GE Research and Prolec GE Partner to Create First Large Flexible Transformer to Improve U.S. Grid
In what represents a major step towards the modernization of the foundations of the American network, GE Research and Prolec GE have partnered with Cooperative Energy to develop and install the world’s first large flexible power transformer at the main utility substation in Mississippi. This substation is part of a service network that provides electricity to nearly half a million homes and businesses across the state.
The transformer, rated at 165 kV, 60/80/100 MVA and developed as part of an ongoing project funded by the Office of Electricity of the US Department of Energy (DOE), began six months of validation on the field to assess its performance and understand how this new technology could transform grid management in the future.
Transformers are part of the backbone of power grids, regulating the flow of energy from generation plants, where electricity is produced, through transmission and distribution lines to be delivered to homes and businesses. Historically, the existing infrastructure has performed reliably well. But as higher percentages of renewables like wind and solar come online, new transformers, with much greater impedance flexibility, will be needed to support the grid in regulating power. tension, stability, fault management and restoration and resilience of transmission lines. This new large flexible transformer technology is ready to help meet this need.
“The Department of Energy’s $ 2.4 million investment to develop this one-of-a-kind flexible transformer will help make the grid more resilient to severe weather events, more secure from cyber attacks, and to manage sources. cleaner energy to power the places we live and work, ”says Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm. “This is yet another example of the innovation that is possible when the public and private sectors work together to create new technologies here at home that improve the well-being of the American people.”
“Strengthening our grid and facilitating the transition to a more renewable energy-intensive portfolio will require more flexible infrastructure, including transformers, to handle the wider range of voltage and frequency oscillations than utility operators will see, ”said Ibrahima Ndiaye, chief technology officer at GE Research Center and project manager. “Our large, flexible power transformer, a world first, will provide unprecedented flexibility to not only manage more dynamic networks, but to do so in a way that could revolutionize network resiliency in terms of fault management, power coverage. spare and adaptability for network restoration. “
Ndiaye noted that the introduction of new transformer technologies comes at a pivotal time for the country’s grid infrastructure. Today, more than 70% of large transformers installed in the United States (> 60 MVA) are 25 years or older, with about 15% exceeding the average life expectancy of 40 years. The gradual replacement of the existing fleet with more flexible power transformer solutions would significantly increase the capacity of the grid and accept more renewable resources and highly variable loads.
“Cooperative Energy, as a member-driven power cooperative, continually strives to update and maintain our transmission system, ensuring its resilience and reliability,” said Jeff C. Bowman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cooperative Energy. “Advanced hardware and network components such as the Large Flexible Power Transformer will help us meet many of the challenges our industry faces, now and in the future, and provide reliable service. This is an exciting opportunity for Cooperative Energy to help advance the modernization of the country’s electricity grid.
GE Research worked closely with the Prolec GE team to develop the flexible transformer technology and partner with Cooperative Energy for the field demonstration.
“After all the extensive research, development and testing, the new flexible transformer technology has started field validation to authenticate its performance and demonstrate how this technology could lead to a major change in grid management,” comments Pedro Puente, R&D director of Prolec GE.