The future in electricity distribution is SMART
The challenges and change facing much of the world’s electricity infrastructure — also known as the grid — is enormous. Customers require electricity reliability like never before. They’re concerned about sustainability, but they still need their electricity to be affordable and available at the flick of a switch. The traditional way of delivering electricity is being pushed to its limits. To meet the demands of the future, we need a smarter grid.
A smarter grid needs smart transformers
A smarter grid uses technologies, tools and techniques to deliver electricity in a cleaner, more efficient, resilient and responsive way. Distribution transformers are one of the key components of a successful smart grid, because they are a major component in the distribution of power.
Unison and ETEL developing smart transformers using fibre sensors
Most of today’s transformers are not ready for the type of intelligence required by the smart grid, because they were placed into service before the age of interactive ‘smart’ information transfer.
ETEL — New Zealand’s largest transformer manufacturing company — is at the forefront of developing smart transformers using fibre optic sensors to develop their Smart Transformer kiosk. The kiosk is currently being used in Unison’s network — one of New Zealand’s electricity distribution business.
The second generation of ETEL’s Smart Transformer kiosk was put into Unison’s network in June this year. Amongst the parameters it measures, it uses ETEL’s patented low-cost fibre optic system to monitor the internal temperatures of the transformer — one of the most critical parameters to measure in order to optimise transformer management. This gives asset managers flexibility around how the transformer is operated; from running at or above rated capacity to meet short-term requirements, through to optimising the load to meet the transformer’s design life.
While measurement of internal temperatures with fibre-optic technology has been done on bigger power transformers in New Zealand, this is the first time it has been done on smaller, distribution transformers.
Other features of the Smart Transformer kiosk includes: the ability to withstand arc-faults — an unintentional discharge of electrical energy that can release as much energy as 2kgs of exploding dynamite — and, in line with European trends, housing all functions of the distribution transformer within one kiosk.
The future of Smart Transformers
A commitment to continuously upgrade and innovate will see the release of at least a further two generations of the Smart Transformer over the next five years.
Future generations will include measuring hydrogen and oxygen gas with fibre optic sensors. This will provide distribution networks with the ability to identify a fault. Other key features will include transformer fleet management software, which will provide analytics, monitoring and simplify decision making for lines companies.