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by | May 13, 2020

IoT in Power Generation – Monitoring Transformers

This is the third blog in my series on how we can use IoT and Maximo to help solve business problems. The main focus will be the Power Generation industry given the criticality and high cost of its Assets and continued importance during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Site Vist: Large Industrial Transformers

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a working power station. I was given a full tour of the operations; I was able to speak with key workers on the site and visit the control room. I had many interesting conversations, but the one that stood out was around the giant transformers they had on site.

Typically, there is a lot of technology around transformer maintenance, however sometimes things are still missing and usually only the experts notice these things. The problem with relying on your most experienced maintenance technicians to notice is that as they represent a single point of failure, skills gaps can emerge unexpectedly if they are unavailable – or if their knowledge is not systemised – for whatever reasons. Businesses have the opportunity to utilise new technology to mitigate these risks.

~Engineer with red hardhat and protective workwear at work in power plant, near transformer~

Monitoring Temperature in Transformers

Moving away from the large industrial transformers for now… Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to play around with the big industrial transformers so we will talk small! Let’s think about smaller local transformers. What makes them tick and what issues do they face?

There are a lot of different properties to monitor in transformers, but temperature is an important variable. From the temperature of the transformer to ambient temperature to oil temperature. Some transformers (mainly industrial) are cooled by water from local rivers and this in itself can affect the performance of the cooling. For example, water above 23 degrees C will require an increased flow rate to keep the transformer cool. You can also monitor the power factor of the transformer and conduct oil analysis tests.

In addition, there is the chance of degradation inside the transformer. For instance, paper insulators could break down causing a build-up of gases inside the transformer. There are already some sensors being used in the larger transformers for detecting dissolved gases.

Transformer Monitoring Solution

For a basic transformer monitoring solution, we can monitor temperatures as these are vital in all transformers. As mentioned above, there are multiple different temperatures points we can monitor and gain insights into.

For internal temperatures, we can use small sensors that can have up to 10 years of battery life and send signals periodically to help preserve this life. They could trigger in a manner of 10 times per day or on change of state over a certain threshold.

We could also use the Weather channel to monitor the temperatures of the sounding areas which could be useful when using air-cooling or water cooling from the local area and determine ahead of time how the flow rate would need to be managed.

Joe McKay

Joe McKay

Joe is an IoT Technical Sales Specialist at BPD Zenith and joined us through the IBM Champions for Growth programme. His role is to help the business development teams, providing demonstrations and technical knowledge on how IoT offerings could help clients in their business. Joe is also assisting our Delivery and Support teams to implement and support these solutions.


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