyber and physical systems. The pace of grid modernization and system changes demand hardware solutions that are more flexible and adaptable. While serving as a snapshot in time of critical R&D gaps, the report identifies technology objectives as performance milestones that can guide program activities and if met, spur industry adoption of innovations.

Creating the next generation of these critical grid components will help ensure that we all have the electricity we need to realize the immense capabilities of the next generation of technology.
 

1U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Annual 2018 (Oct. 2019) (rev. Mar. 6, 2020),
https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/pdf/epa.pdf.

2U.S. Department of Energy, “Quadrennial Energy Review –Appendix C – Electricity,” (Apr. 2015),
https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/09/f26/QER_AppendixC_Electricity.pdf.