Tag Archives: ABB

Both physical and cyber security threats to the electric utility transmission and distribution (T&D) grid in all regions of the world are real. Part 1 of this blog series discussed the physical security problem and some of the measures North American utilities are taking to respond to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) CIP-14 requirements. Regardless of whether replacement high-voltage transformers, switchgear, and breakers need to be ordered from major vendors such as ABB, General Electric (GE), Siemens, or other regional companies, replacement equipment is not warehoused. Instead, it must be special ordered, manufactured, and shipped to the transmission substation where the replacement will be made.

Manufacturing lead times are typically 12 to 18 months, which is an issue the North American transmission system operators are dealing with by participating in Grid Assurance, banding together to create stockpiles of critical equipment in multiple locations across the nation. And while Grid Assurance will own and provide timely access to an inventory of emergency spare transmission equipment, the regional or national shipping and transportation issues are daunting.

Issues of Size

The sheer size of 250 kV to 750 kV high-voltage transformers makes physical transportation a logistical nightmare, regardless of whether large-scale trucks or railroad transportation is used. Companies such as ABB and Siemens have highly specialized trucks and flatbed rail cars dedicated to high-voltage transformer transportation. A huge flatbed truck designed to transport from 100 tons to 500 tons of high-voltage transformers can be seen below. These trucks need to be routed over roads that are certified for heavy loads and often have circuitous routes because of height and width clearance issues.

Transformer Shipping Using Lowboy Flatbed Truck

big truck jpeg

(Source: ABB)

However, the largest 500 kV and 750 kV extra high-voltage transformers may require specialized rail transport with similar clearance issues, bridge weight restrictions, and even access close to the transmission substation. Shipping and transportation from regional sites, vendor manufacturing centers, or overseas shipping yards may take weeks or even months, again lengthening the restoration timeframe. Moving huge transformers by rail has a similar set of constraints, based on the vicinity of rail lines to the transmission substation location.

Unfortunately, extra high-voltage and high-voltage transformers are huge pieces of equipment, and replacement and restoration time following a physical attack or transformer failure is not an overnight event. It could take months for parts to be manufactured, delivered and installed. It is clear that restoration initiatives are intimidating. Examples will be provided in Part 3 of the Physical Security blog series.

This blog was also published at on February 11, 2016.


I read a feature article earlier today from #Gigaom’s @UciliaWang announcing that a startup, “Fjord IT opened its first data center space in Oslo and is banking on a air cooling technology and cheap hydropower to attract European customers who want low-carbon cloud services,” using a much smaller footprint.  Ucilia went on to say that the “1,000 square meter (3,280 square feet) pilot project, is at the Hogas Industrial Park in Oslo. The space is filled with its efficient cooling technology and is also powered by cheap hydropower, which has a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuel-based power. Those attributes could make its IT services appealing to environmentally-minded businesses as well as businesses in countries that have renewable energy and emission-reduction goals.”

Gigaom’s article today was music to my ears, since I have been researching a white paper on large scale Greenfield data center parks like Niobrara planning to generate most of their 100+ MW onsite in Colorado and in Switzerland selling excess generation back to the grid, both incorporating next generation cooling, DC power distribution, and microgrid based distributed generation technologies (see, and  What concerned me most, was I was hearing these stories about new plans for huge 50+ MW data center campuses in North America, Europe, and Asia, but I was hearing little about the smaller data centers, which will also undoubtedly grow as our demand for more processing power, cloud, virtualized environments and BYOD support grows.

Given that most commercial and government data centers are still smaller and were built during an era when PUE’s of 2.0 or 3.0 were the norm and standard in the industry, the Fjord IT story reminded me that data centers of the past are becoming “Somebody I Used To Know!

I’m currently writing a white paper on large scale Data Center Energy Parks and Micro Grids, and am looking for examples and comments on #DemandResponse, #SmartGrid, #Renewables, and #DistributedGeneration.  I believe that there has been a lot of noise in the market about the Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple next generation data centers, but the discussion of the potential for these sites to leverage distributed renewables, utility scale battery storage, demand response, and other energy market monetization options has been secondary at best.  There are a number of excellent examples in the planning stages including the #Niobrara Data Center Energy Park, and the #Vineyards on the front range of Colorado.  I’d like to find additional great examples to highlight. Please send me a note if you have stories or examples.  If I use the content, I will make sure you get referenced and linked in the final document.


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