DOE ponders national power transformer reserve program

distribution transformer substation security elp

The U.S Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, in a July 9 notice in the Federal Register, requested comments and information from interested parties to inform its policy development related to the possible establishment of a national reserve of power transformers that support the bulk power grid.

In the notice, DOE said that the April 2015 “Quadrennial Energy Review, Energy Transmission, Storage and Distribution Infrastructure Report” recommended that DOE coordinate with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, states and industry on an initiative to mitigate the risks associated with the loss of transformers. DOE added that the request for comment is an initial step in executing that recommendation.

Comments are due on Aug. 24.

DOE said that the limited availability of spare large power transformers, and the long lead times to procure replacements, could pose a potential threat to the availability and reliability of the bulk power system in the event of large-scale power outages from, for instance, cyber and physical security intrusions, weather-related incidents, geomagnetic disturbances and electromagnetic pulse effects.

According to the notice, DOE is seeking comments in the following areas:

·      Program need; specific to whether there is a need for a national power transformer reserve and how it would affect the reliability and resiliency of the North American bulk power system

·      Power transformer criteria; specific to what types and sizes of power transformers should be considered for inclusion in a transformer reserve program versus operational spare capacity

·      Ownership and economics; specific to what the appropriate structure would be for procuring and inventorying power transformers

·      Technical considerations; specific to the technical feasibility of developing a reserve of large power transformers and whether additional research is necessary to develop suitable replacement transformers that can be rapidly deployed from inventory in the event of an emergency

·      Procurement and management; specific to how procurement, maintenance and management of the reserve power transformers should be conducted

·      Supply chain; specific to what the critical supply chain components are for the manufacture and delivery of large power transformers and whether there are shortages or other considerations that could necessitate using the Defense Production Act Priority Ratings to ensure sufficient parts are available in a time of need

·      Manufacturing; specific to whether there is adequate manufacturing capacity to support a transformer reserve program

·      Transport and deployment; specific to what specialized transport infrastructure would be necessary to ship large power transformers from manufacturing site to storage locations

·      Field engineering and installation; specific to whether there are adequate domestic engineering and installation resources available to install multiple bulk power transformers simultaneously

·      Criteria for deploying transformers; specific to how deployment would be funded.

“DOE is exploring possible national strategies to mitigate risk to the reliability of the bulk power system arising from the loss of [large power transformers],” DOE said in the notice, adding that the request for information provides the public and industry stakeholders the opportunity to provide their view on the development and structure of a national program.

DOE also said that the intent of its request is to solicit information pertinent to the need and viability — regulatory, economic and technical — of a national transformer reserve program, and that information provided will be used by DOE for program design and strategy development purposes.

As TransmissionHub reported, the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on May 7 released a discussion draft on energy reliability and security legislation that includes a section requiring DOE, in consultation with NERC, to develop a national strategic transformer plan. The draft is part of a series of discussion drafts that the Energy and Commerce Committee has prepared to help form an energy package that the committee intends to bring to the House floor this year.

Section 1205 of the discussion draft on energy reliability and security establishes that Congress finds that the storage of strategically located spare large power transformers will diminish the vulnerability of the United States to multiple risks facing grid reliability.

As proposed, the legislation would require DOE to submit a plan to the U.S. Congress evaluating the feasibility of establishing a strategic transformer reserve for the storage, in strategically located facilities, of spare large power transformers in sufficient numbers to temporarily replace critically damaged large power transformers. The plan would include a description of the appropriate number of spare transformers and necessary total capacity in megawatts as well as potential locations for transformer storage and the ease and speed of transportation, installation and energization of spare transformers.

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