Keep your city out of the dark: How ConEd is becoming more resilient

Wed, 2016-05-11 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

The wildfire that ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, is slowly coming under control, but the damage is so bad Canada’s national economy could suffer. The fire destroyed parts of the power grid, likely crippling oil production for several months.

But it may not take something as severe as a wildfire to cut power to your city for extended periods. A report for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security finds the average power transformer is 40 years old, an age that puts them at greater risk for failure. If a storm takes out one of these transformers and you’re lucky enough to have a spare, you may be able to restore power in a few weeks. If not, you’re probably looking at six months — maybe even longer.

And weather isn’t the only threat. Snipers shot up 17 transformers that power part of California’s Silicon Valley in an incident some are describing as the largest coordinated terrorist attack on a power grid. It took nearly a month and $15 million to bring the substation back to life.

That’s why it’s worth looking at a project that gives New York’s Con Edison a flexible new tool to help it recover faster than ever from severe destruction. It’s working with Council Associate Partner Siemens on a project that will allow it to deploy new mobile resiliency transformers when others fail. As you’ll read in the news release below, these new resilient transformers are designed to be as mobile as possible, contain their own cooling systems, can operate on multiple voltage levels and can be deployed in as little as a day, rapidly restoring power, even after hurricanes. — Kevin Ebi

CARY, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Siemens is providing Con Edison, the utility that powers New York City and local areas, with six mobile resiliency transformers to help replace units within days rather than weeks in times of extreme weather like hurricanes or other major substation events. The mobile resiliency transformers will allow Con Edison to respond to these events where multiple transformers may be impacted and normal spares or system redundancy may not be able to address the issues.

The new transformers are highly optimized for weight and dimension through advanced voltage, power rating, impedance, and environmentally-friendly ester fluid technology. This solution will help Con Edison quickly restore power to the areas served by the unavailable transformers within one to three days, compared to the weeks it may take to transport and install normal available spare units. In cases where utilities do not have existing spare units, it may take six to 12 months for new units to be procured, shipped and installed.

“This first-of-its kind mobile transformer developed by Con Edison and Siemens is truly a game-changing product that will help us restore customers more quickly if a high voltage transformer fails for any reason,” said Sanjay Bose, vice president of Central Engineering for Con Edison. “This project has been an excellent learning experience for engineers, designers and builders from both companies. The team put their extensive knowledge, experience and the willingness to depart from the norm to come up with this practical and sound design. Many features of this unique and innovative design will serve as a model for future transformers that we use in our service area.”

Siemens’ new mobile resiliency transformers are designed to be as mobile as possible to minimize local transportation and installation requirements. In addition, the transformer design includes pre-installed cooling systems and operation on multiple voltage levels. This versatility results in utilities needing fewer mobile resiliency banks that can be used in several different locations. Special plug-in bushings and connections reduce installation time to approximately one to two days, without transformer entry and oil handling, instead of weeks.

“Traditionally, replacing transformers after a hurricane or major substation event is a complicated, expensive and extremely time consuming process and requires significant manpower,” said Dr. Beatrix Natter, CEO of Siemens Transformers. “With these mobile resiliency transformers, Con Edison will add to their already comprehensive restoration plans, replacing transformers in a fraction of the usual time and cost, and providing more reliable power for their transmission system.”

The transformers are designed for usage for different voltage levels which allows a utility to avoid investing in a resiliency unit for each transformer rating. To minimize the size and weight of the transformers, high temperature insulation material, forced oil cooling equipment, and ester fluid are used. By insulating with environmentally-friendly synthetic ester that easily dissipates, the transformers for Con Edison can also be installed closer to rivers or other environmentally conscious areas.

For further information on Siemens resiliency transformer technology, please visit

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