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Norbert Vasen's picture
CEO Birdseye Energy Consulting GmbH

I am on a quest to bring more Energy Managers into industry. Energy Efficiency is behind on Renewable Energy and that is because it is less exciting (is it?) and labour intensive (each situation...

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How much is the investment in a new transformer compared to total lifetime cost, including losses?

during my last post I was looking for examples where you see the investment in a device compared with the total lifetime costs, for example energy. You see them often for electric motors or lamps. It surprises people if they see that an electric motor may cost only 5% of its consumed energy in for example 15 years. You see them often in pie diagrams.

I would like to find such examples for transformers. There are a lot of stepdown transformers in enterprises that are connected to medium voltage and I understood from articles on the Internet that there is a lot of savings potential here, because many installed transformers are from a year when technology was really different. 

The posting is already there, but I usually go deeper on the subjects in my posts in my newsletter, so I would like to have your feedback or links to examples.

Thank you in advance and let's wake up the owners of transformers (many maybe don't even know they have them). It will hopefully make it also more difficult to find a burning transformer and shoot an image as I used in the post today.



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When the electric utilities I work with buy large power transformers, they include the present worth of demand charges (for example, $600 per KW) and energy charges (for example, $4000 per KWH losses) in specifications.  Generally, during the life of a large power transformer, the present worth of KW and KWH charges is between 50% and 100% of the purchase price.

Transformer manufacturers use present worth values to optimize proposed transformer designs in order to supply the lowest evaluated cost transformer.

If the present worth value of KW and KWH losses aren't included in transformer specifications, manufacturers will offer transformers with the lowest manufacturing cost.

Norbert Vasen's picture
Norbert Vasen on May 5, 2021

Hi Tony, I thought I submitted the answer already yesterday.

Thank you for it. If I imagine that your transformers are much bigger than the transformers that I am focused on (stepdown transformers that are in the enterprise, after the main meter, let's say between 0.5 and 1.0 MVA), then I suppose that the losses in the latter might be for example 4x as big.

Under this hypothesis, the present worth of the charges can be between 200 and 400% of the purchase price instead of your 50 to 100%.

If you agree with that, then we have an interesting argument for the entrepreneurs. If these transformers are after the main meter, they will have to pay for these losses and that is a good incentive to choose a good transformer.

I am looking forward to your reply.

Hi Norbert, this is a great question and I look forward to reading responses. I can’t speak to transformer losses, but believe most utilities in the United States understand that the cheapest solution is not usually the right way to go with transformers. Reliability and efficiency are very important. As it relates to T&D investment in general, I think a real problem in the U.S is the fact that there currently aren’t any efficiency standards. It seems that utilities are more likely to submit - and grid operators are more likely to approve - projects with the lowest upfront capital costs. From my point of view, efficiency and lifecycle costs are greatly overlooked. In today’s world, with demand for electricity expected to grow substantially, and climate change in center stage, it seems to be a horribly missed opportunity to ignore the importance of efficiency on the T&D system, including transformers and the wires themselves! As you may know, I was one of the developers of the high-capacity, low-sag ACCC Conductor. While we have policy issues in the U.S., I’m happy to report that several multinational banks are funding ACCC Installations, not only to support economic development, but also to help achieve GHG emission reduction initiatives. The ACCC Conductor reduces line losses by 30%. That is a big advantage, and shouldn’t be considered “project gold-plating.” Cheers!

Norbert Vasen's picture
Norbert Vasen on May 4, 2021

Hi Dave, thank you for your answer. Indeed wire losses are very important before the main meter. I saw now that you are of CTC Global, developer of the ACCC Conductor, a big energy and material saver on the high voltage lines. I think they must know that in Germany, where they have the problem of huge electric energy flows between the wind farms in the North and the big consumers in the South, thinking about reinforcing the power lines.

It is also important for the huge distances in USA, and other countries like China, where CTC Global has cooperation agreements, as I read. By the way, are the single conductors in the cable against eddy currents and are DC high voltage lines also made with those single conductors put together? Anyway, I think ACCC is also applicable to DC because of the replacement of the steel core by glass and carbon fiber.

Kind regards,


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