GE Research and Prolec GE have teamed with Cooperative Energy to develop and install the world’s first flexible large power transformer at the utility’s major substation in Columbia, Mississippi. The substation is part of a service network that delivers power to nearly a half million homes and businesses across Mississippi.
The transformer, rated at 165kV, 60/80/100 MVA and developed as part of an ongoing project funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity, has begun six months of field validation to assess its performance and understand how this new technology could transform grid management in the future. The DOE invested $2.4 million in the new transformer, according to Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. The new design will be more resilient to severe weather events and more secure from cyberattacks.
Transformers are part of the backbone of electricity grids, regulating the flow of power from generation plants, where electricity is produced, through transmission and distribution power lines to be delivered to people’s homes and businesses. Historically, the existing infrastructure has performed reliably well. But as higher percentages of renewables like wind and solar power come online, new transformers, with much greater flexibility in impedance, will be required to support the grid in voltage regulation, stability, fault management, and transmission lines restoration and resiliency. This new large flexible transformer technology is poised to help meet this need.
It is a pivotal time for the nation’s grid infrastructure. Today, more than 70% of the U.S installed large transformer base (>60MVA) is 25-years or older, with around 15% exceeding the average life expectancy of 40 years. Gradual replacement of the existing fleet with more flexible power transformer solutions would greatly expand the grid capacity and accommodate more renewable resources and highly variable loads.