Fitting into Manhattan

Innovative ABB solutions help address space-shortage challenges in New York City

Fitting into Manhattan has never been easy. With space at a premium, the 23-square-mile island, which is home to 1.6 million people, is among the densest in the world, and one where rent soars as high as its iconic skyscrapers.

But while the city’s apartments are famous for being small – less than 100-square-feet in some cases –New Yorkers are nothing if not creative about how to make things work. Call it “tiny-living,” or “micro-sizing,” when you think of Manhattan, you think of Murphy Beds and fold-away furniture. In the same vein, building and enabling power infrastructure to supply electricity to fit the unique challenges in New York City, has given rise to some of ABB’s most creative and innovative solutions.

For a large-scale project near Wall Street, in the dense Battery Park City neighborhood, ABB is providing a high-efficiency transformer solution that prioritizes safety and environmental awareness for the structures involved.

ABB’s dry-type transformers, so-called because they contain no oil, are safe by design and come equipped with features like glass insulation and aramid fibers – the same material used to make fire-fighting vests. These materials are not only anti-inflammatory but also self-extinguishing. Dry-type transformers are also more ecological, as there is no chance of oil spills, and many of the integral parts are fully recyclable.

The tall skyscrapers needed transformers that had an element of portability. Normally, installing transformers on upper floors requires special cranes, which are costly and time-consuming to operate, especially in tall buildings. For this project, ABB split each of the three-phase transformers into three specially designed units. Each phase was compact enough to fit into the building’s freight elevator.

Across the city, Con Edison has been gradually replacing the city’s transformers with dry-type transformers. The systems are often installed underground to improve safety and minimize environmental impact. Located under the famous New York sidewalks, the transformers are even capable of being submersed in water for long periods and still stay operational.

Con Edison is installing a large number of dry-type transformers in high traffic and environmentally sensitive areas. The program is geared toward increasing public safety while reducing the risk of oil spills near waterways. To meet the city’s noise regulations, considered to be among the most stringent in the world, ABB also developed ultra-low noise transformers that are installed in the city. The noise requirements of these transformers are not only 20-25 decibels lower than is typical for this size of transformers, but limits were also set on the noise level of each frequency tone when the transformers are operating at full load and over-excitation.

Despite the logistical challenges in Manhattan, ABB has proved to be a ‘fitting’ partner of choice for enabling a stronger, smarter and greener grid.


Web page: Dry-type transformers


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About the author

Joel Kern

Joel graduated from Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2006 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He was hired into ABB shortly after as an electrical and mechanical design engineer. He has spent over 10 years heavily involved in the research and development and marketing strategy for ABB’s dry-type transformer product footprint in North America. During that time, he developed key technologies for the marine, data center, commercial infrastructure and utility markets. In his current role of Global Product Manager, he investigates new ways to increase the safety of distribution systems for ABB’s global partners.
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