North America relies on an aging electrical grid, some of which originated in the 1880s. This old and complex patchwork system of power generating plants, power lines, and substations operate cohesively to power homes and businesses.
Age is an important indicator of remaining life and structural strength. As equipment gets older, it breaks down causing an increasing number of power outages. A recent project investigated 2,300 “problem” transformers out of the total US installation base of 115,000 large power transformers. Of these 2,300, a total of 750 failed – for a failure rate of 32%! The industry cost of power interruptions caused by transformer failure can be considerable.
Transformers are the most important (and costly) equipment in an electrical power network. These aging pieces of the system put a difficult choice in front of the world’s electric utility companies: replace the critical transformers with new units or try to extend the working life of the existing fleet of older units.