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

As the grid evolves to enable a more resilient and clean energy future, research and development and testing is needed to understand the physical impact changes have on LPTs and other equipment, and to encourage the adoption of new technologies and approaches. Development of advanced hardware components will help avoid infrastructure being held back by outdated technologies that are long-lived and expensive and will provide the physical capabilities required in grid of the future.

The TRAC program is supporting projects that spur the innovative design of LPTs that will be more flexible and adaptable, increasing the resilience of the Nation’s power grid; and SSPS building blocks prototype development that can that enable new functionalities, new topologies, and enhanced control of power flow and voltage.

Resilient Large Power Transformers

Large power transformer failure can interrupt electricity service to a large number of customers and replacing one quickly is often difficult. LPTs can weigh hundreds of tons, cost millions of dollars, and are typically custom-made with procurement lead times of one year or more. Generally tailored to customer specifications, these components are not readily interchangeable with each other, 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 that can provide new capabilities needed in the grid of the future as well as reinvigorate domestic manufacturing.

A 2018 $7.5M Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) focused on the development of LPT prototypes that are more flexible and adaptable. These projects allow corporations, small businesses, and academic institutions in Georgia, Texas, New York and Illinois to spur the innovative designs and prototypes of LPTs that are more flexible and adaptable.

A 2016 $1.5M focused on the design of flexible and adaptable LPTs that can be readily used in different substations. These projects 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 LPT. Projects focusing on Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) testing and modeling were also selected. These projects will improve the understanding of the physics behind how GMD and EMP affect LPTs and the damage such events may cause.

Solid State Power Substations

A solid state power substation is defined as a substation or “grid node” with the strategic integration of high-voltage power electronic converters that can provide system benefits and support evolution of the grid. Design and development of a flexible, standardized power electronic converter that can be applied across the full range of grid applications and configurations can enable the economy of scale needed to help accelerate cost reductions and improve reliability. 

Ultimately envisioned as a system consisting of modular, scalable, flexible, and adaptable power blocks that can be used within all substation applications, SSPS converters will serve as power routers or hubs that have the capability to 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 is currently leading a $9M SSPS 1.0 Hardware Prototype Consortium consisting of 8 institutions aimed at developing the Smart Universal Power Electronics Regulators (SUPER) standardized hardware prototype and software interfaces with plug and play functionality, and demonstrating interoperability in SUPER with self-contained Intelligent Power Stages (IPSs).

Additional Resources

Solid State Power Substation Technology Roadmap (June 2020)

TRAC Program Vision and Framework (June 2020)

2019 Transformer Resilience and Advanced Components Program Review

2015 Quadrennial Technology Review

OE Power Electronics fact sheet
HVDC Control Analysis

Gallium-Nitride Initiative for Grid Applications (GIGA) project

Solid State Power Substation Roadmapping Workshop (2017)

Next Generation Grid Components R&D Program Planning Workshop (2016)

Materials Innovation for Next Generation Transmission and Distribution Grid Components Workshop (2015)

Ultraconductive Copper Strategy Meeting (2015)

Applications for HVDC Technologies Workshop (2013)

High Temperature Superconductivity Program