The Office of Electricity's Transformer Resilience and Advanced Components (TRAC) program accelerates grid modernization by addressing challenges with large power transformers, Solid State Power Substations, high-voltage transmission, and other critical grid hardware components. 

As the grid evolves to enable a more resilient and clean energy future, research, development, and testing are needed to analyze the impacts from infrastructure changes on transformers and other equipment. The analysis helps to encourage the adoption of new technologies and approaches. By developing advanced hardware components, OE is helping grid operators to update outdated, expensive technologies to prepare the grid of the future. 

The TRAC program supports projects that:

  • spur innovative, flexible and adaptable transformer design to increase power grid resilience.
  • provide the building blocks that can that enable new functionalities, new topologies, and enhanced control of power flow and voltage. 
  • reduce the cost of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission, address R&D technology gaps, and increase deployment.

Current initiatives

The HVDC COst REduction (CORE) Initiative aims to reduce the cost to deliver electricity over long distances. Specifically, the initiative aims to reduce HVDC transmission costs 35% by 2035 by addressing R&D technology gaps at the converter station level. 

TRAC Program Areas

A substation at sunset.

Transformer failure can interrupt electricity service to many customers but replacing one quickly is often difficult. Large Power Transmission Transformers can weigh hundreds of tons, cost millions of dollars, and are typically custom-made, which results in long delivery lead times of one year or more. Generally tailored to customer specifications, these components are not readily interchangeable, and their high costs prohibit extensive spare inventories. In addition, many are approaching or exceeding their design lives, presenting an opportunity for next-generation transformers to provide new capabilities for the future grid, as well as to reinvigorate domestic manufacturing.

A solid state power substation (SSPS) is a substation or “grid node” that integrates high-voltage power electronic converters that benefit the system and support grid evolution. A flexible, standardized power electronic converter design applies to a full range of grid applications and configurations, which enables the economy of scale to reduce costs and improve reliability. 

Ultimately envisioned as a system consisting of modular, scalable, flexible, and adaptable power blocks for all substation applications, SSPS converters will serve as power routers or hubs that can electrically isolate system components and provide bidirectional alternating current or direct current power flow control from one or more sources to one or more loads—regardless of voltage or frequency.

The TRAC program of the Power Electronics Accelerator Coalition for Electrification (PACE). The consortium is a coalition of research institutions, utilities, and industry manufacturers working to take power electronics innovations to grid-level pilot demonstration and use in the field. Stakeholders combine forces to speed up broad adoption of these technologies, which are vital to support wider integration of clean energy systems in the U.S. electric grid. 

The advantages of high‐voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission over conventional high‐voltage alternating current technologies are well established for long‐distance, point‐to‐point power transfers. HVDC can also uniquely connect asynchronous grids and possibly provide extremely rapid stability control and power flow control. It can also segment parts of the power system—all of which can enhance the grid’s flexibility, reliability, and resilience.

As noted in the Fiscal Year 2023 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, HVDC converter stations are the costliest component of long-distance transmission. That is why TRAC supports the research and development to reduce the costs of HVDC technology and long-distance transmission. The TRAC program is currently leading the HVDC COst REduction (CORE) Initiative to reduce HVDC transmission costs by 35% by 2035 (35 by 35).