Transformers for a sustainable world

Ryan Ladd

Transformers are key to ABB’s commitment to a sustainable future

The modern world increasingly relies on our electrical grid. From lighting our homes and powering our phones to running factories, almost everything we do or use, is made possible by electricity. And with the growth of e-mobility and digitalization, we will only see demand rising.

This widespread presence of electricity means that transformers are everywhere. An essential part of the modern electrical grid, transformers increase the voltage of the system for efficient transmission over long distances – to more than a million volts in the largest systems – and then step-down the voltage – to 120-240 volts – to distribute electricity to consumers. As a critical component of electrical infrastructure, strategic changes to transformer design can minimize electricity losses and reduce the environmental impact of the power grid.

Eco-efficiency in transformers can take different forms. With some 5 percent of global electrical energy attributed to transformer losses, energy efficiency has become one of the main drivers of technology evolution and regulation, with the potential to reduce energy losses by up to 60 percent.

One of the most important ways that transformers can be more sustainable and resource efficient is by implementing technology that reduces their failure rate, increases maintenance intervals and expands their lifespan. This can be achieved with condition-based lifecycle management, for instance, with ABB Ability™ power transformers. These advanced transformers are equipped with an array of sensors and other electronic devices that enable owners to optimize their asset and fleet management.

ABB has also made inroads using eco-friendly materials. Most transformers contain insulating oil, which, under rare failure conditions, can leak or even catch fire, creating an environmental issue. To mitigate this risk, traditional transformers are installed with extensive shielding and concrete pools to contain spillage. However, recent developments such as the use of biodegradable ester fluid not only lower the risk of fire, but also eliminate the environmental risks from possible spillage. Using biodegradable ester fluid also reduces the need for extensive surrounding infrastructure.

Another, often overlooked element of environmental impact is noise pollution. While some noise is inevitable in several electrical products, with extensive experience and analytical design tools developed by ABB, transformers can be configured to reduce noise by 10 – 15 decibels without the addition of sound barriers or enclosures. As a comparison, such a reduction would decrease the noise from a car on a major road to the volume of an average conversation.

Whether reducing losses and resource consumption, or minimizing environmental impact with biodegradable ester fluids and noise reduction, maximizing transformer efficiency not only puts the environment in focus but also makes financial sense. Energy efficient design results in lower cost of ownership even before considering the initial footprint and cost reduction with reduced fire walls, oil containment systems and noise enclosure needs.

Health, safety and the environment are a top priority for ABB and our customers. By leveraging our long experience and thought leadership in our eco-aware approach to R&D and design, it’s possible to combine all of these offerings to create some of the world’s most environment-friendly transformers.

Related links:

Web page: Transformers

Web page: Energy efficiency in transformers

Web page: ABB’s transformer Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Calculator

 

 

About the author

Ryan Ladd

Ryan graduated from the University of Bath in 2005 with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and has a background in product and production engineering in the automotive and furniture industry. In his current role as ABB Global Communications Manager for Power Transformers, he manages communications product launches and a range of media responsibilities.
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