Sub-zero, high-altitude challenge for Trafo

June 2021 News

Designing a dry-type transformer to function at -40⁰C temperatures at an altitude comparable to Everest’s base camp is one of the latest achievements of Johannesburg-based Trafo Power Solutions.

Supplying to a gold mine expansion in Kyrgyzstan, the company has provided a 3000 kVA transformer with a primary 6,3 kV and a secondary 400 V specification, which will operate at 4020 metres above sea level.

“The altitude alone presents particular challenges to the design, in terms of cooling,” says David Claassen, managing director of Trafo Power Solutions. “Most large electrical equipment is rated for 1000 metres or below, so we had to derate this unit to account for the altitude. The higher the location, the less efficient the cooling and the temperature range on site is between -40°C and 25°C.”

The eight tonne outdoor transformer has a specially designed enclosure to keep out snow, dust and moisture, while also extracting heat. Claassen notes that there is a risk of condensation when the transformer is turned off under these conditions: “We therefore built into our design a control system for automatically heating the enclosure when the transformer stops operating for any reason. The heaters will then, of course, be turned off again once the transformer resumes operation.”

Under the demanding environmental conditions, the enclosure was coated with a corrosion-resistant C5 paint plan. The design also included a neutral earth resistor with special surge protection elements. He highlights that Trafo Power Solution’s strategic partner TMC Transformers – a leading manufacturer based in Italy – has extensive experience in producing transformers for these severe conditions.

“A dry-type transformer is well-suited to these cold conditions as there is no fluid involved in the cooling process and it is fairly straightforward to provide the necessary heating and cooling as required,” he says. “There is also very little maintenance required, which is a great advantage in a remote location like this.”

With travel restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the customer could remotely witness the factory acceptance test conducted at TMC’s IEC-approved facility in Italy, which allows all routine and special testing to be done in-house. Trafo Power Solutions provided the customer with a published theoretical test report of the tolerances expected by the IEC. These were then compared to the actual readings obtained during the factory acceptance test, where he says the results came in well within IEC requirements.

For more information contact David Claassen, Trafo Power Solutions, +27 11 325 4007,,

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