Sustainable energy: a revolutionary transformer is on the way

Introducing a new electric transformer for use in solar parks: it’s designed to function with biodegradable fluids, produces lower CO2 emissions and requires fewer materials for its construction. This is just one example of the “design to value” concept that is being launched worldwide and is initially being deployed in Spain.

Completely eliminating CO2 emissions from our value chain – a goal we are committed to achieving by 2040 – means selecting a huge number of ideas and proposals and transforming them into practical solutions that can make all of the tools and equipment we use to generate renewable energy, including the grids themselves, truly sustainable.

This is exactly what’s happening with a new type of electric transformer for use in solar parks that is to be deployed for the first time in Spain as part of the VIDCO solar plant currently under construction. This transformer is the first one designed by EGP to use bio-based, biodegradable fluids at a cost equal to, or even lower than, conventional alternatives and is more sustainable from an environmental perspective.

The project is the result of applying “design to value” principles – a design process that aims to maximize both the use value of a product or service and cost effectiveness throughout its life cycle – and advanced engineering methodologies, based on current standards in design, operation and materials available for transformers.

Reducing climate change emissions and the materials used, at a competitive price

The deployment at the solar park of 21 MV/LV transformers, designed by WESTRAFO and EUROLAM in collaboration with Technology-DTV and the Engineering division at EGP, will result in a saving of more than 45 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, in addition to using almost 14 fewer tons of various materials (iron, aluminum and insulating paper) to build the transformers. The environmental risk from leakage will also be reduced, thanks to the fact that the liquid is biodegradable.

The new transformer uses a fluid called “Natural Ester Cargill FR3” a soy-based blend with additives that has been patented and certified as non-toxic and biodegradable; other compatible fluids also exist.

From the outside, the machine is similar to a conventional transformer that uses mineral oil. The internal design, however, has some differences, as the components have had to be modified because of the different characteristics of the fluid. The main practical differences are the use of biodegradable fluid, the elimination of fire risks and the higher temperatures that the transformer is able to withstand.

The new transformer is also more cost effective: until now, transformers using biodegradable fluids were more expensive than those using mineral oil. Between 2020 and 2021, with the collaboration of manufacturers like WESTRAFO, EGP developed an advanced engineering method that makes it possible to achieve performance levels that match those of standard mineral oil transformers, but with a reduced use of materials.

The new transformers are in the production phase and will be factory tested and installed on site in the coming months. VIDCO is the first solar project where we are applying this new concept, and we fully expect to see this solution increasingly adopted at our new solar plants all over the world.