DOE emergency transformer study moves to Trump’s queue

USA, Washington D.C.: The U.S. Energy Department’ study on how to create an emergency stockpile of power grid transformers was supposed to be completed by the Obama administration, but the issue now lands in a crowded in-basket for President Trump’s designated DOE secretary.

A plan to build specially designed transformers for emergency deployment could fit well with Trump’s pledge to expand infrastructure spending and U.S. manufacturing output and jobs, reports E&E News.

An earlier strategy for coping with the transformer issue resulted in a prototype of an emergency replacement transformer called “RecX”, developed by the Department of Homeland Security, the Electric Power Research Institute and a power equipment manufacturer. The prototype was successfully tested at a Houston utility, but utilities have not followed with orders, according to officials.

DOE has previously obtained industry and outside expert views on whether a national transformer stockpile is needed and, if so, how it should be funded, citing a proposal by the Western Area Power Administration for a transformer stockpile program in which the federal government would purchase 110 large transformers for $324 million, providing a backup reserve for some 20,000 LPs.

However, the concern remains that if there were some issue because of the lack of uniformity between a variety of different transformers that may be taken out of business, how long it would actually take to get new transformers into place.

Now the issue passes over to the Trump administration‘s Energy Department. It will also inherit an uncompleted preparation of an emergency plan that would give the secretary of Energy wide-ranging authority to issue emergency orders to protect and bring back the grid, following declaration of a presidentially declared crisis.

A third project in the works is a study ordered by President Obama at the end of last year to test electronic devices that could block rogue currents from a solar storm or electromagnetic pulse burst from damaging transformers.

Source: E&E News