The Robinson team’s experience is helping ETEL develop and manufacture next generation smart distribution transformers for its global clients.
ETEL Limited makes distribution transformers from its base in Auckland, New Zealand, where it employs around 215 staff. ETEL has captured 100% of the New Zealand distribution transformer market and more than half of its output is exported to Australia and the Pacific. With the support of Robinson's expertise in Material Science and Electromagnetic Modelling, ETEL is developing the next generation of smart distribution transformers for its local and global clients.
The Robinson team, in collaboration with Callaghan Innovation, are developing sensors and the sensor metrics to monitor critical distribution transformer parameters. These ‘smart transformers’ are easily controlled by a network operator, and detect faults automatically. The data collected by these smart transformers will allow maintenance on specific components to be carried out before a fault occurs.
Robinson is also helping to improve ETEL's understanding of how key components of the transformers degrade over time. This is done through analysis of the physical and chemical properties of new and old transformer oil and paper samples. A database of these properties will make it easier for ETEL to predict the lifetime of a transformer and calculate the value of an overhaul.
New green technologies are presenting new problems for power distribution. In particular, photovoltaic power generation and the use of electric cars will increasingly contribute to voltage extremes in the domestic power network. Robinson's expertise in electricity distribution network modelling is helping ETEL evaluate strategies to manage these fluctuations and keep the voltage levels within required bounds through a 'smart grid'.
Smart grids will be able to manage power flows and minimise voltage extremes by integrating information on generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. The improved flexibility of a smart grid would enable greater use of highly variable renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Because such a system will not need to accommodate frequent peaks, it will allow components to be built to more modest specifications and improve capital utilisation.
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