- Joint Program Report
Large power transformers (LPTs) are critical yet increasingly vulnerable components of the power grid. More frequent and intense heat waves or high temperatures can degrade their operational lifetime and thereby increase the premature failure risk. Without adequate preparedness, a widespread situation would ultimately lead to prolonged grid disruption and incur excessive economic costs. In this study, we investigate the impact of climate warming and corresponding shifts in heat waves on a selected LPT located in the Northeast corridor of the United States. We apply an analogue method, which detects the occurrence of heat waves based on the salient, associated large-scale atmospheric conditions (“composites”), to assess the risk of future change in heat wave occurrence. Compared with the more conventional approach that relies on climate model-simulated daily maximum temperature, the analogue method produces model medians of late twentieth-century heat wave frequency that are more consistent with observation and have stronger inter-model consensus. Under the future climate warming scenarios, multi-model medians of both model daily maximum temperature and the analogue method indicate strong decadal increases in heat wave frequency by the end of the 21st century, but the analogue method improves model consensus considerably. We perform a preliminary assessment on the decrease of transformer lifetime with temperature increase. Future work will focus on using more advanced algorithms to quantify the impact of more frequent heat waves on the transformer’s expected lifetime and associated additional costs. The improved inter-model consensus of the analogue method is viewed as a promising step toward providing actionable information for a more stable, reliable, and environmentally responsible national grid.