High-performance electrical distribution transformers: current limitations and future needs

High-performance electrical distribution transformers and their future

The new European regulation, focused on sustainability, and a range of new functional needs point towards a scenario of adaptation and evolution of electrical distribution transformers

Electric grids continue unstoppable in their evolution towards a more efficient and sustainable model as a result of the electrification of our economy. Requirements such as energy efficiency, sustainability, regulatory framework, as well as space constraints and footprint, are shaping the present and future of electrical switchgear in general and distribution transformers in particular.

With over 55 years of experience driving electrical transformation, Ormazabal is committed to advancing towards a scenario of higher energy efficiency for electrical transformers and their optimization. Thus, its complete range of transformation solutions for medium voltage is based on an adaptation to market and consumer needs with a sustainable focus. But what are the main keys to the future of distribution transformers? Let’s see.

The first key lies in the regulatory framework concerning the current limitations of transformers and their future needs. Under the EU Eco-Design Directive (TIER2), a limit has been reached in reducing losses in transformers due to size and weight restrictions. This suggests the need for more sustainable solutions for future requirements, including reduced material usage, better life cycle analysis (LCA), and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

This is further compounded by increased energy demand as a result of the electrification of our economy, especially heightened by the adoption of low-carbon technologies in low-voltage (LV) networks, such as distributed generation, the emergence of electric vehicles, and the expansion of heat pump usage. This implies the need to increase the power of distribution transformers in compact substations.

Main keys of the electrical distribution transformers market

At the same time, the trend is to pivot towards the manufacturing of high-performance transformers, as the need to optimize distribution transformers is becoming palpable not only in terms of costs but also in terms of carbon footprint and TCO. For this reason, present transformers, treated as commodities, must evolve to better meet the energy efficiency and sustainability needs that mark the short-term future of the grid.

This explains the emergence of Sustainable Peak Load (SPL) transformers, designed to withstand peak loads of up to 150% of their rated capacity without reducing their lifespan – positioning them as an ideal solution for applications with significant energy demand variations; and the concept of compact transformers, which seeks to reduce the physical dimensions of transformers to facilitate their installation in transformer stations with space limitations, especially in urban centers and historical areas. This positions this type of transformers as a key in terms of reducing carbon footprint thanks to optimization and reduction of material usage, transportation, and final disposal.

Furthermore, the pressing needs for optimization and energy efficiency have given rise to new prototypes of distribution transformers such as the SPL 400-630 kVA, which demonstrates how transformers can be designed to handle seasonal or peak load variations, offering a more efficient alternative in terms of energy losses and TCO compared to conventional transformers with a larger carbon footprint.

All these innovations and proposed solutions, including SPL transformers for specific peak loads and compact transformers for installations with space limitations, offer sustainable and efficient alternatives that not only meet energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction requirements but also present a lower TCO; highlighting the importance of considering the complete life cycle and environmental impact of distribution transformers.

As a result, Ormazabal offers a variety of medium-voltage transformer ranges adapted to the different market needs. Thus, its solutions are present in all phases of electrical transformation and distribution, ensuring the integration of renewable energies and distributed generation into the grid, the integration of charging infrastructure for electric mobility, and the evolution of the grid towards a smart scenario thanks to its monitoring and automation solutions.

A series of applications in which the use of liquid dielectric as an insulating method is key, whose advantages over dry transformers have been demonstrated in terms of safety criteria as well as installation, maintenance, and sustainability costs; making these solutions the most comprehensive in the market.

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