Tutorial: Embedded Optical Sensing Systems for Distribution Transformer Monitoring


October 31, 2019; Columbus, OH

Tutorial: Embedded Optical Sensing Systems for Distribution Transformer Monitoring

Traditional utility monitoring systems do not provide real-time visibility into the condition of transformers or accurate performance measurements. This has resulted in the use of lagging indicators, such as oil sample analysis, typically requiring expensive field visits, grid outages, and laboratory sample testing. This presentation reviews the use of optical sensing systems for managing transformers and  improving grid resiliency and safety. The sensing systems allow direct internal monitoring of critical transformer components. Versatility covering different monitoring parameters of interest in embedded configurations for new transformers and a retrofittable configuration for older transformers is achieved by applying hair-thin multiplexed fiber-optic and other low-profile optical sensors in combination with a high-resolution optical readout and advanced analytics.

Under an initiative funded by the DOE Office of Electricity, PARC, GE and Con Edison built, tested, and qualified commercial network transformers with embedded optical sensing systems. The parameters monitored were validated across a range of scenarios with lab instruments typically used for qualification testing. An ongoing field trial to demonstrate the robustness of the technology for remote monitoring through the industrial internet under demanding grid deployment conditions in New York City is showing promise toward scale-up of the technology.

This presentation will provide an overview of the typical pain points in managing transformers and  parameters  for monitoring. It will also cover the requirements for highly constrained installations that need to have a larger capacity and flexible rating but that must fit into a tight space. The unique capabilities of optical sensing systems and a low-cost approach to interpreting the signals from sensors in transformers for predictive maintenance will be covered. The presentation will discuss the compatibility of the sensors in the transformer environment. It will discuss the validation testing per IEEE standards that enabled the solution to be implemented in field-deployable commercial transformers. The initial results from the field deployment and the potential for the technology to provide systematic alerts for unsafe/unexpected events will be discussed. The technology could enable utility professionals to gain information they can use to better plan for maintenance/management, and improve grid performance. This would in turn accommodate DERs and other evolving grid market dynamics.

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