Power transformers go digital18 July 2018
ABB and Siemens have simultaneously claimed to have produced the first digitally enabled power transformer. Both were unveiled at the Hanover Fair in April.
First ‘digitally integrated’ power transformer
The ‘ABB Ability’ power transformer, being sold as a modular and scalable platform with a full ecosystem of smart devices, software and service solutions, as a building block for digital substations, a future-proof investment, and including state-of-the-art cybersecurity is claimed to be the world’s first integrated solution for digitally enabled power transformers. The company intends that soon all its power transformers will come enabled with digital capabilities as standard, enabling remote monitoring and data analytics of its vital parameters in real time. The transformer will come equipped with a digital hub that can take advantage of a portfolio of smart devices on a modular platform with plug-and-play capabilities. This modularity and scalability should make the system future-proof.
CoreTec4 is ABB’s transformer monitoring capability, designed to aggregate, manage and analyse data for a single transformer. It continuously measures oil temperature, load and gas formation. Variations in these health thresholds are flagged by CoreTec 4 in real time and can trigger advanced investigations when needed, not when scheduled. Oil and paper aging is linked to temperature, moisture and oxygen variations. CoreTec 4 tracks key parameters and activates the coolers sooner than conventional systems to delay insulation ageing. It allows the user to make informed decisions on overloading a transformer by tracking current environmental conditions and using international standards to provide an overview of the short-term overload capacity. This allows the operator to consider transformer ageing versus increased throughput and revenues. It can also help operators with a ‘sick’ transformer by enabling them to run it below recommended critical limits for temperature and gas generation. Ultimately, this helps to better plan for maintenance or delay replacement.
ABB has also announced the launch of ABB AbilityTXplore, a service solution that deploys a submersible transformer inspection robot. The wireless robot can be manoeuvered through a liquid-filled power transformer to perform internal inspection, which can be shared remotely close to real time with global experts. This enhances safety by reducing personnel risk, reduces inspection down time to hours rather than days and could bring inspection costs down by 50%.
ABB has recently introduced ABB TXpert, the world’s first digital distribution transformer. TXpert provides the intelligence to ‘maximise reliability, optimise operating and maintenance costs and manage the asset more efficiently’, building on the ABB Ability platform to generate actionable intelligence. This product is said to be the first of its kind to integrate sensing technology directly into the transformer during the manufacturing process.
First digital transformer portfolio
Siemens has launched what it calls the world’s first comprehensive digital transformer portfolio The new ‘Sensformer’ ‘merges physics and information’ and provides digital intelligence for transformers regardless of their product class, size and rating. As transformers are placed at critical nodes of the power grid, they are perfect sensors for grid conditions containing full information on energy flow. Sensformer provides step-in to digitalisation for all customers, turning the voltage regulators into an info-hub.
The data will allow for conclusions on the status of the assets as well as the power grid and thus allow for enhanced flexibility and optimised operation of the entire grid. While currently available solutions are imposing additional hurdles in terms of cost and complexity to customers, Sensformer will be equipped as default with digital intelligence. Its basic functionalities of (including hardware, software and cloud access) are kept simple for ease of use.
The transformer also offers the advantage of high stability by limiting physical measurements to the bare minimum as well as avoiding unnecessary IT equipment at site. Siemens intends to shift its entire portfolio to Sensformer starting in June 2018.
All Sensformers will be equipped with an IoT gateway to provide direct real-time measurements of oil level, top oil temperature, LV winding current and GPS location. Every operator will get access to a cloud- based platform application that visualises the collected data and provides insights on the assets’ status and performance across voltage levels. Knowing the exact status of their transformers will enable grid operators to face challenges such as integrating a growing amount of renewables and distributed energy generation into the power grid, while operating their networks as economically as possible. In a next step the co-creation process with customers will lead to different application sets and apps tailor-made to customers’ needs. With MindSphere Siemens offers a cloud-based, open operating system for developing these applications. MindSphere is Siemens’ Internet of Things platform that connects physical assets to the digital world.
Cybers ecurity is a critical factor for the success of digitalisation. Siemens introduces this product with what it says are best-in-class cyber security features complying to all the relevant standards today. With more than one million devices already connected to its MindSphere platform, Siemens has first-hand experience with cybersecurity challenges.