Mistras Group Inc. has been performing research & development under an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) project that has involved 15 participating member electric utilities. The project has produced specialized hardware and expert system software performing data analysis and characterization techniques for the effective screening and monitoring of mission critical transformers at power stations and substations located on the power grid.
The goal of the smart grid initiative is to provide reliable power to those that need it, when it's needed. Whether the power comes from fossil fuels or renewable sources the transformers and circuit breakers remain critical components in moving electricity across the country or around the block. Transformer failure is a common cause of blackouts and power outages. The challenges of aging power infrastructure, increased residential loads due to the charging requirements of electric vehicles, smart appliance demands or the periodic supply of renewable energy, are all factors that will stress these critical components and in turn affect their reliability.
Mistras' Transformer Asset Protection Solutions (TAPS) developed in cooperation with EPRI, detects and locates electrical, mechanical and thermal problems within transformers and switchgear. The information TAPS provides can be used to make informed and predictive decisions on routing and asset usage for these transformers and switchgear. TAPS can help closely match equipment performance to changes in industrial and consumer usage and therefore capital investments can be targeted precisely where required, minimizing investment and maximizing performance and reliability. It is reported that the market for TAPS in the United States includes approximately 147,000 transformers. A typical TAPS permanent installation ranges from $7,000 to $25,000 where existing wireless technology will considerably reduce difficult installation costs in the future.
TAPS achieves this by combining sensor fusion technology hardware with advanced software techniques including 3D location imaging and neural networks/pattern recognition filtering. TAPS provides an onsite screening inspection service to diagnose transformer health and help determine if it should be scheduled for removal from service or put on health watch to be remotely monitored 24/7 via a secured web site available to the utility or monitored by Mistras. TAPS can also be deployed as a complete online system to monitor geographically distributed fleet wide assets, broadcasting an early warning alarm condition back to a web based monitoring station or integrated into the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) operations system to take appropriate action. TAPS is based on a data base of more than 800 transformers worldwide yielding valuable insight and economic value by helping to provide uninterrupted power; insuring plant and public safety; improving outage management performance; maximizing in market availability; minimize trading losses and avoiding single points of failure. Based on this database, Mistras over the past 18 months has 36 on-line 24/7 monitoring installations that are monitoring the deteriorating health of critical transformers.