Distribution Transformers: The Case for Choosing Cast Resin
Right now, it’s anything but ‘business as usual’ in the world of data centres.
There are still the usual challenges, of course; to deliver safe and reliable solutions that can scale quickly in line with today’s ever-growing demand.
But in a world where sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have – but instead a critical part of the business and political landscapes – the pressure to innovate is relentless.
After all, this is a pivotal moment in time for society – and as the sector grows in prominence, attracting more scrutiny from political and public quarters, it’s an opportunity for data centres to show they are leading the march towards a more sustainable future.
To maintain this pace, attention must shift away from the next ‘great leap forward’ and towards marginal gains. Operators must look through every step of the chain to see where they can add the slightest of improvements – and solutions that seemed infeasible in the past must be re-evaluated in this context.
Transformers, for that reason, are very much on the table – and with the European Commission estimating that 2.9% of all energy generated across Europe and the UK is wasted through transformer losses, it’s an area that deserves enormous scrutiny.
Since the invention of the first constant potential transformer in 1885, it has played a key role as one of the most essential components in electrical engineering.
While the choice between a cast resin and oil transformer is always application dependent, cast resin transformers have found an ever-increasing scope of use across a myriad of sectors for their reduced environmental impact and high service reliability.
Ronan Byrne, Business Development Manager at Hanley Energy has been at the forefront of witnessing this shift in mindset from oil to cast resin. “Cast resin is now seen as the best in class option in many cases,” he says. And here are a few reasons why.
Right now, the industry’s focus is on guaranteeing both functional and financial gains in the long run. One of the most gratifying outcomes of choosing environmentally friendly technology, particularly for data centres, is that in addition to hitting the all-important sustainability targets, enormous amounts of money can be saved.
“The Tier 2 EU Eco Design regulations now in force are significant, as all new power transformers must be compliant with the minimum requirements set out, with the aim of increased energy efficiencies,” says Ronan.
Across the sectors industries are looking at how they can play their part in working towards the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and SDGs. This often means taking a forensic look at every aspect of the business from purchasing to materials to supply chains.
Cast resin transformers have a lower environmental impact, as they are made from 85% recycled materials and pose no risk when it comes to oil leak or pollution potential.
The increases in the price of oil and gas are also becoming a major barrier for many. With low consumption and reduced CO2 emissions, cast resin transformers also have a long service life of 20+ years. Oil is a non-renewable resource while cast resin transformers are insulated in sustainable materials.
“The environmental sustainability factors have an even higher weighting these days when it comes to making these decisions,” says Alan Smyth, Engineering Manager at Hanley Engineering.
Spotlight on safety
Risk assessment and prevention are paramount when it comes to ensuring the safety of data centres. This ultimately comes down to proper selection and management of all equipment in the facility’s environment.
In contrast to oil transformers, cast resin transformers are considered safer and less of a fire hazard as the winding insulation is flame-retardant and self-extinguishing.
Cast resin transformers will not produce toxic gases, even under the effects of electrical arcing, which offers peace of mind to companies that choose them.
The transformer can also be safely located close to the load, which saves on civil works, cabling and transmission loss.
Transformers have a considerable lifespan. While they do not require as much attention as most other equipment, the care and maintenance they do require is critical and must never be overlooked.
So what is required? Cast resin transformers require minimal maintenance compared with oil transformers and merely need routine inspections with a straightforward checklist.
“For us reliability is key and particularly in the data centre industry where we work with clients, the last thing they want is downtime,” explains Alan.
“Avoiding downtime is one of the most crucial considerations in the industry that we’re in. The reliability of cast resin and less chance of failure represents value for money along with the energy efficiency and maintenance requirements being much lower,” he explains.
“Oil transformers require testing and regular maintenance, but with cast resin transformers you just need to check that the connections are tight and that’s it,” states Alan.
What’s more, cast resin transformers only need air to cool, so this eliminates labour and costs on liquid level checking, oil testing and recycling. Better still, their smooth coil surfaces eliminate heavy dirt build-up, even in the most extreme circumstances.
A solution to supply chain woes
Brexit and the global pandemic have seen unprecedented pressure on supply chains around the world. With disruption and uncertainty everywhere, having a trusted supply chain is more important than ever for purchasers.
Tight timelines are often an issue when ordering transformers and in addition to providing more energy output for less input and being an environmentally friendly technology, cast resin transformers have tighter production time frames and lower manufacturing times.
Hanley Energy has seen out these challenges through their long-standing partnerships with trusted suppliers.
“We can have cast resin transformers ready for us to collect from the factory in a 10 to 12 week turnaround time. We have seen the security of our supply chain over the past number of years, even in challenging times and our lead times have never drifted,” says Ronan.
“We can also provide customised solutions exactly to client specifications,” adds Alan, pointing out that with an expected life service of over 20 years, the initial capital expenditure represents value as there is a low failure rate and cast resin transformers are also maintenance-free with exceptional reliability.
A smaller footprint with flexible deployment
So why does a small footprint matter? Space can often be at a premium as operators look to optimise their available potential locations for transformers.
As cast resin transformers tend to be smaller than the traditional transformers, they create a smaller footprint and are tall and slim with less instrumentation, allowing for greater flexibility.
Hanley Energy offers flexible deployment options for the fitting of transformers across industrial, residential and commercial sites in both indoor and outdoor locations.
Cast resin transformers can be easily retrofitted into commercial buildings and use a smaller surface area with a lower height.
“There’s a space-saving. With oil transformers, they need to have radiators on the outside to allow the oil to cool but with cast resin transformers, it’s either naturally cooled through the airflow or fans might be installed but it’s a far more compact solution if space is at a premium” concludes Ronan.
Tested to international standards
Maximising efficiencies while keeping to budgets and ensuring compliance is a tough balance to strike. As with all purchasing decisions, a key consideration is to ensure that it’s installed, protected and used in accordance with the most up to date national and international standards and regulations.
All the cast resin transformers at Hanley Energy are designed and manufactured in accordance with international standards and hold IEC and UL compliance certifications.
It’s also possible to request noise level tests, lightning impulse tests and temperature rise tests. The company holds prestigious international certificates and approvals in the cast resin technology sector.