“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
– Benjamin Franklin
Nobody wants to be caught staring at the black outer shell of what use to resemble one of their critical transformers, but in a day and age where Murphy’s Law seems to rule, it is always a possibility. The entire electric grid is dependent on transformers. Generation companies rely on transformers (GSU’s) to step up the voltage before it goes onto the transmission line, and utilities require them to step the voltage back down for distribution, using a power substation transformer. Industrial, Mining, and Manufacturing companies need them to step voltages down even further to run their equipment, using either unit substation transformers, pad mounted transformers or pole mounted transformers.
When a transformer fails, it’s typically all hands on deck to find a solution or a replacement. It happens daily across the nation. Lost revenue, angry customers…………..same old story, just a different day. It seems to be human nature to ignore a problem until we are forced to address it. So with all the talk recently about electric grid reliability, why is it so hard for companies to make the investment to backup their critical transformers?
The simple and obvious answer is funding, they don’t feel like they have the money to invest. However, the reality is that the loss of productivity, business interruption, and/or reputation is typically much greater than what the cost of the transformer would have been. Below are 5 ways that you can backup your critical transformers, without breaking the bank.
#1 Buy into a transformer with other companies If your a utility, this would possibly mean buying a transformer with other utilities needing the same size and voltages. If you are a industrial, mining, or commercial facility being served by a utility, this may mean buying a transformer with the utility that serves you, as long as it would mutually benefit both parties in an emergency. The more companies willing to go in on a unit, the lower your investment. The downside to this, is if one or more of the companies needs the transformer at the same time, it could get a little tricky.
#2 Buy reconditioned or used A reconditioned or used transformer can sometimes be purchased for less than half of what a new transformer can be purchased for. And if you find the right unit, it will have years or decades of service life left. Reconditioned and used transformer make great spare units, and since they have already been in service at some point, any manufacturing or design flaws have been ruled out. These transformers go through a series of electrical tests prior to shipment that typically include a TTR, Insulation Resistance, Winding Resistance, Power Factor, DGA and a thorough visiual inspection. Most dealers sell these units with a 6 month to 3 year warranty.
#3 Redundancy in your electrical system Overall, this isn’t considered a “budget friendly” option. However, it can be done in stages and allows you to space out the financial burden over time. Redundancy in your electric system should be the ultimate goal for all companies that want to ensure reliability and reduced outage time. Redundancy can be established by having your electric system designed in a way that if one component of it fails, you can feed power from another source resulting in minimal downtime.
#4 Keeping track of available equipment….without purchasing There are dealers that will keep you up to date on available equipment if you check in with them periodically. This is obviously the lowest cost option, but comes with risks. Although you may be keeping tabs on units that are available in the size and voltages you would need, it is never a guarantee that they will be available when you need them.
#5 Rent to own transformers If you can find a company that will let you rent a transformer with a purchase option, then you can spread the expense over a period of time. Not all transformer suppliers will do this, but there are those out there that will. If you can find the right unit, with the right terms, this is an excellent way to secure a spare transformer.
Take time to evaluate your electric system and make a plan to backup your critical transformers. This will give you peace of mind and will ensure that your company is ready for any type of transformer emergency.
_________________________________________________________________________________ Brett Carter Utility Transformer Brokers www.uilitytransformerbr.com