The U.S. is more dependent than ever on reliable electric power for residential, commercial and industrial use, as well as strategic security. However, a natural disaster or terrorist attack on the grid could result in widespread power outages and significant economic losses for the nation.
In the latest edition of the ‘Large Power Transformers and the U.S. Electric Grid’ report, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) addressed issues concerning how the loss of large power transformers (LPTs) could result in exposure to the grid and lead to the consequences mentioned above.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp. also recently issued a first draft of a reliability standard for physical security measures (CIP-014-1). These standards mandate that all electric utilities identify and protect critical substations within their system, directly addressing critical equipment security such as these LPTs. The nation's ability to maintain a strategic reserve of LPTs was, therefore, one of the topics on the meeting's agenda.
‘Large power transformers carry almost 70 percent of the nation's electric power. They are essential to maintaining grid reliability," explains Emily Heitman, vice president and general manager of commercial operations for medium power transformers and LPTs in North America at ABB during recent congressional testimony. "Replacement of these LPTs can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months. This could be especially disruptive during a widespread outage where multiple transformers need replacement. Quick access to spare LPTs would dramatically reduce the risk of a prolonged outage."
To further support electrical utilities and address the DOE's concerns, ABB is launching a ‘Transformer and Grid Resiliency and Recovery’ initiative. ABB's capabilities can play a crucial role in restoring the power grid after a disaster. The new initiative will cover the following strategic assessments:
Assessment – Ability to launch multiple on-site assessments for utilities to determine accurate scope of the electrical grid damage;
Hardening – Provide hardened transformers and grid equipment that can withstand extreme conditions or attacks;
Monitoring – On-site monitoring for utilities to determine power disruptions in real time on a local, regional and national scale;
Rapid Repair – Quickly restore LPTs and critical substation equipment following a major man-made or natural event; and
Rapid Replacement – When repairs cannot be performed, rapid replacement greatly decreases the amount of time required to replace LPTs and restore power to the grid.