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Energy Efficient Distribution Transformers

Energy Efficient Distribution Transformers

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Published by Hans De Keulenaer
The second policy briefing brochure in the series looks at distribution transformers.

Electricity distribution losses vary from 4% to more than 20%. The adoption of efficient Distribution Transformers could save Europe about 18.5 TWh per year, equivalent to about 7 million tCO2/year.

This brochure gives insight into technical as well as environmental, economical and geopolitical advantages, drawing the business cases for adopting energy efficient Distribution Transformers. TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership, is the buzzword and the philosophy leading to optimal investments in efficient equipment.

The most significant barriers hindering this move are analysed and followed by a number of opportunities to overcome them, focusing particularly on regulatory changes that give an incentive to distribution operators to invest in efficient transformers.
The second policy briefing brochure in the series looks at distribution transformers.

Electricity distribution losses vary from 4% to more than 20%. The adoption of efficient Distribution Transformers could save Europe about 18.5 TWh per year, equivalent to about 7 million tCO2/year.

This brochure gives insight into technical as well as environmental, economical and geopolitical advantages, drawing the business cases for adopting energy efficient Distribution Transformers. TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership, is the buzzword and the philosophy leading to optimal investments in efficient equipment.

The most significant barriers hindering this move are analysed and followed by a number of opportunities to overcome them, focusing particularly on regulatory changes that give an incentive to distribution operators to invest in efficient transformers.

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Published by: Hans De Keulenaer on May 28, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/12/2013

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1
A small efciency
improvement = a large
energy gain
Electricity network losses vary substantially between
countries worldwide. Figures range from less than 4%to more than 20%. There is obviously signicant roomfor improvement in many — if not most — countries.
A major potential for reducing network losses lies indistribution transformers.
Distribution transformers are used by utility companiesto transform the electricity from a voltage level of1 to 50 kV – the level at which the power is transportedlocally and supplied to many industrial consumers – to a voltage level ranging between 120 V and1 kV - typically used by residential consumers and thetertiary sector.
Signicant energy savings can be realized in industrialdistribution transformers as well as those on thepublic grid.
Distribution transformers may seem to have relativelyhigh energy efciency compared to other electricalequipment. Efciencies range between 90% and 99%.However, they work in continuous operation and havea long life span — typically 30 to 40 years. As a result,
a small efciency increase can add up to signicantenergy savings over the lifetime of the transformer
.
y
 
Switching to energy efcient distribution transformerscan save Europe 18.5 TWh in annual electricityconsumption (EU-25). This is equivalent to the annualproduction of 3 nuclear power stations (1,000 MW).
y
 
These losses represent an annual operating cost toindustrial and residential users of €1 billion, as wellas 7 million t/yr of CO
2eq
emissions
y
 
In the large majority of cases, energy efcientdistribution transformers have an attractive LifeCycle Cost
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Energy efcient
distribution transformers
 
How energy losses
can be minimised
High Efciency
Motor Systems
2
Energy losses in
distribution transformers
A distribution transformer consists of an iron core, with alimb for each of the phases (see illustration). Around eachlimb, there are two windings: one with a large number ofturns connected to the higher voltage side, and one witha low number of turns connected to the low voltage.The energy losses fall into three distinct classes:
y
No-load losses:
caused by hysteresis and eddy
currents in the transformer core. It is a constantenergy loss that is present from the moment thetransformer is connected. In the average Europeandistribution grid, no-load losses represent about70% of the total loss.
y
Load losses:
caused by resistive losses in the
windings and leads, and by eddy currents in thestructural steelwork and windings.
y
Cooling losses:
some transformers require fancooling — leading to extra energy consumption.The larger the intrinsic losses of the unit, the greater the need for cooling and the higher the energyconsumption by the fan. Cooling losses are relativelysmall compared to load and no-load losses.
Several proven technicalsolutions exist to improve
the energy efciency
of a distributiontransformer:
y
No-load losses can be reduced by improveddesign, assembling and selection of materials for 
the core
y
Load losses are proportional to the square of theload current. They can be reduced by increasingthe cross section of the windings.
y
The energy consumption for cooling needs canbe reduced by keeping the other types of energylosses low.By combining those techniques, a Best AvailableTechnology distribution transformer can be built whichalso has — in the large majority of cases — the lowest LifeCycle Cost (LCC).
Amorphous Coretransformers (AMT)
An amorphous core transformer (AMT) uses amorphousmetal alloy strips for its magnetic circuit. This allowsbuilding transformers with very low no-load losses(up to 70% less than conventional types). Becauseof the exible structure of the core, the capacity ofamorphous core transformers is currently limited to10 MVA. Amorphous core transformers are 5 to 20 %
heavier than conventional transformers of the same
capacity.
Harmonic currentsincrease losses
The energy efciency of a transformer is also negativelyinuenced by ‘harmonic currents’. Harmonic currentsare distortions that are inherent to the electrical power of the grid, albeit grid operators try to keep them aslow as possible. On the average European publicgrid, harmonic currents result in an extra energy lossin distribution transformers of about 10 % (source:SEEDT project). Apart from that, harmonic currents alsoreduce a transformer’s lifespan.
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3
Leonardo ENERGY: The Global Community for Sustainable Energy Professionals
   ©   L  e  o  n  a  r   d  o   E   N   E   R   G   Y  -   M  a  y   2   0   0   9
Efciency categories of
transformers
The two main types of distribution transformers areoil-immersed and air-cooledThe European voluntarystandard EN 50464-1 divides oil-lled transformers intoseveral categories of losses. The resulting efcienciesrange between 96% and 99%. Despite of this, theaverage operating efciency of distribution transformersin the EU-27 is still only 93.38% (source: SEEDT project).Air-cooled types (or the so-called dry transformers)are used in places with a high re risk or specicworking conditions. In general they have lower energyefciency, but can reach higher efciencies if they aretailor-made.
Long life cycle and
continuous operation
Distribution transformers have a life cycle of 30 to40 years and work in continuous operation mode.Consequently, a small energy efciency difference canadd up to signicant savings.In many companies and organisations however, thepurchasing budget is separated from the operationalbudget. As a result, purchasing decisions are oftenbased solely on the delivery price, instead of taking theTCO into account. Such decisions will result in a negativeimpact lasting for decades.
Total Cost ofOwnership (TCO),asset management,externalities
Operating losses typically represent 30% to 70% of theTCO of distribution transformers. The pay-back periodsfor investing in high-efciency transformers are relativelyshort, often less than two years. The Internal Rate ofReturn in efcient transformers is consistently above 10%and sometimes as high as 70%.In addition to the TCO considerations, increasing theefciency of distribution transformers also results inenvironmental benets and in a reduction of externalities(reduced CO
2
, NO
 x
and SO
 x
emissions).
Endesa Eftrafo Projectproves protability
In the framework of the Eftrafo Project, gridoperator Endesa (Spain) exchanged transformers thatmerely fullled national standards by high efciencytransformers. The energy losses were reduced by 50 to80%, while the pay-back period of the new transformerswas only 1-2 years. For each 400 kVA transformer ontheir grid, this operation in resulted in an annual energysaving of 5.5 MWh, which is equivalent to 30 washingmachines turning non-stop for one year.
 
ECI and energyefcient distribution
transformers
In 2005, the European Copper Institute (ECI)published a paper on the benets of energyefcient distribution transformers, targeting EUpolicy makers. This paper was the result of yearsof intensive intelligence gathering and analysis.ECI also participates in SEEDT, a project within theframework of the Intelligent Energy programmeof the European Union. SEEDT builds the businesscase for development and diffusion of energyefcient distribution transformers. For the SEEDTproject, ECI works in collaboration with the NTUA(Greece), Wuppertal Institute (Germany), andENDESA (Spain).Since 2006, the Leonardo ENERGY programme,managed by ECI, regularly reports on thelatest developments in transformer efciencystandards, regulation, and technology.

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