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 reliability, resiliency, efficiency, flexibility, and security. To achieve the full value of grid modernization, advances in grid hardware are also needed. Next-generation technologies can improve the performance and lifetimes over current designs and unleash new capabilities for the grid.
The Office of Electricity's (OE) Transformer Resilience and Advanced Components (TRAC) program accelerates modernization of the grid by addressing challenges with large power transformers (LPTs) and other critical grid components. As the grid evolves to enable a more resilient and clean energy future, research and development (R&D) and testing is needed to understand the physical impact these changes have on LPTs and other equipment, and to encourage the adoption of new technologies and approaches. Development of advanced components will provide the physical capabilities required in the future grid and help avoid infrastructure “lock-in” with outdated technologies that are long-lived and expensive.
Next Generation Transformers
Large power transformers (LPTs), which are a critical component of the electricity delivery system, are a concern because transformer failures can interrupt electricity service to a large number of customers and replacing one quickly could be difficult. The TRAC program is pursuing the following activities to address this concern:
June, 2018 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) – On June 8, 2018, OE announced the release of a $7.5 million funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to spur the innovative design of large power transformers (LPTs) that will be more flexible and adaptable, thereby increasing the resilience of the Nation’s power grid. Under this FOA, the TRAC Program is seeking applications to conduct research and development (R&D) leading to transformers that can be shared and replaced more easily in the event of a failure as well as increase its cyber-physical security. The due date for submitting an application is July 25, 2018. More information on the FOA is available HERE.
June, 2016 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) – This FOA, which was released on June 8, 2016, focused on the design of flexible and adaptable LPTs that can be readily used in different substations. On September 28, 2016, funding of 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 was announced.
Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Testing - This three-year project consists of both modeling and testing efforts that will improve the understanding of the physics behind how GMD and EMP affect LPTs used in power grids and the damage such events may cause.
Low-Cost Power Flow Controllers
Enhanced power flow capabilities within the transmission and distribution systems will fundamentally change how the grid can be controlled and managed. Greater deployment of power flow controllers, including high voltage direct current (HVDC) converters and flexible alternating current transmission system (FACTS) devices, can alleviate line congestion, increase asset utilization, and optimize generator dispatch for cost savings. Additionally, they can support the increased penetration of renewable resources and improve system resiliency. The TRAC program’s HVDC Control Analysis one-year project will explore a range of scenarios and use cases, including HVDC system control strategies that provide artificial inertia to the grid while simultaneously optimizing power flows in a reliable and economic fashion.
Other efforts supported by OE and the Department to improve the cost and performance of power flow controllers include OE’s Gallium-Nitride Initiative for Grid Applications (GIGA) project, ARPA-E’s SWITCHES and GENI programs, and EERE’s PowerAmerica program.