Electrical Power & Protection


Growing demand for modular substations

September 2023 Electrical Power & Protection

Dry-type transformer specialist Trafo Power Solutions has broadened its offerings to include modular substations – leveraging the company’s depth of experience in designing and providing custom-engineered electrical solutions.

“Since our entry into the market supplying dry-type transformers, we noticed an increasing demand for complementary systems related to their application,” says David Claassen, managing director of Trafo Power Solutions. “Our evolution began with customer recognition of the level of our in-house expertise, and requests for packaged solutions, which included our dry-type transformers.”

He adds that customers needed a reliable supply partner with the competence and experience to understand the specific demands of each project and application, and Trafo has proven itself in this role, right from the concept and design stage of a project through to facilitating the manufacture, delivery, and onsite commissioning.

He notes that modular substations, often referred to as E-house, are prefabricated or modular structures that house electrical equipment and systems. They are designed to provide a centralised and secure environment for critical electrical components and infrastructure. Often used in industrial settings, power plants, mining operations, oil and gas facilities, and other applications where reliable and efficient electrical power is essential, an E-house would house a variety of electrical equipment such as switchgear, transformers, motor control centres, distribution panels, and other power distribution and control devices.

“Most significantly, modular substations are built and tested in controlled workshop conditions, making the process more streamlined and cost effective, and ensuring optimum quality,” he continues. “Dry-type transformers are perfectly suited to the philosophy of modular substations, as they can be safely accommodated inside the compact structure, enhancing the benefits that modularity brings,” he says. “The attraction of the modular structure is that it can be more easily transported and installed on site – and having a built-in transformer just makes sense.”

Traditional oil-cooled transformers must be installed in a purpose-built structure for safety reasons, as there is a risk of leakage, fire, or explosion. This often means extra civil engineering construction on site, adding time and resources to the project. The cabling arrangement between the external transformer bay and the substation must then also be accommodated.

“The inherent safety of the dry-type transformer allows it to be installed close to the switchgear inside the modular substation, so there are shorter cable runs and easier installation,” he explains. “The extra cost and management of onsite civils work are also avoided this way.

“Increasing its solutions offering has bolstered the standing of Trafo Power Solutions in the market, as it no longer supplies just a single component,” he continues. “The company now provides a packaged and integrated solution that minimises its customers’ points of contact during their projects – be they an end user, or an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) company. Not only does this save them time, but it also considerably reduces the risks associated with integrating the different aspects of electrical projects. There is certainly a trend in the market where customers are looking for more integrated solutions, which allows better quality control and ease of installation.”

This has opened up opportunities for Trafo Power Solutions in a range of industries, many of which may not previously have considered the modular substation concept in their project planning. Increased interest is evident in sectors such as data centres, oil and gas, food and beverage, and renewable power generation.

The company has, in recent years, designed and supplied containerised transformer solutions for mining customers, including the remote Bisie mine in the north eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. So successful were these units that the mine recently ordered three more substations, again equipped with dry-type transformers.

“We expect the trend towards modular substations to continue strongly,” says Claassen. “We have, for instance, delivered multiple modular substations to a large data centre in Johannesburg. Here, we have provided a full medium-voltage modular solution including switchgear and transformers, complete with cooling and control systems.”

Trafo Power Solutions is also engaged in the manufacture of almost 40 mini-substations with dry-type transformers, following a large order from a copper mine in southern Africa. In all its transactions, the company is able to design and provide the required equipment with a quick lead time, assuring customers of on-time and on-budget delivery.

For more information contact Trafo Power Solutions, +27 11 325 4007, info@trafo.co.za, www.trafo.co.za




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