The transformer substation of the future communicates actively through a smart box 25-01-2016

The transformer substation of the future communicates actively through a smart box

Alfen BV became a partner in a pilot project started by grid operator Enexis. For this project, Alfen delivered 75 smart boxes with the product name Erado. This solution helps Enexis to remotely communicate with their transformer substations. “The combined force of over 50 years of experience in the construction of transformer substations, and our expertise with the complex communication with our ICU charge points for electric vehicles with various systems, communication and organizations, enabled us to develop Erado”, said the CEO of Alfen, Marco Roeleveld.

Generally, it is taken for granted that public lighting on highways or in local neighborhoods automatically switch on when nightfall comes. To make that happen, somewhere in a transformer substation, a switch is put into a different position to put the lights on. That is, if everything goes according to plan. People only start noticing this process, if it doesn’t work and the lights stay off. If that happens, it’s up to the grid operator to find out where the malfunction originated, and that’s not always an easy task.

Considerable decrease in downtime

To solve this challenge, Alfen developed a smart solutions. The Erado, a smart box that can be easily integrated into a transformer substation, can maintain real-time communication with the grid operator. Whenever a switch doesn’t function properly, if the temperature in the station rises too much, or if a short-circuit occurs, Erado immediately notifies the grid operator. This also directly shows in which transformer substation and neighborhood the malfunction occurred. Calling the grid operator, as many people were used to for decades, is now gradually becoming a thing of the past. “Currently, mechanics have to inspect a whole lot of transformer substations to find out where a malfunction occurred. With Erado they don’t even need to leave their office”, says the CEO of Alfen, Marco Roeleveld. “All public lighting can be operated from behind a desk. If a malfunction does occur, a mechanic will of course still have to be deployed to the location, but now he knows exactly where he needs to go in order to solve a known issue. This is quick, efficient and of course significantly decreases downtime.”​

The best of two worlds

As a partner in a pilot project hosted by grid operator Enexis, Alfen was asked to deliver 75 Erado systems. Over the past years, Alfen gained a lot of experience with remote communication for electric facilities, due to their focus on the ICU charge points for electric vehicles. Roeleveld says: “A charge point for an electric vehicle might seem like a simple plug that only provides for electric energy, but in the meantime it’s also actively communicating with the service provider to update the invoice information of business and consumers and more organizations.” The experience Alfen gained with this complex topic and its scalability, enabled the development of Erado for transformer substations. This is where the best of two worlds meet. Alfen is the Dutch industry leader in the field of transformer substations. Hundreds of these solutions are delivered each year to grid operators, large companies and, for instance, to the greenhouse horticulture industry.

Endless possibilities

The Erado is not only designed to detect malfunctions, as the smart box manages the entire communication and data storage for energy consumption. “If a neighborhood suddenly uses much more energy than it did before, this is also registered” says Roeleveld. He believe this solution offers endless possibilities. “The Erado is installed into the transformer substation and is only accessible for service technicians. The system also sends a notification if someone is working on the system. Should any unauthorized individual pull the lid of the box, then the system automatically overrides controls, to that anybody meaning harm to the system, cannot influence it.