Power Transformer Shortage is Wreaking Havoc in the U.S.

News Brief by Kip Hansen — 13 March 2023

The New Scientist carries a story dated 11 March 2023 with this headline:

A massive power transformer shortage is wreaking havoc in the US “A nationwide shortage of power grid transformers is causing delays across the US for everything from infrastructure for electric vehicles to new homes”

“Across the US, new houses sit unfinished – construction can’t be completed until they are connected to the electricity grid. Utility companies worry about how quickly they can restore power after damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters. And nationwide efforts to modernize ageing electrical grids face delays of months or even years.”

E&E EnergyWire covered this ongoing situation last October in a piece titled: “How a transformer shortage threatens the grid

“…    the United States is undergoing a shortage of a range of transformers — spanning smaller, pole-top units on city streets to Virginia Transformer’s massive units — for reasons that vary depending on the equipment. That means utilities could struggle to add enough new wind and solar generation to meet the country’s net-zero goals and to keep the lights on when storms damage their depleted transformer stockpiles.”

Massive Grid Transformer constructed at Virginia Transformer

E&E references this year’s Department of Energy report, stating “The DOE report concludes that the supply of new transformers must multiply dramatically if the nation’s grid is to fill up with new wind and solar generation and EV charging. DOE and Commerce also warned that transformer supply is a national security issue — even without the added pressure of a clean energy transition.”

# # # # #

Author’s Comment:

I mentioned this slow-moving disaster in How Much of the Grid Must Be Upgraded.   I used this image:

There are grid transformers in all the red boxes which include areas that will need upgrading, just to allow for EV charging stations at homes and businesses. 

In that essay, I said “I’m not sure we can even supply the components for the transformation.”  Apparently, that is already true, at least for transformers. 

Many others have written about grid related problems here at WUWT.

Thanks for reading.

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Tom Halla
March 14, 2023 6:07 am

The electric grid is just assumed by green politicians. They seem to have the same level of understanding of the grid as my cat does doorknobs.

Bryan A
Reply to  Tom Halla
March 14, 2023 6:21 am

Then we might be in luck…

Tom Halla
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 6:58 am

Knobs, not levers.

Rick C
Reply to  Tom Halla
March 14, 2023 8:31 am

My cat has studied the operation of the door knob and I’m sure he understands the principle. However the lack of thumbs clearly frustrates the heck out of him.

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 14, 2023 12:59 pm

doubling down on stoopid i see

Bryan A
Reply to  Steven Mosher
March 14, 2023 4:06 pm

Too funny

Redge
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 14, 2023 11:45 am

Most amoebae are too

Richard Greene
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 17, 2023 3:33 am

My cat has been insulted !

Richard Greene
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 7:41 am

My cat goes and sits on a furnace floor heat vent when he hears
the furnace goes on. But no cat I’ve ever owned was door opening smart.

Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 7:45 am

My oldest son has a cat (part Maine Coon) that can actually open the door to his bedroom using a knob and not a lever. The cat likes to sleep under his bed to get away from the two other cats in the house.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 14, 2023 7:52 am

I’ve been wanting to buy a Maine Coon cat for years ever since I saw some at a “cat show”. They are gorgeous but very expensive. I’ve always been a cat lover.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 14, 2023 7:56 am

He’s a big fella but not full size Maine Coon. Still eats a lot. But he doesn’t bully the other cats, mostly just ignores them. Don’t know if that is typical MC.

Richard Greene
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 14, 2023 8:33 am

Maine coon cats can be up to 18 pounds
I’d like a hybrid savannah cat, up to 25 pounds,
Big enough to be scary.
$1,000 being offered to person who reunites Savannah cat owner with lost pet that went missing in Denham Springs | Breaking News | livingstonparishnews.com

But i always adopt whatever adult cat I find at the animal pound that no one else wants.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 10:24 am

I raised a feral kitten that was a long-haired, tiger-striped cat that resembled his mother. He was the smartest cat I ever owned and weighed 20 lbs when he was a year old. And, he was not fat. I always suspected that he was part bobcat.

Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 1:02 pm

25 pounds?
thats a month of stew

Tony_G
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 14, 2023 10:07 am

Joseph, you might be able to find a “mutt” Maine Coon if you look around. They’re generally healthier too. In my experience, MC traits tend to dominate if they’re a 50/50 mix.

Richard, I think 18 is more on the low end. This might amuse you: https://www.mainecooncentral.com/biggest-maine-coon-cat-in-the-world/

Never heard of the Savannah cat, that’s a pretty big one too!

Richard Greene
Reply to  Tony_G
March 17, 2023 3:39 am

The coon cats at the link are like the Shaquille O’Neal’s of Maine coon cats. Their long fur makes then look bigger. The male coon I saw was about 20 lbs. The female coon was much smaller.

The savannah cats are large enough to scare me. I said 25lbs. but that was for a male — the females can be half that weight. Their short hair does not make them look bigger, like the long hair of the coon cats.

The strangest cat I ever saw was a hairless cat owned by someone who claimed to be allergic to cat hair. Really ugly.

I don’t understand why there would be such a big weight difference between male and female coon cats and savannah cats.

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard Greene
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 14, 2023 10:19 am

Is it smart enough to close the door behind himself to keep the other cats out?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 14, 2023 1:53 pm

Don’t know. Never checked. But the other two aren’t big on getting under the beds. They like to sleep on the mantle over the fireplace! or on top of the bed.

DonM
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 14, 2023 1:29 pm

Had a regular (but smarter than all the others) tabby that would jump up onto the 1.5″ wide metal railing at the front door and reach out with both ‘hands’ to try to turn the knob.

As far as I know he only succeeded twice … we would hear him messing with the knob and let him (not giving him the chance to fall 15′ off the other side of the railing, and not giving him the chance to succeed at opening the front door).

He wasn’t strong enuf to pull the refrigerator door open, but he did try.

‘Slide knobs’ (like old medicine cabinets or camper storage) were no problem for him.

Didn’t have any levers, but he did stand on the car door (as well as he could) and just paw at the handle … he never quite put a lot of effort into the car doors.

Reply to  DonM
March 14, 2023 1:55 pm

This cat does what you said – grab the knob between his paws and rotate it. My son usually just locks the door if he doesn’t want the cat in the bedroom, the cat hasn’t figured out how to use a screwdriver to open it!

More Soylent Green!
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 9:00 am

We had a cat who could do that. He was smart enough to pull it open from the inside.

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 14, 2023 12:57 pm

They seem to have the same level of understanding of the grid as my cat does doorknobs.

sadly the stupid GND green new deal spend a bunch on the grid.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590332219302258

 The roadmaps call for countries to move all energy to 100% clean, renewable wind-water-solar (WWS) energy, efficiency, and storage no later than 2050 with at least 80% by 2030. We find that countries and regions avoid blackouts despite WWS variability. Worldwide, WWS reduces energy needs by 57.1%, energy costs from $17.7 to $6.8 trillion/year (61%), and social (private plus health plus climate) costs from $76.1 to $6.8 trillion/year (91%) at a capital cost of ∼$73 trillion. WWS creates 28.6 million more long-term, full-time jobs than are lost and needs only 0.17% and 0.48% of land for footprint and space, respectively. Thus, WWS needs less energy, costs less, and creates more jobs than current energy.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Steven Mosher
March 14, 2023 1:26 pm

And if you believe that is realistic, do you want to invest in my voodoo acupuncture venture?

Drake
Reply to  Steven Mosher
March 14, 2023 2:15 pm

#1, The second W, Water, has nothing to do with the Green New Deal.
A) Hydro has been around for a long time
B) Show me one instance of these green new deal people even proposing a new dam, much less building one.

#2 How does WWS reduce energy needs by 57.1 %?
A) By nations covered in the study shutting down their heavy industry and offshoring it?
B) By raising prices so much people, you know the poor hated by all green energy supporters, reduce their living standard by reducing their energy usage.

#3 28.6 million MORE long term, full time jobs than are lost?
A) So more jobs to produce the same “energy” and some how the new better is less expensive. I call BS. One article I read, the first I read, which spends much time talking GREEN crap gives the current worldwide energy sector employment at 60 million. So a 50 % increase in workers to produce less “energy”?

#4 How does WWS reduce the footprint for energy output?
A) Solar requires massively MORE land area to produce an equivalent AVERAGE daily output than any FF or Nuclear plant requires.
B) Even in the most wind friendly locations, the turbine footprints, roads to those sites, roads and right of ways for transmission lines, etc. take up FAR MORE land area than conventional generation facilities which can e built where convenient to the users, not where the BEST wind is.
C) As to off shore wind, how many whales has just the surveying killed. How much interference in the current fishing industry, i.e., areas no longer suitable to current fishing patterns?

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 14, 2023 5:47 pm

Torpedo the damns!

Bryan A
Reply to  Nick Stokes
March 14, 2023 10:33 pm

Ahead full steam

MarkW
Reply to  Bryan A
March 15, 2023 9:23 am

Ahead full stream

usurbrain
Reply to  Drake
March 16, 2023 9:55 am

Although great for providing stabilization Water has problems. One only needs to calculate the area needed for Pumped Storage (water) sufficient to provide more than two weeks backup for the local Electric Utility, to realize there is insufficient suitable areas in the US.
Local storage is needed as Hurricanes, Tornados and heavy snowstorms like to knock down high voltage transmission lines [Look at the number and size of the present snowstorm related outages.].

MarkW
Reply to  Steven Mosher
March 14, 2023 5:37 pm

So many half truths and out right lies, it must be a global warming troll.

The claim that just because someone claims they have budgeted to spend money 30 years from now, is not evidence that there will be transformers available to buy at that time.

Just because countries with 20% renewable didn’t have their grids crash is not evidence that there will be no problems as renewables continue to replace workable power sources.
Beyond that, the only reason why the grids haven’t crashed in the past two winters is because coal fired power plants were brought back online. Many of those coal plants were originally scheduled to have been torn down, but were saved from the wrecking balls because utilities knew they would be needed the next time wind and solar failed.
Only a socialist would think that you can get rich by having twice as many people perform the same amount of work.
And of course, it completes his litany of lines by repeating the many tiems refuted lie that wind and solar are cheap. That has never been true, and even you should know it.

Bryan A
March 14, 2023 6:18 am

Considering that …
Most people have 2 cars (his and hers)
Most people work during the day and will recharge overnight
The average home charging power use is 50A (amp) which draws 12kVA of load from the TX.
And given average All Electric home power usage (gas will be unavailable)
You will need to install either ALL 100KVA rated Transformers on most every pole serving no more than 4 houses or comparable UG build-up…
Or you will need to require off grid Rooftop Solar installations and Powerwall battery charging for every home so cars can recharge off grid…
And EVERY parking space on the street or in a public garage will need a charging pad installed.
Perhaps a wireless charging system similar to Cell Phone tech

ResourceGuy
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 6:39 am

There will be another unfunded stimulus spending opportunity soon enough to “pay” for street parking and apartment upgrades and shame any potential opposition.

Buttigieg says America’s highways are racist and infrastructure bill will help fix it (yahoo.com)

MarkW
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 12:08 pm

Wireless charging only works because the amount of power needed is so low, and because the phone can physically touch the charging station. The gap between the bottom of the car and the surface of the street is going to make an already inefficient system, even more inefficient.
Beyond that, wireless charging will likely cost even more per charging station than existing technologies.

Bryan A
Reply to  MarkW
March 14, 2023 7:53 pm

That could be provided for by having the car lower the charging pads to the parking pad once parked

MarkW
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 8:55 pm

Yet another mechanism to add cost and unreliability.
Even if that was done, you still haven’t gotten over the fact that these non-contact chargers are very inefficient in the best of circumstances.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 10:10 pm

Rain, snow, sleet, hail, trash?

doonman
Reply to  Bryan A
March 14, 2023 2:09 pm

Charging batteries to charge batteries is a stupid idea.

Bryan A
Reply to  doonman
March 14, 2023 7:54 pm

Agreed but then Battery EVs are stoopid too

usurbrain
Reply to  Bryan A
March 16, 2023 10:18 am

This is the main reason to avoid EVs. Calculate the copper needed to provide the copper for all of this infrastructure, $Trillions every year through 2050. Keep in mind that as soon as the projects start the price of copper will increase by at least ~50% each and every year. Worse, the environmental disasters of mining and smelting the copper will be released destroying the atmosphere worse than the CO2 has and will. And only a GND Zealot would even think of using Aluminum instead of copper. [Search “Environmental impacts of mining and smelting copper and Aluminum (separately).]

Reply to  usurbrain
March 16, 2023 10:28 am

Think about this – stealing air conditioning compressor units for the copper is already big business in the US.

What is going to happen with outside charging units that have transformers associated with them? What is going to happen to all the charging cords used to connect to the charging units?

I can visualize two hoodlums going down an urban street with bolt cutters and a pipe cutter collecting all the copper then can. What then for the residents that need to charge their EV’s?

usurbrain
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 16, 2023 12:38 pm

New copper wire with the rated capacity to charge an EV is selling for well over a USD per Foot.

Alastair Brickell
March 14, 2023 6:18 am

Let’s hope they get this sorted before we have another Carrington Event.

tregonsee
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
March 14, 2023 7:50 am

Or an EMP attack.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  tregonsee
March 14, 2023 10:27 am

You just thought that you would run that balloon up and see what kind of attention it got.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
March 15, 2023 6:51 am

The transformer problem definitely needs to be addressed now.

A government commission a couple of years ago studied EMP and its effects on the electrical grid and concluded that the United States needed to build spare transformers and other equipment now in case such an event happened. Otherwise, it could take years to get the electrical grids back up and running.

The commission calculated it would require about $3 billion to build these spares and keep them on hand. A small amount considering how much damage would be caused if these spares were not readily available.

The last I heard, the government and private industry were arguing over who should pay these costs, and nothing has been done.

Our leaders are seriously lacking. They don’t have any foresight, and they don’t see the Big Picture. All they see is their little piece of the picture, which is not much help to the rest of us.

ResourceGuy
March 14, 2023 6:31 am

So, the answer is to go full speed ahead with IRA and extend it to made in Mexico and Canada operations. The Titantic was sailing at full speed on a moonless night also.

rah
March 14, 2023 6:42 am

Don’t worry, California will have a “solution” to that problem.

dk_
Reply to  rah
March 14, 2023 6:50 am

Solution: The watering down of a solid material so that it may be both undetectable and more easily swallowed.

rah
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 14, 2023 9:46 am

Of course. For example: After telling EV owners not to charge their vehicles during a power shortage, the geniuses are now trying to make is so EV owners will have to hook up and have their vehicle batteries drained in order to “stabilize the grid” during times of peak demand!

Richard Greene
Reply to  rah
March 14, 2023 8:45 am

California ALWAYS has a solution to EVERY problem
Watch what California does
Then do the opposite
CA is so bad even my leftist relatives moved out !

rah
Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 9:50 am

And I suspect some moved to a red state bringing their unchanged leftist “values” with them. They’re much like locusts.

At least they don’t seem to think that Indiana is a good place for them.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  rah
March 14, 2023 10:29 am

Leftist California expats are ruining Texas and Colorado.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 14, 2023 10:11 pm

Yes, they move, but don’t do the causal analysis of why they moved.

Ann Banisher
Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 11:02 am

…and California ALWAYS creates 2 problems with EVERY solution.

another ian
Reply to  rah
March 15, 2023 2:35 am

Works equally well as “California will have a problem for that solution “(IMO)

JamesB_684
March 14, 2023 6:55 am

President Biden just needs to call his good buddy and employer, President Xi, and ask for China to ramp up production for China’s declared enemy. That’ll sort this out quickly.

More Soylent Green!
Reply to  JamesB_684
March 14, 2023 9:02 am

There is SO MUCH we can learn from China if we would just open our eyes.

MarkW
Reply to  More Soylent Green!
March 14, 2023 12:10 pm

If we could learn to look out for our own interests first, that would at least be a start.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  JamesB_684
March 15, 2023 7:02 am

I see where the Chicoms paid the Biden family about $3 million a few months after Biden left the office of the vice president, according to congressional sources.

The Chicoms sent the cash to a contact and this contact distributed the $3 million to three Biden accounts, including a new Biden name that had not been known to be involved in the Biden Crime Family influence peddling. The congressman didn’t name the new Biden, but the best guess I have seen so far is it is Jim Biden’s wife.

And the congressman asked the question: “What did the Chicoms get for paying the Biden’s $3 million dollars?

And this payment reveal will be just one of many that are going to become public over the course of time, as the Republican House is finally getting access to the documents they need to expose the Biden Crime Family. The Trafficer-in-Chief, Joe Biden, is going to be in serious trouble over his influence peddling. He has no good explanation for why the Chicoms and the Russians and the Ukrainians, and many others, paid his family millions of dollars over the years.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tom Abbott
ferdberple
March 14, 2023 6:58 am

Can the US even make the largest transformers? Aren’t they made overseas with many years between order and delivery?

Richard Greene
Reply to  ferdberple
March 14, 2023 8:02 am

I doubt if the location of the manufacturing is a major problem

One of the world’s leading transformer manufacturers is Mitsubishi Electric, a Japanese multinational with headquarters in Chiyoda City, Tokyo, Japan. Among the types of transformers produced by the company are gas-insulated, recti-former, substation, auto, and traction transformers.

On average, Japanese shipments arrive at the West Coast in 15-20 days. Ships arrive at ports located on the East Coast in 25-30 days. That’s only a small part of the problem.

Olsun Electrics, an American custom transformer manufacturer, has been designing and manufacturing transformers for almost 70 years.

Siemens Corporation is a world-renowned manufacturer and service company that provides power transformers including generator step-up transformers, autotransformers, LTC transformers, and shunt reactors. The company has its US headquarters located in Washington, DC, and has been in business since 1847.

China is one of the most important power transformer producers in the world.

Top Manufacturers and Suppliers of Transformers in the USA (thomasnet.com)

Drake
Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 8:51 am

Anything that can be manufactured in China COULD be manufactured in the US.

Put the proper import duties on the products and some entrepreneur will fill the need here.

First, eliminate China most favored nation status.

Second, remove China from the WTO. If the “world” will not go along, remove the US from the WTO

Third, Increase tariffs on all iron and steel to rebuild the US metal industry infrastructure.

Years ago, around 1984, I was an electrician connecting AC units on the roof of a strip mall. I noticed, way back THEN, that the bank of gas pipes from the meter location to the individual units was all pipe made in Korea. Basic black iron gas pipe made outside the US. The free trade crowd had already, in the early 80s, priced the US out of the black iron pipe industry. Sad.

As a Fire Inspector, about 6 years ago before I retired, while inspecting the fire sprinklers in a remodel I noticed wet spots on the floor where old sprinkler heads had been removed and the piping was plugged. I found the box of plugs and noted they were made in China. The castings were so porous that water was leaking THROUGH the plugs. I required the contractor to get plugs produced to the standards listed in the Sprinkler Code and replace all the crap plugs they had installed. He was not very happy, the cost of replacing including bringing a scissor lift in “lost me money on this job”. I had a hard time not laughing in his face when he ranted that.

That contractor was known for trying to cheap everything he could. After that occurrence, I was more likely to check the material boxes laying around on job sites to verify the materials being used were listed.

Some contractors never a problem. others always a problem.

More Soylent Green!
Reply to  Drake
March 14, 2023 9:08 am

I remain unconvinced that tarrifs work. We do need to eliminate our dependence on China, especially for critical infrastructure components and we fo need to fight China’s exploitative and mercantilist trade practices.

We really need to stop doing business with our strategic enemies. It’s a fantasy to believe that trade leads to peace. When has that ever worked?

JamesB_684
Reply to  More Soylent Green!
March 14, 2023 9:55 am

How do you reduce/eliminate dependence on our strategic opponents without tariffs and removal of Most Favored Nation designations?

c1ue
Reply to  ferdberple
March 14, 2023 8:25 am

The US does make large transformers, but the US makers’ capacity is only about 1/3 of what is actually ordered – which in turn is less than what is needed.
A huge percentage of the large transformers in the US are literally a generation old, and lead times for new large transformers is in the months/years time frame.
There was a report written in 2012 talking about this – so it isn’t like this is a new problem: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/Large%20Power%20Transformer%20Study%20-%20June%202012_0.pdf

Drake
Reply to  c1ue
March 14, 2023 2:21 pm

The thing is that those transformers last a really long time.

If the NEW infrastructure for wind and solar was not being built, the number of transformers would probably be reduced to the past capacity. It is the added capacity of unnecessary unreliable generation capacity that, IMHO, is the cause of this crises. Yet another crises that society must find a way to pay for. Let the poor starve, cold in the dark!

c1ue
Reply to  Drake
March 15, 2023 5:08 am

They last a long time but not forever. The report notes that “The average age of installed LPTs in the United States is
approximately 40 years, with 70 percent of LPTs being 25 years or older”
There is also a graph showing that there was massive transformer installation from 1952 to 1972 – so we are talking 50 to 70 year old transformers from that era. I don’t know how long large power transformers are expected to last but “regular” transformers are rated for 25 years…

Last edited 2 months ago by c1ue
Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 7:34 am

This problem existed in 2021 with lead times averaging one yea. , By Fall 2022 lead times were 1.5 to 2 years. The problem is not new and has not been getting fixed.

Amost two weeks ago, a transformer exploded on a telephone pole in my backyard moments before we lost electric power (as loud as nearby thunder after lightening hit a tree in the back yard), I was worried about repairs. But that was just a very common small residential transformer, and not a two year wait.

“Residential electrical transformer – It must be less than 150 millimeters in diameter. Large commercial electrical transformer – It must be greater than 150 millimeters in diameter. Each size of the transformer operates at different voltages.”
SOURCE OF QUOTE, includes photos of various transformers
The Ultimate Guide To Utility Transformers and Its Benefits (daelim-electric.com)

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 7:35 am

Just a quick note. The image shows secondary customers as 120v/240v. Those are typically residential customers served with single phase lines. There are also secondary customers that use 3-phase service, typically 440v in the US. These are usually industrial users and large commercial users needing to service large loads.

JamesB_684
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 14, 2023 10:53 am

Industrial users often use “medium voltage” systems, which are defined in ANSI C84.1 as >= 2400 v to ~ 38 kv. High voltage systems start at 115,000 v.
Higher voltage generally means lower current and thinner conductors.

Walter Sobchak
March 14, 2023 7:36 am

Details,details, details. why must you always quibble about details.

How can we produce the best yearbook ever with all of your complaining.

barryjo
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
March 14, 2023 8:48 am

Years ago, my district manager attended a meeting to come up with some new policy manual. The first 3 hours were devoted to discussing the color of the binder. He left!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  barryjo
March 14, 2023 11:02 am

That reminds me of my favorite episode in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: After the B Ark crashed on the primitive Earth, the graduate marketing manager is holding the umpteenth meeting to show and discuss prototypes of essential inventions necessary to survive. She is presenting a variant of the wheel, which in her resurrection is an octagon with the axle parallel to the plane of the wheel, and the 8 triangular sections painted different colors. Arthur Dent slaps his forehead, loudly complaining that she can’t even get the simplest invention right. She, standing with legs spread and hands on hips, petulantly says, “OK, if you’re so smart, what color would you paint it?”

Last edited 2 months ago by Clyde Spencer
nailheadtom
March 14, 2023 7:40 am

In parts of the US utility crews spend whole days restoring residential power lost by squirrels electrocuting themselves on top of transformers.

Editor
Reply to  nailheadtom
March 14, 2023 7:58 am

Add to that: mylar party balloons and transformers. Blowing out birthday cake candles is much more festive in the dark.

Regards,
Bob

Richard Greene
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
March 14, 2023 9:57 am

A few months ago we were at a vision store where the wife was buying eyeglasses. I was looking out the window at a loose mylar party balloon. I watched it blow around until it rose up and hit the electric line.
Instant blackout at the strip mall. We could not pay for the eyeglasses and had to come back later when they had power back I was surprised by how vulnerable the wires were.

Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 2:22 pm

Most people have no idea. Remember all the hoopla about some substation transformers being shot at in North Carolina? That was probably just some good old boys just having some drunken fun. If you *really* want to cause some major impact there are lots of other targets that would cause an order of magnitude more problems.

Greg61
Reply to  nailheadtom
March 14, 2023 9:31 am

I once worked for a GE appliances factory. Once in a while when one of the union workers wanted a Friday afternoon off, they would throw a sandwich on top of one of the transformers. Usually worked and cooked a squirrel within a few minutes.

David Dibbell
March 14, 2023 8:04 am

With all the additional intermittent wind and solar sources and all the additional away-from-home charging stations used intermittently, the load factor for the new transformers will be low. This means that much more copper and other materials will be less effectively utilized.

It all ends up degrading the overall effectiveness of the capital employed to deliver electricity. Not good. We will all be paying more per kWh to make up for it.

Steve Case
March 14, 2023 8:08 am

If you ever visit Door County, WI a good side trip is the boat trip out to Rock Island State Park. At this point why am I posting this? Well, if you look at that triplet of pole mounted transformers in the leading illustration, the inventor/patent holder
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Thordarson
for those things made a lot of money and before passing way started his mansion on Rock Island. Only the boat house was completed.
https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/rockisland
See the preceding link for Rock Island State Park.

rbcherba
March 14, 2023 8:10 am

Maybe reality is starting to catch up with the ignorant who think we can instantly transition to an all-electric economy.

A comment re residential transformers — back in the olden days (late 1950s) I spent a couple of summers working in the distribution engineering department of a utility. It was common practice in those days to specify transformers which would operate at least part of the time at about 20% above the their rating. So, if you think the existing transformers in your neighborhood have some spare capacity that will accommodate our new all-electric future, you may be disappointed.

Drake
Reply to  rbcherba
March 14, 2023 9:03 am

AND pole mounted transformers and transmission/distribution line replacements will be EASY compared to ground mounted underground fed residential transformers. I have one sitting in front of my house that feeds 6 houses on the cul de sac. The transformer was installed in the late 70s. The neighborhood has gas heat, gas water heaters and gas dryers ONLY when the houses were built. They do all have electric Air Conditioners. ONE high output car charger installed on that transformer would probably overload it on a hot summer day or night when the ACs are all running. I have noticed and recorded low voltage conditions on hot summer afternoons, down below 220V, just as it is now.

There has been no analysis done of how expensive this will be. Replacing ALL the underground distribution to these transformers will be incredibly expensive, even IF they can upsize the conductors in existing conduit. If not, the expenses will multiply 10 to 100 fold.

Reply to  Drake
March 14, 2023 2:08 pm

How about on-street charging? Can you imagine the costs to dig up all the sidewalks in an urban area like the Central West End in St. Louis just to lay electric cable to all the chargers that would be needed?

Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 8:20 am

Great article that will be first on my list of recommended articles tomorrow.
This subject got a lot of attention in Fall 2022 and then was forgotten.
Like the problem would go away if not talked about?
Honest Climate Science and Energy Blog

So lets add transformer shortages to the growing list of Nut Zero problems

Lithium shortage
Cobalt shortage
Copper shortage
Money shortage
Time shortage

Lack of global warming for the past eight years

Lack of a detailed Nut Zero plan
for every company involved,
resulting in:

(1) Lack of engineering feasibility analysis
(2) Lack of cost analysis
(3) Lack of timing critical path analysis

MOST IMPORTANT:
Nut Zero leadership intelligence shortage

Nut zero leadership (politicians and activists, not grid engineers) are currently busy developing excuses for the press release when the Nut Zero project collapses. In the lead so far are these five excuses:

(1) “Things are not going according to plan
because there never was a plan”

(2) “There was an alarming increase
in the number of things
we knew nothing about”

(3) “By doing just a little every day,
we gradually let the Nut Zero task
completely overwhelm us”

(4) “This was Trump’s fault”

(5) “A big dog ate our plans”

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard Greene
Steve Case
Reply to  Richard Greene
March 14, 2023 10:01 am

“Things are not going according to plan
because there never was a plan”
_____________________________________

BINGO!

Drake
March 14, 2023 8:24 am

Kip,

You missed two segments on your nice pictogram of the transmission and delivery of electricity.

The second and third set of generation facilities, the unreliable generation systems for wind and solar, each of which is wasting transformers and transmission lines since all electrical power required to be delivered to end users must come from the reliable primary generating facilities.

Otherwise well done, as always.

BTW: When there becomes real need for transformers, some will be found stored at unreliable “generation” facilities and transmission infrastructure from those to the grid, ready to be removed and transported to where they can actually be beneficial to the ratepayers.

Drake

Rick C
March 14, 2023 8:43 am

All the stuff needed for the so called energy transition – EVs, wind turbines, transmission lines, transformers, solar arrays require massive amounts of copper. These segments are all competing with each other to acquire the the same basis materials in ever greater quantities. Prices are going to go up a lot.

n.n
Reply to  Rick C
March 14, 2023 8:54 am

progressive prices, equitable energy, renewable profits

Aetiuz
March 14, 2023 8:43 am

You know what could really help? A trillion-dollar government infrastructure program. Yeah. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Maybe some clever politician will come up with a trillion-dollar plan to fix our electrical infrastructure. Then, all our problems will be solved.
/s of course.

Beta Blocker
March 14, 2023 8:47 am

Take a look at Virginia Transformer’s web site for a look at their future plans. The Net Zero transition plays a big part in their plans for future sales growth. Note that their web site includes a picture of Secretary of Energy Granholm’s participation at a plant opening ribbon cutting ceremony.

Given that the government-dictated transition into Net Zero will force a rapid expansion of the nation’s power transmission and distribution network — and that the expansion will result in powerful competition among green energy projects for access to limited supplies of power distribution technology — then Virginia Transformer should be in an excellent position to charge premium prices for the equipment it sells.

Energy policy makers don’t particularly care what the Net Zero transition will cost. It is therefore likely that new-build wind and solar projects will have defacto priority access to limited supplies of power transmission and distribution equipment, simply for the fact that subsidized renewable energy projects can afford to pay whatever the equipment suppliers might charge for their products.

If you are Virginia Transformer, or if you produce power transmission and distribution equipment in China or in other parts of Asia to serve a North American market which is growing too fast for domestic equipment manufacturers to serve, then no one should be criticizing you for taking good advantage of what is a ‘windfall’ power equipment market dictated by government-mandated green energy policies.

Last edited 2 months ago by Beta Blocker
Jim Gorman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 14, 2023 6:57 pm

So far all I have seen mentioned here are the transformers. Has anyone ever looked at a simple residential substation? There is much more than just transformers. Insulators, switches, breakers, concrete, etc. How about poles, cross-arms, insulators, switches, breakers, and new larger wiring for distribution? And last but far from least, the trained personnel to install this stuff. Making high voltage, high current, waterproof connections takes a lot of skill and training. I have been posting about this for years now. I suspect lead times will be at least a decade and probably more for installation. Any Greeny expecting this to be done by 2030 or even 2035 is smoking dope!

n.n
March 14, 2023 8:51 am

Net-Zero

Gary Pearse
March 14, 2023 10:10 am

Any idea what is holding up production? Surely manufacturers must have recognized the market opportunity if they have known since mid last year. Maybe in this new economic paradigm manufactures need to be subsidized to make stuff.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
March 14, 2023 2:25 pm

Mines can only provide a certain level of raw materials without major investment and/or environmental damage. Just saying you need more transformers doesn’t automatically generate more copper mines.

Clyde Spencer
March 14, 2023 10:15 am

Shortage? Just wait for the next Carrington Event and then tell me about shortages! We should be stockpiling transformers because it will be ever more difficult to manufacture them if there isn’t any electricity at the manufacturing plants.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 14, 2023 2:28 pm

My guess is that there isn’t a single politician in Wash, DC that has a clue as to what a Carrington even is or what it can do.

Mr Ed
March 14, 2023 11:17 am

This is a well done article and an important part of our energy situation.

A good friend of mine owns a large box store type building supply business
and last fall while shopping there I had a conversation with him on the
high local growth in construction and how the local utility had build
a new large transmission site out a few miles. I brought up the subject
of transformers and he told me that he was told if his transformer in his
facility were to fail he was told that it would take 8 years to have a replacement
available…I was stunned 8 years? Is that real? Monster windmills and acres of
solar panels but no transformers??

Reply to  Mr Ed
March 14, 2023 2:36 pm

eight years sounds a little extreme. Is he sure they didn’t say 8 weeks or 8 months?

Mr Ed
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 14, 2023 4:15 pm

I’m going to ask again when I next see him. The building is maybe 200k sq ft.
There were a series of sub-stations damaged late last year in OR and
WA. Not sure what that was about or how the repairs went.
IIRC he said something like they don’t make the large size transformers
here in the US anymore. I’m sure someone here would know..

Mr Ed
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 14, 2023 6:21 pm

Thanks, read the Virginia Transformer piece, interesting
story and it’s nice to see some homegrown products being
made. I’ve always thought we should focus on grid security
more than the green wind and sun.

Nik
March 14, 2023 11:19 am

Any expansion of electric power transmission or distribution that is aimed at providing capacity to serve EVs should be prioritized last until the shortage of capacity for serving conventional production and consumption needs is satisfied.

Peta of Newark
March 14, 2023 11:54 am

So what is the holdup here – skilled people, materials, petty pollution regulations or what?

Esp as how China is bringing new coal plants online every week – they can hardly be short of transformers.
Maybe that Granholm woman was correct when she said that:”The US could learn from China” – as covered in a PointAndLaugh article on here recently.
Who’s laughing now eh?

Meanwhile, this is a true delight – you sooooo want to climb in there and help.

johchi7
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 16, 2023 9:33 am

I watched this several weeks ago and it’s very informative watching them work. The quantity of steel, copper, oil, ceramics and paper used is where it really makes a difference. But the actual skilled labor involved is impressive. Whether it’s a step-up or step-down transformer it requires layers of steel sheeting to dissipate heat in both dry and oil cooled wet transformers that is created by the current flowing through them. That these employees are highly paid in a depressed country to produce high priced transformers when/if sold to other countries less depressed that have large mark-ups over the manufacturer’s cost to produce them prices.

As I’ve said in other comments, I tinkered with alternative energy types and using old transformers from microwave ovens and other sources to step-up or step-down the voltage. I wanted to learn how they’re made to make them myself for other projects.

ATheoK
March 14, 2023 12:06 pm

“Across the US, new houses sit unfinished – construction can’t be completed until they are connected to the electricity grid. Utility companies worry about how quickly they can restore power after damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters. And nationwide efforts to modernize ageing electrical grids face delays of months or even years.”

“Across the US, new houses sit unfinished”

New construction is a capital expenditure. As such, government and many businesses require capital expenditure plans out to 15 years or longer in certain cases.

Much of Government and some businesses work with a 5 year capital plan.

Capital planning is supposed to account for all aspects of the capital expenditure, including all dependencies and downstream impacts.
Experienced planners start the order process for critical structure well in advance of the main capital expenditure.

Utility companies worry about how quickly they can restore power after damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters.”

Still, a planning issue. Except quite a few Utility companies have stopped serious planning since politicians caved to irrational alarmists.

One does expect that some people in the Utility companies continuously locate, procure and maintain adequate backup equipment inventory.

nationwide efforts to modernize ageing electrical grids face delays of months or even years.”

I’ve heard there is a lot of money for nationwide architecture and grid equipment.
The big question are there sufficient capital planners with true long term construction plans, or will government agencies and lackadaisical planners simply throw money at suppliers.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  ATheoK
March 14, 2023 4:27 pm

Consider the difficulties in repairing or replacing transformers in a post-Carrington world. The trucks carrying transformers, if transformers are available as inventory, can travel no farther than half a fuel tank of diesel, because there is no electricity to run the pumps at gas stations along the route. With no electricity to pump gasoline, the repairmen would quickly run out of gas to commute between home and work. The utility repair headquarters would need a substantial supply of diesel fuel to run generators to refuel truck fuel tanks and make electricity for onsite welding and lighting. It would be a nightmare! Are any major utilities making plans for a Carrington Event or EMP?

MarkW
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 14, 2023 5:50 pm

You seem to feel that utilities have done nothing over the last 75 years to beef up their grids to handle EMP.

If the grid can handle lightning strikes, it can handle an EMP or Carrington event.
Yes, EMP events are larger, however this just means that more circuit breakers will get involved.
Beyond that, the rise time of an EMP is much slower than the rise time for a lightning strike, which means the EMP is easier for existing equipment to handle.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
March 14, 2023 8:47 pm

I don’t consider myself to be an expert in hardening of power grids, and I didn’t speak directly to that issue. However, Encyclopedia Britannica unequivocally says,

For a high-yield explosion of approximately 10 megatons detonated 320 km (200 miles) above the centre of the continental United States, almost the entire country, as well as parts of Mexico and Canada, would be affected by EMP—destroying practically all electronic devices and electrical transformers.

Wikepedia describes the components of a nuclear EMP thusly:

The E1 pulse is a very fast component of nuclear EMP. E1 is a brief but intense electromagnetic field that induces high voltages in electrical conductors. E1 causes most of its damage by causing electrical breakdown voltages to be exceeded. E1 can destroy computers and communications equipment and it changes too quickly (nanoseconds) for ordinary surge protectors to provide effective protection from it. Fast-acting surge protectors (such as those using TVS diodes) will block the E1 pulse.

It then goes on to say,

Because of the similarities and the widespread use of lightning protection technology, E2 is generally considered to be the easiest to protect against.

However,

The most significant risk is synergistic because the E2 component follows a small fraction of a second after the first component’s insult, which has the ability to impair or destroy many protective and control features. The energy associated with the second component thus may be allowed to pass into and damage systems.

Finally, it is remarked,

E3 is a much slower pulse, lasting tens to hundreds of seconds. It is caused by the nuclear detonation’s temporary distortion of the Earth’s magnetic field. The E3 component has similarities to a geomagnetic storm. Like a geomagnetic storm, E3 can produce geomagnetically induced currents in long electrical conductors, damaging components such as power line transformers.

It is difficult for a non-expert to judge just how much effort has been put into hardening our national grid. However, with ‘Swifty’ in charge, and being most concerned with phasing out energy sources that are relatively uneffected by EMPs, I think it is prudent to be concerned about the potential impacts of an EMP, which you simplistically misrepresented.
ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_electromagnetic_pulse

Last edited 2 months ago by Clyde Spencer
MarkW
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 14, 2023 9:03 pm

Nonsense on stilts.
First off, any device that is shielded from emitting EMF is also shielded from absorbing it. There are very strict standards regarding how much EMF electronic devices are allowed to emit.
As to power lines. Those things have circuit breakers and fuses every few miles along every line.
Power transformers are protected against voltage and current surges.
They have to be, otherwise the first electrical storm would bring the whole grid down.

I’m willing to bet if you look up Global Warming in the Encyclopedia Britannica, it will also tell you that it is a serious problem that can only be solved by switching to wind and solar.
It will also no doubt tell you about how cheap and reliable both wind and solar.

Before advocating that government spend billions, if not trillions of dollars fixing a problem, why not spend a few minutes actually learning something about the problem and solutions first.

Didn’t you learn anything from the global warming scam?

Reply to  MarkW
March 15, 2023 5:47 am

Those things have circuit breakers and fuses every few miles along every line.”

Respectfully, this is the difference between a lightning strike and a Carrington event or an EMP strike.

The latter two would cause such widespread impacts that it would take weeks or months to recover. Look at what a hurricane causes versus what a thunderstorm causes.

If every distribution network circuit breaker/fuse blew in the state of Kansas and didn’t actually damage any infrastructure it would take a *long* time to bring everyone back online.

MarkW
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 15, 2023 9:27 am

Lightning strikes take seconds or minutes to recover because no damage is done. The circuit breakers and surge protectors kick in and prevent damage.
The same thing would happen under Carrington or EMP event.
Indeed there would be much less damage because Carrington and EMP events are much slower than a lightning strike, giving the protection devices more time to react.

Reply to  MarkW
March 15, 2023 9:48 am

Mark,

Many residential service transformers are protected by fuses that do *not* automatically reset. I know that for a fact because I just had it happen a month ago. Pop a few hundred thousands of those and there won’t be enough lineman to get them reset in a short period of time.

If the line fuses don’t react quickly enough and the surge gets into the fuse panels in the residences you can expect damage there as well, not only to the fuse panel itself but to anything connected to it.

I know that as well. A lightning bolt hit the distribution line I am on about half a block from me. It didn’t trip any of the line fuses and the surge got into my house and literally blew the back out of one of my ham radios (plus some other electronics) and blackened about 10 square feet of drywall behind it. Had to call out the fire dept to use their IR camera to check and make sure nothing was on fire inside the wall.

In the fall of 2021 a lightning strike even took out the top insulator on a power pole down the line from me. It did pop the fuse at my transformer but the power company had to come out and replace the insulator and restring the line plus reset my fuse.

It’s entirely possible that a slow-rising surge could actually do more damage than a faster rising one if it damages things downstream from the fuses and circuit breakers, things such as residential or industrial equipment and wiring.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 15, 2023 9:43 pm

Years ago, I had an uncle living in Nebraska who came home to a thoroughly destroyed telephone, with plastic shrapnel embedded in walls. Apparently, a lightning bolt struck a utility pole a quarter mile away and came in on the telephone line instead of the power lines.

I have had electronic equipment apparently destroyed by lightning-induced EMP by strikes to trees in back and close to the house.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
March 15, 2023 9:36 pm

… EMP events are much slower than a lightning strike,

It appears that you didn’t bother to read what Wiki’ had to say. An EMP is a multifactor event that isn’t composed of just a slow component.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
March 15, 2023 9:46 pm

… why not spend a few minutes actually learning something about the problem and solutions first.

Actually, in light of your comments, I suspect that I have spent more time on it than you have.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 14, 2023 9:13 pm

Forstchen concluded that Congress has come close to passing EMP-related legislation, but the legislation eventually dies in a committee. Forstchen urged the Biden administration not to let that happen again.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/electromagnetic-pulse-experts-warns-emp-biggest-danger-america

Bob
March 14, 2023 12:29 pm

All wind and solar needs to be put on hold until the grid is upgraded.

March 14, 2023 12:49 pm

more fear mongering

oh no we are running out of copper, lithium, and NOW transformers

its an appocalypse!!!!

you guys have no vision

Mr.
Reply to  Steven Mosher
March 14, 2023 1:08 pm

I have a vision –
SMRs in every zip code.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Mr.
March 14, 2023 6:06 pm

Surface Mount Resistors?

MarkW
Reply to  Steven Mosher
March 14, 2023 5:52 pm

How typical of our most famous global warming troll.
Not a single attempt to actually refute the arguments given. Just abuse for anyone who dares to dispute his paymasters.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Steven Mosher
March 14, 2023 7:06 pm

Do you think the shell just appears when someone waves a wand? Somebody must cast it and machine it. Do castings and machine tools also appear with that same wand.

How about a winding machine? Do additional machines appear with a wave of the wand? Who makes them? What is their lead time. Knowing there will be a surplus after tooling up, you can bet they won’t be cheap.

You seem to have no idea what it takes to CREATE real physical plant. You can’t just flip a switch and speed up production like pressing the accelerator of a vehicle. Manufacturing just doesn’t work that way.

vboring
March 14, 2023 8:44 pm

Trump issued an executive order to ban imports from China shortly before this shortage became a problem:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-electricity-trump/trump-signs-order-to-protect-the-u-s-electricity-system-energy-department-idUSKBN22D5OD

There may also be domestic production problems, and demand increases. But this crisis is primarily a political one. Biden has upheld the trade war with China.

Matthew Bergin
Reply to  vboring
March 14, 2023 10:16 pm

Then that is the one thing he may be doing right.

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