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Smart Transformers paving the way for energy efficiency

July 24, 2023 2:02 pm

Smart Transformers paving the way for energy efficiency

The industry is exploring transformer efficiency for energy conservation, smart transformer deployment challenges, and proactive maintenance strategies to upscale performance, integrating renewable energy sources for grid stability and sustainability in India.

Transformer efficiency refers to converting electrical energy between voltage levels with minimal losses. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in India has implemented programs like the “Star Rating Program for Distribution Transformers” to encourage using energy-efficient transformers. Transformers are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars based on their energy efficiency, helping utility companies make informed decisions while purchasing transformers.

Improving transformer efficiency for energy conservation

The Indian government has taken various measures to enhance energy conservation, encompassing a range of initiatives such as Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), Energy Efficiency Labelling, Research and Development, Public Awareness and Capacity Building, and Incentives and Rebate Programmes. Emphasising the importance of regular maintenance for transformers, the government aims to prevent deterioration and minimise energy losses.

Anant Krishna Waghchoure, the National Sales Manager at The Motwane Manufacturing Company Pvt. Ltd., highlights the critical role of transformer efficiency in conserving energy during transmission and distribution in India. Although there is no official data on overall transformer efficiency, approximate values indicate remarkable efficiency levels across different sectors. Solar parks demonstrate an impressive 98–99 percent efficiency, utilities range from 90–95 percent, industries maintain 97–98 percent, and commercial complexes have an efficiency range of 96–98 percent.

Efforts to improve transformer efficiency in India involve the implementation of BEE’s Star Rating Programme and MEPS, which encourage the use of energy-efficient models while phasing out inefficient ones. Moreover, initiatives like NMEEE, research collaborations, and the promotion of renewable energy contribute significantly to the ongoing energy conservation endeavours. Integrating smart grid technologies, well-defined policies, and incentives further supports the country’s energy conservation goals.

For the most up-to-date information on transformer efficiency and energy conservation in India, it is advisable to consult the latest sources and reports.

Grid management and maintenance challenges with smart transformers

The deployment of smart transformers in India holds immense potential, yet it comes with benefits and challenges. These sophisticated transformers are pivotal in enhancing grid management, load balancing, and demand response capabilities, ensuring optimal energy consumption patterns during peak periods. This results in greater efficiency across the electrical grid.

However, scaling up the implementation of smart transformers has its challenges. Infrastructure requirements, cost considerations, interoperability, standardisation, regulatory framework, stakeholder collaboration, and awareness are among the critical challenges that must be addressed. Tackling these obstacles is essential to fully realising the benefits of smart transformers and establishing a more efficient electrical grid.

Zakir Hussain, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Servokon, underlines the importance of overcoming these challenges. He highlights that factors like infrastructure, cost, interoperability, standardisation, regulations, stakeholder collaboration, and awareness play crucial roles in the successful implementation of smart transformers in India.

Anant adds to the discussion, emphasising how smart transformers facilitate demand response capabilities, enabling seamless communication between operators and consumers. This real-time power distribution management optimises energy consumption, ultimately reducing peak demand and enhancing the grid’s efficiency.

The deployment of smart transformers in India brings many benefits, but addressing the associated challenges is imperative to fully unlock their potential and achieve a more sustainable and efficient electrical grid.

Strategising maintenance practices to upscale transformers’ performance 

Maintenance is a critical aspect of ensuring the proper functioning and long-term durability of transformers, which significantly impact the overall quality of the power supply. Industry experts strongly advise adopting timely and proactive maintenance measures to extend the lifespan of transformers to over 40 years. Effective lifecycle management entails adhering to ISS 1186-1967 standards when scheduling maintenance, utilising trained and authorised personnel for maintenance tasks, and promptly replacing defective parts or equipment.

Zakir underscores the importance of having well-trained professionals handle maintenance tasks, emphasising that maintenance performed by qualified and authorised individuals and timely replacement of faulty components are crucial for ensuring optimal transformer performance and reliability.

In recent times, maintenance strategies have evolved from reactive to proactive and predictive approaches, with the primary aim of preventing system downtime and economic losses. These advanced strategies involve regular visual inspections and the integration of sensors to monitor critical parameters such as temperature, oil quality, moisture levels, and gas analysis. Techniques like Dissolved Gas Analysis (DGA) tests on transformer oil and thermal imaging cameras are employed to detect potential issues early. Additionally, routine oil sampling and analysis are carried out to assess the insulating oil’s condition, minimising the insulation breakdown risk. These modern approaches to maintenance play a pivotal role in ensuring the reliability and efficiency of transformers within power systems.

To ensure proper operation, transformers are operated within their rated load capacities to avoid overloading. Effective asset management includes meticulous maintenance records and the tracking of historical data. Maintenance personnel undergo rigorous training to enhance their transformer maintenance and troubleshooting knowledge and skills.

Routine maintenance tasks, such as cleaning, tightening connections, inspecting insulation, and conducting dielectric tests, are carried out by manufacturers’ recommendations and industry standards. Establishing strong collaborations with transformer manufacturers provides valuable guidance on maintenance practises, upgrade options, and tailored lifecycle management strategies for specific transformers.

Furthermore, Anant accentuates the transformative impact of incorporating these practices, resulting in reduced system downtime, improved efficiency, and the prevention of economic losses. Embracing proactive and predictive maintenance enables industries to optimise performance and ensure reliable and uninterrupted operations.

Integrating renewable energy sources in transformers

Transformers are crucial in seamlessly integrating renewable energy (RE) sources into the power distribution system, ensuring efficient power distribution, grid stability, and the smooth incorporation of decentralised energy. Step-up transformers increase voltage for long-distance transmission from renewable power plants, while step-down transformers lower voltage levels for localised distribution of RE-generated electricity. This facilitates the easy connection of solar farms, wind farms, and other RE installations to the main grid while contributing to voltage stabilisation and power quality by managing fluctuations from intermittent RE sources during decentralised energy integration.

With power electronics like STATCOM, transformers provide reactive power compensation and voltage control, supporting stable grid operation for successful RE source integration. By leveraging these transformer integration methods, renewable energy sources effectively contribute to the overall energy supply while upholding grid stability and reliability.

Anant emphasises the significance of combining transformers with power electronics, such as STATCOM, to support stable grid operation during RE source integration, ensuring a reliable energy supply.

Zakir highlights that integrating RE sources with various transformer types, including Step-up transformers, power conditioning transformers, smart transformers with monitoring and control capabilities, and distribution transformers equipped with reactive power compensation devices like capacitors or voltage regulators, as well as the formation of microgrids, can enhance the robustness and efficiency of the power distribution system.

Additionally, when used in conjunction with inverters, transformers convert DC power from sources like solar PV systems into AC compatible with the grid, thereby enabling efficient distribution. Smart transformers, equipped with advanced monitoring, communication, and control capabilities, optimise the integration of decentralised energy, ensuring supply-demand balance and grid stability within smart grid systems. They also play a crucial role in energy storage systems, storing excess energy from intermittent RE sources and ensuring smooth power flow and grid stability during energy discharge.

Together, these transformer integration methods and technologies enable the harmonious integration of renewable energy sources into the power grid, promoting sustainable and efficient energy distribution while maintaining grid stability and reliability.

Spokesperson and Quotes –

Efficient transformer usage is vital for energy conservation and grid stability.” – Anant Krishna Waghchoure, National Sales Manager, The Motwane Manufacturing Company Pvt. Ltd.

Smart transformers offer grid stability but face implementation challenges.” – Zakir Hussain – Director of Sales & Marketing, Servokon

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