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2019-06-20 07:52

Why is the power industry switching to "optics"

On June 19, Rusnano announced the start of sales of 99.9% of shares in the portfolio company "Profotek". The company produces digital current and voltage meters designed for energy facilities. They are to become one of the key elements of digital energy, replacing analog electromagnetic devices and increasing the accuracy of measurements. "Izvestia has studied how a new technology was born, how it is better than conventional transformers and why energetics around the world are switching to "optics".

From idea to serial product.

The world's leading companies - ABB, Siemens, General Electric and Arteche - work on digital electricity metering solutions. The latter has spent over $100 million on their development to bring the product to the market stage. Siemens is still on its way to an industrial design.

The technology used in Profoteka digital transformers was created by Russian scientists, employees of the Fryazinsk Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics. The result of their work is a special fiber optic and detector, which allows to measure the angle of rotation and determine the current strength. With Rusnano's support in 2010, these scientific studies were brought to the end product.

Now Profotek owns the entire production chain: from the creation of fiber optic and unique data processing algorithms to the production of serial devices. The company's experience in the field of photonics, development in electronics and programming has made it possible to produce special measuring instruments. They are not inferior to products of foreign competitors and even exceed them in some parameters.

"At the beginning of the journey the technology was only in the minds of scientists," explains Oleg Rudakov, General Director of Profoteka. - All our first samples were produced with their participation. Of course, it's nice to see a professor or candidate of technical sciences twisting nuts on devices or objects. They were happy to come to us for trial operation, installation works, when we were just doing the first pilots. We set ourselves the task to describe the technology, to bring its design and process documentation, to form and develop operating instructions. This work was very important, we knew that it would open up a market for industrial supplies. After 2015 commercial sales began at large network facilities, "Profotec" moved to a new stage".

According to Faraday's law.

"Profotech uses a unique technology based on magnetic-sensitive optical fiber in its transformers.

Conventional transformers are less and less suited to the needs of modern energy in the digital age and are becoming obsolete. They have many design flaws. For example, the steel core and copper winding of conventional devices lose their properties over time when they are constantly heated - this impairs measurement accuracy. In addition, analogue devices can catch fire or explode from overvoltage, and failures in their work can not always be noticed immediately.

"Conventional current transformers are subject to effects that cause them to have high measurement errors. That is, they give relay protection, automation the wrong signal, to which it reacts incorrectly. There have been precedents in the industry where the protection of automatics in large power plants and ultra-high voltage mains substations has malfunctioned due to measuring devices. This led to major power outages and restrictions on power supply to end users," says Alexander Golovin, Technical Director of Tekvel.

Digital transformers of Profoteka eliminate these shortcomings. They are safe in terms of fire, last longer and ensure uninterrupted operation. How? It's the design.

The technology uses the Faraday effect. Inside the device there is a conductor around which a light guide (fiber optic) is wrapped. If there is no current in the conductor, the light waves propagate at the same speed; if there is, the plane of light distribution rotates. The angle of rotation allows accurate measurement of the current. For this purpose there is a special detector in the transformer.

The device is almost not aging - the optical fiber retains its properties for decades. It can only be damaged by water or mechanical impact, but with reliable protection this is not possible. An important advantage is that the digital transformer monitors its condition and transmits fault information.

"The integrated self-diagnostic system is able to signal any oddity or degradation of the equipment that may cause problems in the future. This is a significant difference from traditional devices. For example, a digital device may notice a deterioration in measurement accuracy," Golovin continues.

Accuracy is the main advantage of Profoteka transformers. This allows large consumers to record electricity more clearly, not to pay extra for technical losses, and the power industry - to ensure a coherent and uninterrupted work on electricity supply. After all, failures of conventional meters can affect energy facilities, which, among other things, supply important elements of industrial and social infrastructure.

The challenges of digitalization

The appearance of domestic optical transformers was a response to the current needs of Russian power companies and enterprises. The actively discussed project of digitalization of state "Rossetey" is estimated at 1.3 trillion rubles by 2030, in addition to the basic investment program. Its key element is the creation of digital substations, which use optical current and voltage meters. The implementation of these plans without domestic competitive solutions seems difficult under conditions of tariff restrictions. Therefore, the procurement policy of the Federal Grid Company (FGC UES) is aimed at import substitution of high-tech equipment. The Company has already implemented the "Profoteka" solution at the first digital high voltage substation "Tobol" (500 kV).

According to the representative of the grid monopoly, 85% of equipment purchases are made in Russia. It is planned that by 2030 this figure will reach 95%. "The share of Russian current and voltage meters reaches 70% in FGC purchases. Russian products are mainly used in new construction and reconstruction projects. In general, digital solutions are not isolated, their implementation is carried out gradually during the construction of new facilities and re-equipment with the planned replacement of equipment", - noted the press service of FGC UES.

Now Profoteka digital transformers are used by leading Russian energy companies. The company's solutions are installed at many power facilities, among them: "Gazprom Energoholding - measuring systems at Volkhovskaya Hydroelectric Power Station, CHPP-11, Transneft - providing energy supply to the oil pipeline, UEC - protection of cable and air lines, RusHydro - digital substation project. Besides, Profoteka products are successfully used for quality power supply of energy-intensive industries such as Rusal, NorNickel, VSMPO AVISMA, Kazakhstan Electrolysis Plant (ERG Group).

In the international market, Profoteka's partners are Condis (formerly Maxwell), a Swiss company, and EFACEC, a Portuguese corporation. Profotec's technological solutions are successfully applied at substations in Switzerland (Group-E, SwissGrid), Italy (Terna), France (EDF) and Canada (IREQ, HydroQuebec). The share of international projects in the company's revenue structure is over 15% and is constantly increasing. In the future the company also intends to enter the Chinese, Indian and American markets. After all, after successful foreign pilots, demand may grow avalanche-like. Even now Profotek understands that its production capacity of 1 thousand square meters will soon have to be expanded.

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