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Hope for no Hurricanes!

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

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  • Aug 11, 2022
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This will be one of the toughest storm restoration seasons in history if we get serious hurricanes.

When you look at supply depots at many utilities the spare areas are not at the levels you normally see at this time of year.

If a hurricane takes out your service, and the equipment is not in stock, you may be without power for weeks, because there is little stock at other utilities that can be loaned out this year.

Supply chain issues and lead times are unable to complete the restocking from last year, and the year before. It will not get better and there are few utilities that are in great shape when it comes to spares.

Then you take the ramp up in circuit rebuilds and new circuits to keep up with the building boom, and to make the transition to electric transportation, building electrification and renewables, and the daily demand for equipment is up, with little to no increase in domestic production.

With ZERO help from the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill or the Inflation Reduction Act, both stoked new loads, but neither provided help or encouragement for domestic manufacturing of the grid equipment to support the new loads.

We still do not make transformer grade electrical steel in North America, and no one in Washington seems to care.

Lead times continue to increase, one manufacturer just quoted 103 weeks (almost 2 years) for service transformers (you know those green boxes that go in the front yard).

Most of the US has been lucky with few major storms that knocked on massive amounts of infrastructure (yes there have been huge fires, and nasty floods).

We need to stay lucky for a couple more years to rebuild stock and we need the manufacturers to build more capacity to supply the industry.

There is a 4 to 10 times increase in distribution construction coming and we still need storm spares. 

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Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Aug 13, 2022

We still do not make transformer grade electrical steel in North America, and no one in Washington seems to care.

Is that true?? I know we don't make large utility transformers, and that's a problem. I've heard that if a large utility transformer goes down, a replacement needs to be ordered and built overseas -- from Switzerland perhaps. The wait time for it to arrive can be six months to a couple of years. But large transformer cores, AFAIK, are fabricated from laminated sheets of the same type of amorphous steel used in high performance synchronous reluctance motors. The type of motors that Tesla uses. That type of steel was developed in the US by GE, I believe, and I can't imagine that it's no longer produced here. But maybe I'm wrong. The world it pretty crazy these days.

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